Friday, 25 October 2019

SO 424 of 1865

Left of centre, near the bottom of this beautiful, poignant old map, in letters too small to be seen in the image, is the word, MILL. The map was made in 1865 and endorsed by an eminent surveyor, Theophilus Heal: “I certify that all the inland lines coloured red on this map have been properly cut, all corners marked with circles properly pegged and lockspitted, and all the map accurately represents all the work done.”

A half-size colour copy of the original document is in the Tauranga Library. The map itself is in the public domain, obtainable from Land Information New Zealand if you care to penetrate its arcane and frustrating file systems (I used a professional search agency). SO 424 is the first map of Te Puna, Peterehema (modern Bethlehem) and Otumoetai to be made after the raupatu that followed the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga. It is the landscape we know, drawn after a war. Elsewhere, in similarly tiny letters, are place names we also know, and still use: Epeha, Waikaraka, Oikimoke.  There are more, and they are all Maori. Perhaps influenced by Crown Commissioner H T Clarke, surveyors did not invent names for an already well-populated geography.

Names of landowning families appear. Roha Borel survived the sack of Rangiaowhia and married Emile, who twice [1]  persuaded the Crown to make a grant of land to her. The “Nicholls children” are perhaps the Nicholas family whose marae is Tawhitinui. The one pākeha name, R C Fraser, requires further research into some tantalising leads.

Beside those already noted, ‘MILL’ is the only other pākeha word. How did such modern technology - a water-wheel, alongside a substantial building housing the shafts, chutes and stones that ground wheat into flour – come to be alongside a riverbank in the valley of the Wairoa? Who built it, and when? How long was it used?

The Wairoa River near Tauranga, circa 1918
Photograph by Frederick George Radcliffe
Courtesy of the F G Radcliffe Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library (G-6933-1/2)
This much later image of the riverbank offers no clues. A horse drinks from the river alongside a reed-thatched hut. Something that looks like a cooking pot sits alongside something that looks like a cookstand. There is nothing to indicate what might be cooked.

Nevertheless, in the mid-1860s, there was a flour mill at Pukekonui. And mills were very much the thing for entrepreneurs: Te Ara tells us [2] that “between 1846 and 1860, 37 flour mills were built for Maori owners in the Auckland province alone.” Ours stood almost exactly where the boat ramp is now, just upstream from the road bridge, south-west across the river from Potariwhi on the Bethlehem bank. (Colonists mangled the name into “Point Relief”.)  Maori and pākeha alike moored their river scows there. 

Ngati Kahu owned the mill. The New Zealander newspaper of 31 May 1864 described it, admittedly as a site recently abandoned to the oncoming Colonial Defence Corps, as “an extensive corn mill worked by water… the whole neighbourhood is covered with plantations of potatoes, corn [ie, wheat], pumpkins and melons… [the natives’] retreat must have been a hurried one, to have sacrificed so much food.”

The loss of such abundantly fertile land after 1865 must have been especially grievous. But the mill survived in Maori ownership, possibly because the status of the river and its bed were, until the passage of the Coal Mines Act 1903, debatable; at a less abstract level, post-confiscation native reserves were mainly in the vicinity of the river mouth. [3] Theophilus Heal’s 1865 field book notes the hapu of Matehaere residing at the Mill, Wairoa. [4] It was too valuable an investment to be abandoned for long.

And its value was well-understood. In 1872 Commisioner Clarke was reported in the Waikato Times as hearing an “important native case [that] has lasted two days. It was concerning the ownership of the mill at Wairoa. The litigants are leading chiefs of the district. The decision of the Court may lead to bloodshed.”

