Friday, 24 September 2021

The Life of the Mind at Brain Watkins Hall

Any historical researcher must at some stage ponder when what might be loosely called ‘stuff’ becomes, in a more dignified term, ‘the stuff of history.’ The Tauranga Historical Society Committee conferred on the subject during a recent tidy-up, when the first Register of those who made bookings for meetings at its, relatively modern, Hall in the grounds of Brain Watkins House came to light.

This unassuming notebook, it was agreed, was not to be discarded – its listings provided a unique outline of how a new building closely adjacent to one of Tauranga’s oldest houses was incorporated  into the activities of a few, apparently disparate, groups. In due course, we wondered, the activities of those groups might possibly come to be of historical interest? Thus, we also agreed, the first Register is arguably the stuff, as well as something of an accident, of history. Justifiably, therefore, the subject of a THS blog.

The Hall Register, dated “Nov 1998” on its back cover, came into use on 1 February 1999. Under the supervision of Sue Ferguson, then the live-in caretaker of Brain Watkins House, the door was opened and the lights turned on for the Tauranga UFO Information Group. This group seems still to be active in Tauranga – in 2020 its meetings were being held monthly at the Senior Citizens Club [1] – but for the first decade of the new millennium their monthly gatherings were regularly noted in the Hall Register.

Other early adopters of the new venue were the Tauranga Embroiderers Guild, who left a nice comment about the excellent light [2] and the fee, and the Tauranga Hearing Association Social Club  who got together to consider a wide-ranging series of practical topics – the Road Code, the Citizens Advice Bureau, stroke rehabilitation and other therapies, Search and Rescue; in May 2000 a happy overlap delivered a talk from Harvey Cooke of the UFO Information Group … the list, fascinating to anyone researching the history of deaf culture, goes on ….

As well as the establishment of a venue for the Historical Society’s own meetings, much appreciated after many years of ‘camping’ in a variety of rented or borrowed rooms [3], the Hall became an early base for Tauranga’s Aviation History Society, eventually to become the Bay of Plenty Classic Aircraft Trust [4]. It is good to know that their ambitions for a museum of aviation came true.

The Hall’s simplicity and serene garden location seems to have been attractive to several religious groups.  The first such to use the Hall was Unity on the Mount, which had become an approved organisation for the purpose of the Marriage Act 1955 on 21 June 1999 [5]. Two months later, on Sunday 5 September, Mr George Watson organized two hours of worship, the first of many weekly gatherings that came to an end in September 2004. A Catherine Ruby Watson was among the list of marriage celebrants published in the Gazette of 26 April 2001 [6]. (The Hall Register does not reveal that any of the bookings actually involved a marriage ceremony.)  In August 2000 Unity on the Mount’s Sunday services were complemented by the Thursday meetings of the Sri Sathya Sai Group of Tauranga [7]. When Unity stopped using the Hall, their Sunday slot was filled from October 2004 by the Society of Friends, aka Quakers, an arrangement that continues to this day.

Tauranga Historical Society’s Annual General Meeting in April 1995
Tauranga Historical Society Collection

In the middle of the decade Hall bookings spread out across a wider range of organisations – the Soroptimists had met there over the latter part of 2001, then went elsewhere, but two years later were back and soon joined by Tauranga branches of the University of the Third Age, the NZ Association of Medical Herbalists, the Herb Society, an association of kinesiologists, one of homeopathic therapists, and the Theosophical Society. The Yoga Centre, another present-day user, makes an appearance in the records for in July and August 2009. But it seems that over the next summer months – the first Register ends in January 2010 – only the Quakers were using the Hall.

What does this small body of information amount to? Might I hope that some researcher of the future, seeking evidence of ‘alternative’ social networks in Tauranga at the turn of the twenty-first century, would find this list as intriguing as I do? Based on the example of the Hearing Association and the UFO Information Group, there was at the very least an exchange of ideas, a distinctive life of the mind, among those who came and went from the Hall. The Register is not evidence of overlapping membership, of course. That is something for my researcher of the future to explore. What is evident, especially in 2004, is that, among themselves, word got around. (This was after the World Wide Web [8] but before Facebook [9].)

