Friday, 23 November 2018

Tuhua - Mayor Island

Taken from Tuhua Mayor Island, Postcard by G.K.Prebble, 1971. Collection of Justine Neal
Tuhua is a volcanic island lying 20 miles off the coast of Tauranga and those of you who have been lucky enough to visit this magical place will have your own special memories of it. In 1884 the surveyor Eric C Goldsmith visited the island and reported as follows:
The island has grand coastal scenery with majestic arches and rough caves of basaltic rock. There remains some thermal activity in the form of small hot springs and there is also a large crater five miles in circumference. Being very broken and badly watered the island is not suitable for settlement. The water in the two small lakes in the crater, which are difficult of access, is doubtful. There are no streams of any description. The climate is very pleasant with no frost experienced and ideal for growing fruit.
Goldsmith found bananas, apples, peaches, grapes, figs, raspberries, strawberries and cape gooseberries growing at various points on the island. Tobacco also grew well and before the turn of the century the Maori inhabitants had fine specimens of it growing. Situated on every commanding point or hill, pa sites or the remains of pa sites were scattered all over the island and Goldsmith recorded there could have been large populations in the past. When he visited in 1884 there were only three men, four women and two little girls living on the island. Various epidemics of disease ravaged the Maori population prior to the 19th century so that as far back as 1835 only 170 people remained on the island and finally its villages were deserted altogether as permanent places of residence. Not all deaths on the island were disease related as previous inhabitants had seen their share of strife and violence.

Greetings - Tairua. Postcard by unknown publisher, 2131. Collection of Justine Neal
The stock on the island consisted of one horse, pigs, fowls and pea fowls. Bird life was plentiful with kereru, ruru, tui, korimako and piwakawaka all to be heard in the bush. The pohutukawa forest in the crater supported a population of kaka. Goldsmith described the vegetation on the outer slopes as common fern, tutu, very thick ti-tree, koromiko and a little grass. The few clumps of trees consist of pohutukawa, mapou, manuka, rewarewa akeake, whau and a few puriri.

Goldsmith wrote that fishing of the island was very good with an abundance of hapuka, kokire, maumau, schnapper, kahawai and terekikihi. There is also koura, crabs and shellfish. Mako is caught off shore but Goldsmith was not able to catch any during his stay and the local Maori told him they were getting very scarce. Near the centre of Opo Bay where Goldsmith and his party camped they found two weather boarded sheds. These had been built eight years earlier by the locals to form a whaling station, the kauri timber used in construction having been brought from Tairua by cutter. They purchased whale boats and all the necessary gear but owing to lack of whales the venture turned out a failure.

Mayor Island, Tauranga, Postcard by Mirrielees, undated, No 19. Collection of Justine Neal
Opo Bay is the centre of activity on the island and even in Goldsmith’s day was providing a haven for cutters as it did for Maori canoes ages before. In the south west corner of Opo Bay was Te Panui pa where Goldsmith found the nine remaining Maori who were living on the island when he arrived. On the flat on the south side there were cultivations of about 25 acres. Here potatoes, kumara and corn were growing. There were also strawberries and raspberries. Goldsmith noted that this pa was in a very strong position particularly from the  seaward side. It was accessible only by climbing perpendicular cliffs. The inhabitants had rigged a rough ladder, well concealed, with which to descend to the beach where their canoes could be hidden in the undergrowth.

At the head of one of the wooded glens running inland from the bay was one of the few springs to be found. It was not a good one, the water dripping slowly from the rock into a small hole made to receive it. The water had to be dipped up cup by cup and during Goldsmith’s stay when the water was only used for drinking and cooking, this meagre supply was nearly exhausted.

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