Bloodshed was fortunately avoided, and by 1888 [5] our old friend Mr Lundon was involved in some kind of partnership deal between one Mr Blundell and the native owners:

The parochial hopes of the editor of the Bay of Plenty Times were not to be borne out. David Borell blamed the sparrows. [6]  Perhaps an imported shipment of Australian seed, or just a prevalence of strong north-westerly winds [7], meant that local wheat crops succumbed to rust. Or maybe it was simple economics: the wide dry plains of Canterbury were much better suited to producing flour for even North Island bakers. Mr Blundell turned his attention to a new project, the flour mill at Waimapu, and the Wairoa mill’s grindstones were taken there in 1893. [8]

And the mill building? During the early 1880s it may have been, briefly, repurposed.  Longtime Wairoa Road farmer Doug Harrison provides this reminiscence: “… there was a Flour Mill built near the end of the Wairoa River Bridge.  This had a very checkered career, standing idle for most of its life, eventually being used as a school for a few years. When the Bethlehem school opened about 1900 the pupils from the Mill transferred to the Bethlehem school.”

This sits tantalisingly alongside Antoine Coffin’s remark that “some schools were initially set up on temporary sites, for example the Paeroa Native School [the original name for Bethlehem School] started out in an old mill and moved several years later once attendances had been confirmed.” [9] Paeroa Native School officially opened in 1884, but before that had been operating “as a half-time school along with that at Huria.” [10] It is just possible that, before Mr Blundell got the grindstones moving again, the mill had been a makeshift classroom.


[1] The first allocation, around today’s Snodgrass Road/Wallace Road area, met with resistance from settler neighbours and was replaced with a grant on the other side of the Waikaraka estuary, where Borells still live.
[3] , p.28
[4], Appendix 6
[6], p.35
[7] For a mid-twentieth century account of rust infections in wheat, see
[8], citing Bellamy, A.C. 1982. Tauranga 1882-1982. Flour Mills, ed A.C. Bellamy. Tauranga County Council. pp204-207
[9], citing Nightingale, Tony.March 1996.History of the Economic and Social Conditions Affecting Tauranga Maori.Crown Forestry Rental Trust. p81

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Infants School

Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0597/08

This photograph is recorded as having been taken outside the Good Templars Hall in Wharf Street, and is of pupils who attended an Infants School run by Miss Roberts (on the left) and Miss Smith (on the right). It is likely to have been taken in the early 1900s.

The following names are handwritten on the back of the photograph:

Seated on ground (left to right): Salt, Alf Smith or Stewart, Doug McKenzie
Front row: Elsie Wrigley, May Stewart, unknown, Esther Salt, Elsie Copeland, unknown, Millie Copeland
Second row Ida Hine, Hazel Bickers, Tilly Bennett, Emily Thom, Doris Stewart, Connie Humphreys, Lena Thom
Third row: Simpson, Arch Hardy, Ossie Daines, unknown, McDowell, unknown, Charlie Robinson
Fourth row: Baker, Ken Commons, Jack Berridge, George Saveron, Fred Stewart, Percy Thom, Fred Trigg, George Asher

While many of the children would become well known members of our community at least one was killed while serving in the First World War. Kenneth Commons was born in Tauranga 19 September 1894 and enlisted while underage and an engineering student at Auckland University. He was reported missing believed dead at Gallipoli on 8 May 1915.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Peter Densem 1917-2019

Peter in a Fleet Air Arm dive-bomber cockpit. Densem Private Collection
Peter Alex Densem was born in Tauranga on 9 May 1917 in The Palms, a nursing home on the east side of Cameron Road between 8th and 9th Avenues. The parents of Peter and his two siblings, Rod and May, were Mary and Peter Densem, who had a confectionery and tearooms on The Strand. The Densem family lived at No.28 Durham Street and in that house, Peter grew up and from it he went to his first teaching jobs and then to war.

Alongside his lifelong friend Alf Rendell, Peter began his education at the Tauranga District High School (now Tauranga Primary School) in Cameron Road between Arundel Street and Fifth Avenue in February 1923. Peter chose a professional course when he entered the standards, gained the highest educational standard, matriculation, in the fifth form and planned to leave school, uncertain of what career to pursue. To earn money immediately, he managed, in late 1937, to get a job with the Bay of Plenty Times. While engaged in this work he met his teacher, Mrs Mackle, who enquired what he was doing. On being told she advised Peter that teacher training colleges were being re-opened and suggested he return to school for another year and study for the “D” teaching certificate. This he did, and in 1939 he entered the Auckland Teachers’ Training College.

