Peninsula Past - 1893

12 Oct 2021

A large waterfall about eight miles from Kuaotunu was seen as the solution to slow progress being made on the goldfield there. Harnessing water power into electricity for the treatment of Kuaotunu ores would do away with the necessity of hauling coal or wood, cut costs and assure the success of the field. The government was to send Mr Fletcher, electrical engineer of Otago, who had executed similar works in Westland and South, to see what could be done for Kuaotunu. He was to be accompanied by Mr Gordon, Chief Inspector of Mines. 

Mercury Bay felt very much neglected by the government and the time had come to fight for public works money. Mercury Bay contributed a very fair share towards the revenue of the colony but they could not as much as boast of a public wharf, although they had a good harbour. They had to rely on the Kauri Timber Company’s wharf which was not a fit place to land passengers or cargo. A gentleman should be appointed to take a record of all the products of the Mercury Bay district and forward the information monthly to the district’s Member of Parliament and also to an Auckland paper, to show the outside world they were contributing fairly to the revenue.

At the Coromandel Police Court, a man was charged with having set fire to scrub on the Kauri Timber Company’s property at Whangapoua. The accused was not present, having gone to Tairua where his daughter was dangerously ill. He had however come to court, acknowledged his guilt and left money with the constable to pay the fine. He had set fire to some scrub on the company’s property to enable him to search for gum. The practice of lighting fires, particularly during the dry season, was likely to cause the company great loss. As this was the first case of fire lighting on the property, the Kauri Timber Company’s manager did not press for a heavy fine, as it was merely intended as a warning to others. 

A commercial report fretted over the falling off of the goldfield and timber trade which was now felt keenly. Years before at Thames, Coromandel Town, Tairua and Mercury Bay the noise of the batteries, and the hum and buzz of sawmills, were music to travellers and traders. Now silence reigned and many were living on their savings.

Great dissatisfaction was expressed by a number of local men who had expected to be paid for work done for the council many months before. The council announced there was no money to pay. They were in very difficult position. They had an enormous district of country under their control, numerous roads were required, as well as repairs to those already constructed, while their income was limited. Yet it was hoped they would be able to devise some plan whereby men who worked for them by contract or for day wages would not be kept out of their money longer than three months. Storekeepers who gave the workers credit for supplies, had to meet their own commitments, and couldn’t be expected to be always indulgent.

Pictured - Mining at Kuaotunu. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 7-A9151.