It comes to this: even if these groups’ commonality derived only from the circumstance of their regular meetings at this small, simple and low-cost (then hired out at a flat rate of $20 per session) venue, I feel I have made a case, even from this short distance of time, for the historical importance of the first Register of bookings for the Tauranga Historical Society’s Hall.


[2] The writer is aware that even better light, as well as space for an expanded group of embroiderers, was eventually found at the Tauranga Rowing Club’s Clubrooms in Memorial Park, Tauranga.

[3] Such as the downstairs lounge of the Baptist Church Centre, cnr Cameron Road and 13th Ave:

[4]  See also

[7] This group, too, seems still to be active:

[8] “The Web began to enter everyday use in 1993-4 when websites for general use started to become available.”

[9] “Facebook was then opened on September 26, 2006 to everyone aged 13 and older with a valid email address.”

Friday, 17 September 2021

Turirangi Te Kani

Mr T.R. Te Kani at Gate Pa/Pukehinahina
35mm film negative, Gifford-Cross/NZME Bay of Plenty Times Collection, publ. 30 Apr 1964
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. gcc-6294

Turirangi Te Kani was a much respected kaumatua and historian connected with several marae on the eastern side of Tauranga Moana: Hungahungatoroa, Waikari (both on the Matapihi Peninsula) and Whareroa (adjacent to the Tauranga airport). Turi, as he was commonly known, was passionate about recording history and wrote several articles for the Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society.[1] He was the vice-president of that group for a number of years, gave talks at local schools and was present at the Centennial commemoration of the battle of Gate Pa at Pukehinahina  on 29/30th April 1964. He wrote, among many other cultural taonga and waiata, a paddling chant for the dedication and launching of the Te Awanui waka constructed and carved for Ngaiterangi by Tuti Tukaokao in 1973.

Around the schools: Frances Powell, Nancy Pierre, Deanna Mikaere & Turirangi Te Kani
35mm film negative, PhotoNews Collection, taken for Issue No 83, 3 May 1969
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. pn-1665

Turi was born in Maraenui near Napier in 1915 and as a young man served in WWll in 'C' Company of the 28th Maori Battalion. He was held as a prisoner of war for four years and on his return to Aotearoa New Zealand he married Hinerau Ngatai and they farmed dairy at Matapihi. They had one adopted daughter. In later years he helped develop kiwifruit and avocado orchards and pack houses locally and as far afield as Ongare. He was a key fundraiser for projects that would benefit the people of Matapihi: the Hungahungatoroa Marae, Tauranga Moana Maori Hostel and the construction of the Matapihi Rail footbridge [2] among them.

Around the schools: Turirangi Te Kani & his stock
35mm film negative, PhotoNews Collection, taken for Issue No 83, 3 May 1969
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. pn-1670

The Rangataua Young Farmers Club was founded in October 1949 by an associate W. Ohia and others, and Turi was a keen member. Members farmed in Papamoa, Matapihi, Ngapeke, Waitao, Kairua and Maungarangi. Turi was a keen rugby player and supporter over the years for both the Old Boys and Matapihi teams.

Tauranag Maori Hostel Committee: Receiving cheque is Te Kani (left) and I. Tangitu (right)
35mm film negative, Gifford-Cross/NZME Bay of Plenty Times Collection, publ. 19 Sep 1964
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. gcc-6294

Turi and Bill were involved together in many groups including the Waikato Maniopoto Maori District Council, and were founding members of the Waitangi Tribunal and Tauranga Moana Trust Board. Turi chaired the Tauranga Maori Executive, was appointed to the Maori Land Advisory Board and served on the Maori Affairs Board for 15 years. He was a JP and was awarded the MBE in 1970.

In the mid 80s he was invited to attend the opening of the Te Maori Exhibition in the United States. Te Kani was a passionate advocate for honouring the Treaty of Waitangi and was involved in Te Heke o Te Rangihouhiri in 1987. (Komako Article, below)

Turirangi Te Kani and whaling relics
35mm film negative, PhotoNews Collection, taken for Issue No 88, 20 Sep 1969
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries, Ref. pn-3931

Sadly in 1990 he was killed in a motor accident at Te Maunga. The pupils of Matapihi School wrote many tributes [3] and in 1991 the Port of Tauranga set up a scholarship for Tertiary studies for local Maori Students in Turirangi Te Kani’s memory.