Peter’s first permanent job was at a new one-room sole-charge school at Pehiri, 50 kilometres west of Gisborne in the Urewera hinterland. While teaching during the early World War Two years Peter also completed Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) courses. The roll at Pehiri School had grown to 19 pupils when he entered the RNZAF in 1941. After completing a basic training course with the RNZAF in New Zealand with the intention of becoming a pilot, Peter had a change of course. The service had discovered that he was a good mathematician, and at that time the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) was desperately short of competent navigators.

Peter flew first in a Swordfish open-cockpit biplane torpedo-bomber and then in the Barracuda, a monoplane torpedo/dive-bomber, from which he progressed to the more powerful and faster American-built torpedo-carrying Grumann Avenger, equipped with a power-operated gun turret. His service included a tour in Trinidad flying cover over convoys far out into the Atlantic Ocean. A forced landing in an Albacore at Trinidad’s Piarco airport wiped the wings off his aircraft and left Peter with a badly-injured leg. After recovering in a London hospital, he served in the aircraft carriers HMS Furious, Indefatigable and Formidable. Peter was among the Barracuda crews whose mission it was to sink the mighty German battleship Tirpitz. So great was the sudden change in air pressure as the Barracudas dived almost vertically on their target, he suffered permanent damage to one ear-drum.

After the war Peter married Christine, a Scots girl he met while overseas, and bought a house at the east end of First Avenue, planting out the land around it with native trees. The situation appealed particularly because it overlooked a beach, the harbour and his boat mooring. After Christine died in 1959 he lived there with his mother and sister May.

Home from the war, Peter with his Tauranga Primary School class. Densem Private Collection
Returning to his teaching career Peter attended a short course at the teachers’ training college, completed a B.Sc. degree in biology and began work at Tauranga Primary School and then as deputy headmaster at Tauranga Intermediate when that school opened in February 1958. He was appointed first headmaster of Arataki Primary School at Mount Maunganui when it opened in February 1963 and was the second headmaster at Otumoetai Intermediate School in 1967, a year after it opened. Peter retired from Otumoetai Intermediate in 1975.

It was in the 1930s that Peter became interested in boats. Peter’s first craft, in association with his brother, Rod, was the 12ft 6ins centre-boarder Koa, with a flat bottom and clinker sides. In 1934 they bought the 16ft Doreen. An open clinker boat, they put a cabin on Doreen and sailed her all around the Tauranga Harbour. After the war Peter had a variety of craft. He had Sanda, a 28ft motor-sailer of English design, built by Percy McIntosh in Fraser Street, Tauranga, in the late 1940s. Peter bought Jeanette from Phyllis Dumbleton and sold her to Captain George Carter, later Tauranga harbourmaster.

He obtained the 30ft launch Anne-Michelle in exchange for Whangaroa, a 34ft sloop-rigged motor-sailer, and next owned the 24ft launch Tauhara, the last launch built by Henry Geros (later of Tauranga) in W.G. Lowe’s Auckland yard. Then came Peter’s last yacht, the 30ft Koanui, built by Barwick Harding at Pyes Pa. His last boat was Ngako, a 16ft clinker launch built by Percy Vos in Auckland, bought in 1979 and kept on the foreshore beneath his house at the east end of First Avenue. Peter used his boats to good effect when he was appointed an honorary wildlife ranger for the coastal islands, thereby continuing an interest in fauna and flora established with Bernard Sladden over many years. He and Sladden had cruised regularly from White Island to Great Barrier, monitoring the Raurimus, Plate, Mayor and Cuvier Islands, the Mercuries and the Aldermen.

Lifelong friends Peter Densem and Alf Rendell, January 2016. Fiona Kean Private Collection
In 2003 Peter moved to Althorpe Village where he and his tabby cat Katie had a much-loved townhouse with a view of Mauao. In 2017 Peter celebrated his 100th birthday and was surrounded by many family, friends and formers students who gathered to acknowledge the significant impact he had had on their lives.

