Friday, 14 December 2018

Armed Constabulary Roads

We take the roads we drive over every day for granted – unless they are badly congested or have a poor safety record, in which case we complain. But usually we are too busy concentrating on the roads themselves to think about their history. As we drive through Judea, Oropi, or Welcome Bay, we could spare a thought for the members of the Armed Constabulary and their Māori helpers, who built at least part of these roads in the first instance.

Armed Constabulary, 1870. Bartlett Photo (from a Copy).
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 01-128
Artillery detachment of the Armed Constabulary with two six-pounder Armstrong guns, c 1870. Captain Crapp standing on right. Other constables from left are identified by S. Crowther as Sergt Russell, Sergt Mason, Const. Campbell (Hospital Dispenser), Const. Reymer, Const. Mathias, Const. Redmond, Const. Daveron, Const. Skilton, Const. Cochrane, Const. Walker, Const. Elliott, Const. McCallum, Const. Adams, Const. Batty, Sergt Major Harper, Const. Land, Const. Ryan. Front sitting, Const. Crowther lying down, Const. Keep standing by gun wheel, Sergt Putnam and Captain Crapp in the right foreground. Two figures on extreme left in the background and the one looking over the wheel between Campbell and Reymer unidentified.
The Armed Constabulary, precursor to the modern police force, was established in 1867, as the land wars drew to a close. Staffed by men from the former militia units such as the Waikato Regiment, it was meant to keep the peace and protect the civilian population from attacks by disaffected Māori. As that threat receded, work was found for the men to do, and one of their most useful jobs was road-making. In 1869-70 they began forming the road through Judea to the Wairoa river crossing, a task that involved shifting some 5,454 cubic yards of soil. In 1875 men from the Ohinemutu constabulary post started work on the ‘back road’ from Tauranga to Rotorua, which in those days went through Oropi.

In the late 1870s or early-to-mid 1880s – there seems to be conflicting information as to when this actually occurred – the Armed Constabulary was restructured. In general, police forces took over the towns, and a ‘Field Force’ the rural areas, but the Armed Constabulary was still referred to as an active force in newspaper articles well into the 1890s. In 1880 members were engaged in building the road at Welcome Bay, in order to connect Tauranga and Te Puke. Swamps and gullies made the work arduous. It is easy to understand why earlier settlers preferred to travel by sea.

Sources
Hansen, Neil. Highways and byways of the Western Bay of Plenty. [Tauranga] : N. G. Hansen, 1999.
Rorke, Jinty. Policing two peoples : a history of police in the Bay of Plenty, 1867-1992. [Tauranga] : J. Rorke and New Zealand Police, 1993.

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