Author's Note

I had the privilege of growing up at The Elms/Te Papa with my grandparents in the 1960s and 1970s and recall several visits by both Turirangi Te Kani and Wiremu (Bill) Ohia to discuss various matters with my grandfather Duff Maxwell. They were both so involved in and committed to the true historical documentation of this area and had the ability and grace to move very easily between the two cultures.

Other Notes

[1] A list of these can be seen under secondary sources of
[2] Many people were hit by trains or drowned after jumping to avoid them prior to its construction, as it was such a convenient shortcut to the CBD from Matapihi.
[3] Te Tangata Rongonui: Turirangi Te Kani. [Matapihi, N.Z.: Matapihi School, 1990]

Additional Sources
Turi Te Kani - A Leader Lost, Bay of Plenty Times, 7 June 1990
Pae Koroki (Tauranga Archives online)

Friday, 10 September 2021

Arama Karaka Pi and the Taeopa

Early Sailing Vessels and Visitors to Tauranga, Part XVII

On 5th March 1832, the armed sailing cutter Taeopa, one of New Zealand’s first Maori gun boats, entered Tauranga Harbour by the Katikati entrance. Owned and skippered by the Ngapuhi chief Arama Pi, and carrying heavily armed Maori and Pakeha-Maori fighting men, it made a swift reconnaissance of the harbour before departing.

The rangatira Arama Karaka Pi also known as Pihungu, lived at Waima, Hokianga and was one of the principal leaders of the Te Mahurehure hapu. In 1831, with the assistance of Eruera Maihi Patuone, he purchased a European sailing vessel. As the intertribal Musket Wars raged, many Ngapuhi and Southern Ngai Tahu rangatira began mounting cannon or carronades in the bows of their sailing cutters and whale boats, before deploying them as gun boats against enemy tribesmen on land and sea. Pi and Patuone’s acquisition was the 18-ton cutter Emma, purchased from the notorious captain of the Elizabeth, John Stewart who had transported Te Rauparaha and his warriors on their mission of slaughter to Bank’s Peninsula in 1830. Pi renamed his new vessel Taeopa (Tae opa) ‘to prevail over and drive out’ and, with the aid of Hokianga Pakeha-Maori, had a nine pound carronade mounted in the bow.

A schooner rigged cutter, the Taeopa was armed with a bow cannon for the Tauranga campaign

In November 1832, Pi and two picked groups of Maori and Pakeha-Maori fighting men boarded the Taeopa and, after crossing the Hokianga bar, sailed north to round Cape Reinga, and south, before entering the Bay of Islands. There, they joined the fleet of 80 waka taua and Maori sailing craft and 800 warriors that assembled at Kororareka (Russell) during December 1832. At the instigation of Titore Takiri (the leading war chief at the Bay of Islands following the death of Hongi Hika), the fleet voyaged slowly southwards to attack Ngai Te Rangi at Tauranga and to avenge past defeats.

Pi and the Taeopa had become part of a remarkable and unprecedented Maori amphibious artillery expedition that transported at least ten 9-12 pound long barreled cannon and short barreled carronades. Some rangatira including Pi and Wharepoaka had these pieces mounted in the bows of their cutters, and whaleboats powered by sail. Other rangatira had their purepo (great guns) placed as ballast in the hulls of their waka taua until they reached Tauranga.

This 12 pound ships’ carronade was one of eight identical pieces recovered by northern Maori following the attack and destruction of the Boyd at Whangaroa in 1809. Four Boyd carronades were later employed as land based artillery pieces by the Whangaroa rangatira Ururoa, during the bombardments of Otumoetai and Maungatapu Pa in 1832.