Peter will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Taken from Max Avery’s article on Peter Densem and Alf Rendell which featured in the November 2017 edition of the Bay of Plenty Historical Review

Friday, 18 October 2019

Alf Baikie

Alf Baikie, c. 1970s
Photograph courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 06-145
Born in the Orkney Islands, Alf Baikie came to Tauranga in 1909 with his family when he was four years of age. He had five brothers, Peter, George, Tom, Jim and Bob, plus one sister. Apparently there was also an older brother John who passed away aged eighteen back in the Orkneys, and two sisters who remained there - perhaps they married locals.

Possibly the first Baikie home in New Zealand. Alf (behind) and youngest brother Tom are the blonde boys in the gig.
Photograph courtesy of Bils Family Collection
Their first New Zealand home was on the corner of 9th Avenue and Edgecumbe Road. It was originally built around 1869 for John Butler, who had joined the 1st Waikato Militia in Melbourne, arrived in Auckland in 1863, and settled in Tauranga after the Wars. Butler died in 1902 and it became the Baikie home from 1911. They had a large block of land that included a home orchard and grazing for the house cow. Some of the land had belonged to a foreign unmarried neighbour who left it to them in gratitude for Mrs Baikie’s kind care for him.

When Alf left school he worked for the  New Zealand Post Office but later trained as a blacksmith and worked for Sam Snowden among others.

In 1923 his brother George gave him a Model T truck and he entered the cartage business. Changing tyres was no problem, he would just lift the side after asking a local lad - Alf Rendell - to place the prop under the axle. He also carried full wool bales on his back from the landing of some wool sheds to the truck. During the depression from 1929, he earned better money working in a quarry and assisting brother Tom in his Elizabeth Street bakery.

Jack Heaton and his Diamond T truck beside the 8th Avenue house, c. 1940
Photograph courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. 09-008
Alf joined the firm of Heaton’s Transport in 1932 as a driver, became a shareholder in 1948, Managing Director in 1955 and continued to live in the next family home built by his father and brothers with homemade concrete blocks in Eighth Avenue until his death in 1990 aged 85. At one stage the company employed 150 people, and he was known to be extremely generous to many people, especially his employees.

Alf Baikie in front of his daughter's 9th Avenue cottage
Photograph courtesy of Bils Family Collection
He married his housekeeper Eva later in life and had a step-daughter June, step-son Bob and two grandsons. One of them, Julian, still lives in a cottage nearby.


Tauranga 1882-1982, Centennial of Gazetting of Tauranga as a Borough.
Alf Rendell — former neighbour
John Green — employee for 18 years
Julian Bils — grandson

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Karere (Messenger) and the Paihia Missionaries

Early Vessels and Visitors to Tauranga,  Part V:
The Karere (Messenger) and the Paihia Missionaries

A schooner rigged cutter ‘of 30 feet keel,’ Karere was constructed and launched at Paihia in the Bay of Islands by the sea captain and merchant Gilbert Mair (Snr) in 1831. ‘Of light draught,’ the vessel was built for securing provisions for the local mission stations from Maori coastal settlements, rather than for deep sea crossings. [1] Described by the missionary leader Henry Williams as ‘riding over the seas like a duck, scarcely shipping a drop of water,’ in moderate conditions, the little vessel was notorious for ‘kicking her heels’ in rough conditions and laying low with seasickness, every Maori and Pakeha who sailed as a passenger. [2]

The Karere accompanying Titore Takire’s fleet to Tauranga
Accompanied by Rev. Thomas Chapman and a Maori crew, Henry Williams sailed Karere to Maketu in October 1831, before travelling overland to Rotorua, where Chapman subsequently established a new Anglican mission station. The voyage south, however, was not without its challenges and after entering the Bay of Plenty, Williams recalled:
At four o’clock every appearance of bad weather, and being close to Tauranga, we decided to run in. Came on to blow very hard; could scarcely see Maunganui, though close to it. As we drew near we obs’d the breakers high and nearly across the entrance with a very considerable swell. However, by the good providence of God, we entered safely at 5.20 and found ourselves immediately in still water, to our no small joy. [3] 
Rev. Henry Williams
Rev. Thomas Chapman
In February 1832, the Karere and the missionaries Henry Williams, James Kemp and William Fairburn accompanied a Ngapuhi amphibious artillery expedition to Tauranga in the hope of making peace and to ‘terminate the horrors of war.’ Led by Titore Takiri, the leading war chief at the Bay of Islands following the death of Hongi Hika, the invading force comprised 80 waka taua and several Maori-owned sailing cutters carrying some 800 warriors and a siege train of ten ships’ cannon. [4]

