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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

“Ghost” Townships

Ghost” Townships

The pattern of a large section of the East Coast was completely altered by the diversion of traffic from the coastline to the inland route. For many years Port Awanui had three hotels, a courthouse, police station, page 402 post office, three stores and a wool store. Nothing now remains to indicate that it was once a very busy locality. Tuparoa had two hotels, post office, two large stores, boarding-house, stables, smithy, wool store and dumping shed. It, too, has been shorn of most of its former glory. Waipiro Bay (for many years the county headquarters) has lost two of the three large stores which it formerly boasted, besides a wool store, saddler's shop and a smithy. On the other hand, Ruatoria has blossomed from a sparsely-settled junction known as “The Cross Roads” into a substantial township, and Te Puia (now the county headquarters) has become a popular spa.

Tokomaru Harbour Board is the only harbour board in New Zealand that has never levied a harbour rate. In 1911 it built a wharf at a cost of £10,000, and, in 1914, made substantial improvements. [A jetty had been built at Te Ariuri in 1906. Mr. McCracken (who carried out the work) used large manuka trunks obtained from “Mangaroa” for piles. A wool store was then erected and a dumping plant installed.] In 1925 some rocks were removed, enabling vessels drawing up to 11 feet 6 inches to berth. Two years later the board bought the New Zealand Shipping Co.'s brick wool sheds, etc., for £13,000. A new wharf and approach were built in 1940 at a cost of £28,300. The port's busiest years were from 1913 till 1916, when 400 vessels (aggregate tonnage, about 400,000) were handled annually. As in the case of other small ports, it suffered a heavy decline in business when—during the Second World War—it was excluded from the itineraries of Home vessels.

Harbour Board Chairmen: K. S. Williams, 1910–19; G. Kirk, 1920; A. B. Williams, 1921–23; A. W. Kirk, 1924–26; F. J. Williams, 1927–30; H. H. Fairlie, 1931; J. Busby, 1932–33; D. W. W. Williams, 1934; J. Busby, 1935–43; V. G. H. Rickard, 1944–48; F. R. Jefferd, 1948–. Captain S. J. Plummer was harbourmaster and secretary from 1912 till 1948; W. C. Brydon, secretary, 1948–; Captain P. W. C. McCallum, harbourmaster, 1948–.

A severe outbreak of typhoid fever, which necessitated the establishment of a temporary camp at Ruatoria, led to the erection of a small hospital in 1907 at Te Puia. In 1949 a 24-bed “T.B.” block, an X-ray block, a new nurses' home and a new kitchen were added at a cost of £57,210. At Tokomaru Bay a small maternity home was opened, but, subsequently, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Williams made a gift of a fine dwelling at Waipiro Bay for that purpose. In 1948 they presented a modern ambulance to the hospital. The gravest menace that has to be fought by the Health Department and the hospital authorities is tuberculosis among the Maoris. X-ray examinations have been carried out extensively. In 1948 there were two district nurses at Ruatoria and one each at Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Tikitiki and Te Araroa.

County Chairmen: E. H. Henderson, 1890–91; A. H. Wallis, 1891–02; T. E. Sherwood, 1902–03; A. B. Williams, 1903–09; K. S. Williams, 1909–20; G. Kirk, 1920–21; A. B. Williams, 1921–24; A. W. Kirk, 1924–32; D. W. W. Williams, 1932–. County Clerks: W. Harding (acting), 1890; G. Boyd, 1890–93; W. O'Ryan, 1893–06; W. H. Conboy, 1906; W. O'Ryan, 1906–09; A. P. Durrant, 1909–10; A. L. Temple, 1911–36; A. G. Hicks, 1936–45; J. H. Sutherland, 1945–. Engineers: W. O'Ryan, 1893–09; A. K. Gilmour, 1909–42; O. N. Winter, 1942–.

From 1890 till 1893 the county offices were at Tuparoa, from 1893 till 1930 at Waipiro Bay, and from 1930 at Te Puia. Rates collected for 1890–91 totalled £513; in 1946–47 the aggregate was £34,070. As at 31 March, 1947, the county debt (apart from Harbour Board loans) stood at £57,130, with maturity dates ranging up to 1966. The gross capital value of the county in 1946 was £2,667,971.


There were several “gold rushes” in the Waiapu in the early days. In 1874 about 100 natives went prospecting on and around Mount Hikurangi. Sir James Hector, who examined the locality, found no signs of gold. In 1875 “Scotty” Siddons, mate of the Beautiful Star, claimed to have met, on the East Coast, a native who had a few ounces of gold. He and a mate named Hill found a lot of mundic on the page 403 north-west side of the mountain, but only outcrops of limestone on the higher slopes. In 1886 Reupane te Ana, of Makarika, discovered what he fondly imagined was an enormous deposit of gold. With noble unselfishness he let all his friends into the secret. Drays, wheelbarrows and receptacles of all kinds were rushed to the scene, and large quantities of the “precious metal” were removed to a safe place. When it turned out that the metal was only mundic, Reupane became an object of ridicule, and, afterwards, was known as “Tommy Poorfellow.”