On the 3rd of March, the intertribal peacemakers Rev. Henry Williams and William Fairburn sailed the little mission schooner Karere (Messenger) into the Tairua estuary on the Coromandel Peninsula, where Titore’s invasion force was encamped. That evening, the missionaries watched the Taeopa recross the difficult river entrance after Pi had taken the vessel to Tuhua or Mayor Island that morning, in an attempt to take the Ngai Te Rangi hapu living there by surprise. Williams reported that Pi had instructed his warriors to hide below the gunwales with only his Pakeha-Maori on show. The Islanders were not taken in by the ruse and subjected the cutter to musket fire as it approached the shore. Under the direction of Pi’s Pakeha-Maori master gunner, the Taeopa returned fire from its bow gun before tacking away to rejoin the Ngapuhi expedition at Tairua.

On the morning of 7th March 1832, Taeopa and Titore’s fleet, having previously camped on Matakana Island, advanced up the harbour towards Otumoetai Pa. Henry Williams who accompanied the fleet in Karere described it as ‘a formidable body’ comprising ‘about 80 boats and canoes.’ With all craft and warriors bedecked for war, musket barrels glittering, war trumpets blaring and a multitude of battle flags flying (obtained from the shipping), for the Ngai Te Rangi defenders, Titore’s fleet must have appeared a fantastic and ominous sight.

Williams and Fairburn did not describe the Taeopa’s role in the subsequent and unsuccessful sieges of Otumoetai and Maungatapu Pa during March and April. It is likely however, that Pi’s Maori and Pakeha-Maori warriors joined Titore’s infantrymen during their repeated attacks on these fortresses. It is also likely that Pi and his unidentified Pakeha-Maori gun captain employed their carronade as a shore based weapon during the remarkable day-long Ngapuhi artillery bombardment of Otumoetai Pa (as described by Henry Williams) on 16th March 1832, when every great gun was brought to bear, without being able to create a breach in the palisades.

Arama Karaka Pi (left) bore the same name as his father, who co-owned the Taeopa with Eruera Maihi Patuone (right)

On 31st March, Henry Williams visited the Ngapuhi encampment following their later siege and bombardment of Maungatapu Pa, noting:

Many shook their heads signifying that they were tired, and others complained of want of food. Their attempts had failed They found that their opponents were not backward to meet them, and their great guns had been brought into action but of no use. They had dragged them close to the pa two days after we had sailed from the Bay and were firing nearly the whole day without any effect, but had sustained some loss themselves and the two guns belonging to Moka [the Boyd’s two 12 pound cannon], had nearly fallen into the enemy’s hands.
The combination of war weariness, food shortages, fierce enemy opposition, casualties and an ineffective artillery arm saw Ngapuhi raise the siege at Maungatapu and exit Tauranga Harbour in several smaller fleets. Taeopa avoided the fate of some waka taua that were lost in heavy seas during the return voyage to the Bay of Islands, along with their crews and great guns.

On his return to Hokianga Pi, who had agreed to pay for the Taeopa by supplying John Stewart with a cargo of flax and timber, ended up forfeiting two blocks of land as the cargo was not completed in time. Additionally, though Pi and Patuone believed they were now full owners of the cutter, Stewart retained its registry papers and was able to repossess and on-sell the Taeopa to a Mr. Poyner. Titore in turn seized the cutter when Poyner arrived at the Bay of Islands and returned it to Pi before they both embarked on another unsuccessful seaborne campaign to Tauranga in 1833. Arama Karaka Pi and Titore Takiri were subsequently killed during interfactional fighting at the Bay of Islands in June 1837.


Bentley, Trevor, Tribal Guns and Tribal Gunners: The Story of Maori Artillery in 19th Century New Zealand, Wilsonscott, Christchurch, 2013.

Carleton, Hugh. The Life of Henry Williams, Archdeacon of Waimate, Vol.1, Upton, Auckland, 1874.

Colenso, William, Fifty Years Ago in New Zealand, Harding, Napier, 1888.

Markham, Edward, New Zealand or Recollections of It, E. H. McCormick (ed.),  Government Printer, Wellington, 1963.

Pi  / NZ History, New Zealand history online › declaration › signatory

Williams, Henry, The Early Journals of Henry Williams, 1826-1840, L. M. Rogers (comp.), Pegasus Press, Christchurch, 1961.