The great fleet voyaged slowly south in three divisions, raiding the plantations of both enemy and allied iwi as it went. The voyage south was not without incident. Some rangatira were accompanied by their turbulent Pakeha-Maori fighting men. Outside Tauranga Harbour, Williams was compelled to remonstrate with a group of these heavily armed renegades aboard the Maori owned sailing cutter Taeopa. Having just returned from a raid against Maori on Mayor Island (Tuhua) during which they fired on the inhabitants with the Taeopa’s bow cannon, and supremely confident in their fighting skills and firepower, these men were acting as a tribe within the tribe. Drawing alongside on the Karere, Williams explained that their reckless manoeuvering among the fleet was endangering the unity of the expedition. How the Pakeha-Maori responded is not stated. [5]
On 6th March, Titore’s fleet entered Tauranga Harbour through the Katikati entrance and camped first on Matakana and then Rangiwaea Island. Williams, a former Royal Navy officer recalled that on Matakana he was approached by a group of Ngapuhi rangatira. ‘My opinion required respecting the proper charge for their great guns, declined the honour.’ [6]
Titore Takiri
Hone Heke
Aboard the Karere now anchored in the Otumoetai channel, the missionaries watched the Ngapuhi infantry launch successive attacks against Otumoetai Pa, only to be driven off by bands of Ngai Te Rangi musketeers who emerged from the pa to meet them. The Ngapuhi rangitira Hone Heke Pokai, who was to achieve fame as an anti-British ‘rebel’ before and during the Northern or Flagstaff War of 1845, was seriously wounded in the fighting and ordered home by the senior chiefs.

During the siege, the missionaries watched the Maketu-based Arawa trader Phillip (Hans) Tapsell sail his cutter Fairy into the harbour. Tapsell, whose wife Karuhi was Ngapuhi, delivered six additional cannon and munitions to Titore’s warriors. During the transfer of ordnance to the Ngapuhi waka, the Otumoetai defenders who had at least two cannon installed in their defences, bombarded, but did not strike the Fairy, Williams observing drily how ‘the shot fell short.’ [7]

‘Dejected in mind’ at being unable to negotiate peace between the two warring tribes, the missionaries left Tauranga for the Bay of Islands on the 15th March and did not witness Ngapuhi’s extraordinary day long artillery bombardment of Otumoetai Pa the following day and eventual withdrawal from Tauranga. [8]

If entering Tauranga Harbour through the Maunganui entrance in October 1831 had proved difficult for Karere and the missionaries, exiting the harbour in March 1832, proved a near fatal experience. Williams recorded later,
In the evening, being high water, weighed and made sail. The wind directly in. Passed safely over the various banks, but when close to the great hill which forms the south head, the vessel missed stays owing to the swell caused by the ebbing tide and there appeared every chance of going on the rocks, which was prevented by letting go the anchor, and taking in the sail. Everyone was much alarmed and the sea breaking on all sides, but as the tide was setting to windward, there was no strain upon the cable. In about an hour the sea subsided. We again weighed and in a short time were out of difficulties. [9]
Encountering foul weather and rough waters during the homeward voyage, Karere rounded Cape Brett three days later and at 8 am. the three missionaries landed at Paihia ‘unperceived’ by their families and resident Maori. [10]  Three years later, in 1835, Karere was put up for sale. There was great interest among local rangatira who were competing to acquire their own cutters at this time, but details of the sale price and the name or names of the purchaser/s are yet to be located. [11] 