Prichett,  R. T; ‘The swoop of the gannet’, in Sullivan, Edward, The Project Gutenberg Book of Yachting, Vol. 1, Lord Brasset (ed.), London, Longman, Green, 1894: 192.

Carronade, from the ship "Boyd", burnt at Whangaroa Harbour, 1809. Carron Company; artillery maker(s); circa 1780; Scotland, cast iron. Dimensions: Overall: 500mm (width), 350mm (height), 1220mm (length), 460kg (weight), Purchased 1933. DM000143, Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tonga Rewa, Wellington.

Arama Karaka Pi, 1808-1867, in "Through Changing Scenes" by K. Abercrombie, Wesley Historical Society (NZ) Publication #15 (1), 1956,

Crombie, John, (attributed), ‘Patuone. Brother of the loyal and faithful chief Tamati Waka.’ 1855, E-452-f-003-2. National Library of New Zealand, Wellington.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Beach Road, Te Papa (The Strand during the early years)

From Tauranga City Library’s archives
A monthly blog about interesting items in our collection

Mr. Barry in 1872, advertised for sale an established boot making business describing it as “admirably situated on the Beach Road, Te Papa”. Where is this Beach Road? 

Bay of Plenty Times, 1872  (September 20 )

The Strand we know and love today, was originally a beach and simply described as “the beach” before becoming Beach Road and then Beach Street.  “Beach road” wasn’t just briefly used pre-European settlement either. As Mr Barry has shown us, even when Tauranga was large enough to publish its own Bay of Plenty Times, businesses advertising still used “Beach Road, Te Papa”, or “Beach Road, Tauranga”, only later switching to “The Strand, Tauranga”. This image below from within the papers of Earnest Edward Bush (1909-1988) (AMS 361) shows the Strand just 7 to 10 years after the Battles of Pukehinahina and Te Ranga. The ragged shoreline shows no sea wall and the water appears alarmingly close to the shop fronts. 

The first sea wall came in the late 1870s, first as a wood wall and then later upgraded to stone after some reclamation in 1902. Later still in the 1920s, significant land reclamation was made to make way for a rail line and then again in the 1960s and 70s for parking space.  But for now, in the early 1870s, a good gale would bring the sea right over the road and into the shop fronts. Already there are many buildings along the road, including a general store simply described as “Te Papa Store”. To the right of Te Papa Store, and still under construction, is David Asher’s store. David Asher was an industrious early resident of Tauranga town, describing himself in 1880 as storekeeper, draper, auctioneer and insurance agent. He also ran a boarding residence up on Wharepai Domain. Such diversity often typified what it took to survive or thrive in such a small town of just a thousand or so people, during the early years of the international "long depression" (1873-1896).

Beach Road, Te Papa (or The Strand, Tauranga) (Image 16-011)

Next to Asher’s store is the iconic Masonic Hotel (est. 1865), advertised as “first-class accommodation for boarders and travelers”, boasting it’s “billiard room (to be) one of the finest in the colonies”. There were three hotels along this stretch, as well as a boarding house, and right at the end a Māori Hostel catering to Māori visiting the area, often for Native Land Court hearings.  But it was Rotorua’s pink and white terraces that were bringing in a lot of the Pākehā visitors. After arriving by boat they would overnight before catching a coach over to Rotorua, spending a night on the Strand again on the return leg.  The boats were received at either the public Wharf at the end of Wharf Street (1871- 1920s), later called Coronation Pier, or by the private Victoria Wharf (1878 – 1920s ) at the end of Harington Street. These Wharves were also where supply shipping from Auckland arrived.  

Beside the Masonic Hotel would eventually be a bakery, the remains of which were discovered in 2014 and are now fenced off and visible within the Masonic Park area.  We can see that bakery in this next, and slightly later photograph from the latter part of the 1870s.  

The Strand, Tauranga in the mid to late 1870s (Image 04-213)

We know it’s later because we can see the first seawall, and in the background the old military hospital and former missionary agricultural school, has been torn down (1874) and replaced with the first government building ( - 1902). The bakery, visible between the Masonic Hotel and the Medical Hall, was owned by John Maxwell (1836-1904).  The very first edition of the Bay of Plenty Times (September 4, 1872) carried his advertisement:

But by 1875 (September 11), this "Belfast Bakery" though unmoved, was now located at The Strand. 