[1] Williams, W and J; The Turanga Journals, Wellington, 1974: 44.
[2] Williams, H. The Early Journals of Henry Williams, 1826-1840, L. M. Rogers (comp.), Christchurch, 1961: 411.
[3] Carleton, H; The Life of Henry Williams, Archdeacon of Waimate, Vol. 1, Auckland, 1874: 94.
[4] Bentley, T; Tribal Guns and Tribal Gunners,  Christchurch, 2013:  69-71.
[5] Williams, 1961: 228.
[6] Ibid: 231.
[7] Ibid: 234.
[8] Bentley, 2013: 76-78.
[9] Williams, 1961: 212.
[10] Ibid: 213.
[11] Ibid: 406, 409.

1 Artist, Henry Williams, The Karere, Yate, W; An Account of New Zealand, London, 1835: 184.
2 Henry Williams, Sherrin, R. A. A; Leys, T W; Early History of New Zealand, Auckland, 1890: 263.
3 Unidentified photographer, ‘Thomas Chapman ½-025274-F Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, from Philip Andrews. Chapman, Anne Maria and Chapman, Thomas, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990, updated November, 2001. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand (accessed 12 October 2019)
4 Titore Takiri, Sherrin, R. A. A; Leys, T W; Early History of New Zealand, Auckland, 1890: 487.
5 Attributed artist John Gilifillan ‘Honi Heke [about 1846] A-114-003, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

A Game of Croquet

Group playing croquet. Photograph attributed to Mary Humphreys
Postcard, Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref 0213/08
This postcard was donated to the Tauranga Heritage Collection by Mrs Kay of Mount Maunganui in 1982. It shows a group of women and two girls enjoying a game of croquet at the Tauranga Domain. A croquet club was established at the domain on 8 November 1902 under the umbrella of the Bay of Plenty Lawn Tennis Club. The clothing suggests that this photograph could have been taken around that time period.

While the photographer is not known, it seems likely to have been local photographer Mrs Mary Humphreys. Her daughter, Miss Connie Humphreys, is recorded in the Bay of Plenty Times as being a member of the club.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Mount Maunganui Hot Pools

Mount Maunganui. The warm salt water baths which are so popular with both visitors and local residents alike
Undated postcard. Photograph by Carl Perham. Printed by Batley Offset Printers. Published by Dow Productions, No. 116
Collection of Justine Neal
Through the 1960s Mt. Maunganui’s hot salt water pools at the base of Mauao were believed to be unique in the Southern Hemisphere as they were said to be the only natural hot salt water pool in existence. Their history goes back to the 1950s when Mt. Maunganui township began to grow and the need for fresh water supplies became urgent.

A water diviner, Mr. Claris, persuaded the council he would be able to find sufficient water for the town supply. Instead he found hot salt water. For some years nothing was done about the discovery. Requests for commercial operators to develop the resource attracted little attention. Eventually, during the 1960’s, the council decided to go ahead with the swimming pool development themselves.

Mount Maunganui Domain Natural Hot Salt Water Pool
Postcard published by Logan Print, 150. Postmarked August 1973
Collection of Justine Neal
The pool was sited mid-way between the harbour and ocean beaches in Adams Avenue. It opened on January 2, 1966, and approximately 8,000 gallons of water are pumped through the pool every hour.
  • The 1973 statistics for the pool were: Length 50’, width 20’, average depth 4’, depth of bore 350’, 4” diameter deep well pump positioned at 130’, borehead temperature 112 degrees, average bathing temperature 103 degrees.
  • A 1989 report states that the temperature of the water at the surface is 42 degrees C but it is cooled to 38 degrees for the main pool and 40 – 42 degrees in the private pools.
  • In 1989 a tender was accepted from Miden Construction for a $1.8 million upgrade of the complex which would see a larger main pool, children’s pool and soak pools. The total upgrade was to include the changing sheds and the redesign of the exterior, to bring the complex more in line with modern architecture.
Since the printing of these postcards the pools have gone through several upgrades and after 53 years are still bringing enjoyment to locals and tourists alike (Mount Hot Pools web site).


A History of Mont Maunganui, by Bruce Cunningham and Ken Musgrave