Maxwell’s Belfast Bakery had some competition just a few doors down past the auction rooms, on the corner of The Strand and Hamilton Street. The Phoenix Bakery, run by the Butt brothers was the relative newcomer to the Strand and the two bakery’s competed fiercely, and sometimes in verse, through the Bay of Plenty Times whose offices were just over the road on the other side of Hamilton Street. 

Portion of Image 04-213

At the right-hand end of our photograph from the late 1870s is The Tauranga Hotel, known for its boisterous musical events and it’s own stables. The hotel burned down in 1881, along with many other buildings on that block. This was sadly repeated in 1936. Fire was an ever present hazard during this time, striking the government building in 1902, and the Strand in 1916, taking out the entire block between Hamilton and Wharf Street. 

An 1880 street directory of Tauranga , printed in the Bay of Plenty Times is just a few years too early to include the iconic Bond Store, built by James Mann in 1883 at No. 1, The Strand. The Bond Store would play an important role in storing restricted goods such as alcohol, tobacco and other items subject to an import duty. By 1908 it was sold to Guinness Bros.  Using the street directory however,  we can build up a picture of the kinds of business on the go at that time in 1880.   

Working backward from the Tauranga Hotel was a stationer and bookseller, a drapery and fancy goods store, a boot and shoemaker, restaurant and oyster saloon, the Belfast boarding house and finally a general store on the corner of the Strand and Hamilton street. Then on the other side of Hamilton street was the Phoenix Bakery, storekeeper and drapers (as well as auctioneers and insurance agents), a cabinet maker and funeral undertaker, a hairdresser and fishmonger (and oyster saloon), a butcher, a chemist and druggists (our Medical Hall mentioned earlier), the Belfast Bakery, the Masonic Hotel, Storekeeper (David Asher) and beside him not in any of our photos, a furniture warehouse and fire inspector next to a general draper. Lastly a storekeeper and ironmonger on the corner of the Strand and Wharf Street.  The directory continues down toward Spring Street, covering the buildings in the image below.  

The Commercial Hotel on The Strand (Image 04-212)

From Wharf street heading toward Spring street was an auctioneer land agent (and insurance agent and general store), a tailor, a tinsmith and plumber, the Commercial Hotel, another auctioneer who was also a civil engineer, land surveyor and land agent. Then a timber merchant, livery and stables, painter, glazier and paperhanger, a solicitor, a butcher, and finally a hardware and seed merchant and ironmonger. 

Over the decades the Strand would see many changes, gradually morphing into a stretch that is primarily about food and entertainment. For most of its existence however, it has been an entry point for land purchase, a launching point for tourism and travel and the centre of an emerging trade and economy in our region.   
This blog was also an online talk, as part the library's The Past and Curious series.


Bellamy, A.C. (1982), Tauranga 1882-1982 Journal of the Tauranga Historic Society, No 28, page 14 
Pae Korokī ( 
Paperspast ( 
Tauranga Heritage Study (2008), page 33
Tauranga Street Directory, 1880 (Ngā Wāhi Rangahau, Tauranga Central Library)
Wai 215, D007 page 49

This archival photograph has been digitised and is available to view on Pae Korokī. For more information about this and other items in our collection, visit Pae Korokī or email the Heritage & Research Team:

Written by Harley Couper, Heritage Specialist at Tauranga City Libraries.

Friday, 3 September 2021

The Wairoa River Bridge

Wairoa Bridge (Tauranga), circa 1905-1907. Postcard A.G. Series No. 105 C
Collection of Justine Neal

The precursor to the modern Wairoa section of State Highway 2, was a simple bridle track cut under the direction of Captain Turner, County Engineer and the Civil Commissioner in 1870. In April 1871 the track was enlarged by the local constabulary to ten feet wide and declared a government road in 1872, running from Tauranga to Waihi. The road finished down at the Wairoa River beside a landing reserve. From the landing reserve travellers used a ferry service operated by Ngati Kahu. By 1874, with travel over the Wairoa increasing, the Crown built a kauri timber bridge to replace the ferry crossing.

Wairoa Bridge, Tauranga, circa 1910-1912. Postcard attributed to Mary Humphreys
Collection of Justine Neal

The Bay of Plenty Times January 12th 1886 stated:

"The bridge over the Wairoa River on the Tauranga-Cambridge road was last week completed by our local contractor, Mr. J Brain. The bridge is 172 feet long, of three spans. The end spans being 52 feet each and the centre 66 feet. It is truss girded, built into the solid rock bed of the river. The bridge opens up the rich district of Kaimai, a large extent of very fertile soil, famed in days gone by as a wheat growing centre and will no doubt prove a great boon to the settlers and travelling public."

Wairoa Bridge, 24 Nov 1962. Colour positive slide by Robert Gale
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0005/20/1199

By 1912 the kauri bridge was in a state of advanced decay. The Public Works Department replaced the bridge in 1913 with a single lane concrete bridge built a few yards up river. Originally the replacement bridge was intended to be built in timber but with the steep rise in the price of timber it was decided that concrete was more prudent. The new bridge was built in a deeper but narrower part of the river. The road was also widened to accommodate the increasing amount of vehicle traffic and two balcony-shaped pedestrian refuges were built into the bridge as a safety consideration for the increasing foot traffic across the river.

The concrete bridge was opened for traffic in July 1916, the county council tore down the old bridge and sold it for farming material throughout the district. The new bridge was an impressive structure for its day but the harsh environmental conditions of the Wairoa River would, over the next fifty years, take its toll on the bridge. As early as 1918 severe scouring around the foundations, worsened by high annual flooding saw the new bridge slump in one section.

Repairs to Wairoa Bridge, 16 May 1963. Colour positive slide by Robert Gale
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0005/20/20

By the 1960s it was obvious that the bridge had served its time. It was never designed or constructed with modern traffic in mind and was also becoming increasingly dangerous for local pedestrians, particularly children on the bridge as well as people fishing from it. Despite increasing lobbying from local interest groups as well Tauranga’s Mayor and local councils the Ministry of Works and National Road Board were slow to act so the river took matters into its own hands.

A severe flood in 1962 caused serious damage to the bridge with the western portion slumping considerably in April/ May of 1963. One pier was reported to have moved two inches in one day making the bridge unsafe for traffic, particularly heavy vehicles. This resulted in weight and speed restrictions being placed on the bridge in order to avoid a serious accident. Heavy vehicles and buses could no longer cross the bridge, effectively cutting the region in half. A local news item reported on how New Zealand rail buses could no longer cross the bridge on the Tauranga to Auckland route. Instead passengers on these buses are conveyed to one end of the bridge and then are required to walk across it to board a bus at the other end.

The new and the old Wairoa Bridges, 30 Dec 1967. Colour positive slide by Robert Gale
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0005/20/1203

In May 1963 the Ministry of Works began extensive temporary repairs on the bridge to restore the main northern road link between Tauranga and Auckland. By early 1964 the Ministry of Works announced that a new bridge was to be constructed with a new site under investigation but it was not until May 1967 that the first pile of the bridge was driven into the riverbed. To the delight of the region’s motorists the new bridge was finally opened in February 1968. The bridge’s opening signalled the end of the old bridge, which in April 1968 was progressively carved up into blocks for removal. A report from the NZ Herald in March 1968 stated:

“The old single laned bridge across the Wairoa Stream which for many years has been a source of frustration for motorists entering or leaving Tauranga by the Waihi road, is to be demolished. It has been replaced by a two-way structure which has been in use for a few weeks. The single laned bridge, one of the oldest concrete bridges in Tauranga county, was built more than fifty years ago. There were often queues of people waiting to cross."

Wairoa Bridge, 11 Aug 1968. Colour positive slide by Robert Gale
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0005/20/1202

Wairoa Hapu and The Realignment of State Highway 2. Section 2.
Papers Past. Bay of Plenty Times 10 January 1936.
Tauranga 1882-1982. Edited by J. Bellamy.