Alistair Isdale: 1840's and 1850's
From 1840, New Zealand, already a kind of appendage of New South Wales, became a British Colony more in its own right, with a Lieutenant-Governor and a Treaty.
From 1841 there came to be quite a pakeha settlement at Auckland, and feeding Auckland in its early years meant much bigger trading opportunities.
Auckland kept shipping records, and going through these is quite a revelation. There was a swarm of cutters and schooners with trader-settler skippers, which brought to Auckland potatoes and pork, timber for building, roofing shingles, flax and sundry produce. Also, from the flats around tapu and deserted Totara pa, "much wheat." From the Waikato and Matamata at the head of the Thames valley, came much more, including that made into flour by Maori flourmills.
And quite a few of the cutters and schooners were Maori owned and skippered, either bought or made to order at small shipyards, as at Coromandel Harbour, Whitianga, and smaller ones like Palmer at Waiomu,
Also there were many "canoes" which did not figure, like cutters and schooners, in the shipping news of the Auckland newspapers. In particular, these brought many peaches in season from the Thames flat and along the banks of the River Thames. Which in those days had two main tributaries, the Waihou and Ohinemuri, while beyond came the Thames, which had had a Maori name meaning two mouths, because of a one time island opposite Totara pa, still shown in a drawing made in 1868.
The little area we are concerned with had scope for cultivation on the further sides of the two streams, where there are now the settlements of Te Mata and Tapu. And the then deep and placid Te Mata and Tapu streams, tree embowered on each side as in the Kinder photographs of 1868, could serve well as ports, when that of the Maori wheat growers near Thames was a cabbage tree to tie to on a big bend of the Kauaeranga.
By the 1840s it is possible to chronicle yearly events likely to impinge on the area being treated.
In 1841 Ensign Best went north along the coast from the Kauaeranga, where he got a frosty reception from the wife of missionary Preece, and from two white men, traders, or "devils" to the missionaries, a hut and a bed on a heap of potatoes, wrapped in two Maori mats, and a hearty welcome.
He went on northwards along the coast in a canoe 10 or 12 miles, and was hospitably welcomed by a white trader-settler, and next day went on about 8 miles to another, by a very bad track by land, then another 4 hours by canoe to Coromandel harbour. At least the first would seem to have been quite near to Tapu. He lived a mile or two from a ‘Pah’.
In 1842 the fierce Taraia went with a war party from Puru to Katikati, where he surprised a Christian village at dawn, and killed several, followed by cannibalism, bringing some supplies back home. Back at Puru (one account gets mixed up with Paeroa), he went to the little raupo Christian chapel during a service and rolled the head of a chief down the aisle. "His body is in my belly, see if your Jesus Christ can resurrect him."
Any original and Christian inhabitants who had come back to Tapu and Te Mata with the return of 1830 would seem to have lived on a similar tolerated footing under the shadow of the heathen cannibal Taraia. Who tolerated Christians as associated with the Europeans (though many of the traders were far from Christian, and like the timbermen, classed as "devils" by the missionaries.) He had lived through times when having pakehas could be a matter of life or death, and he was ever the friend of the white men. When one or two of his warriors stole one or two shirts from a pakeha, said pakeha (Thorp of near Paeroa, and a noted Christian and called Mr. Christian by William Mortimer Raines in "The Amazing Adventures of Edward Crewe), said Thorp had the utmost difficulty in persuading Taraia not to kill the culprits.)
In 1840, Logan Cambell had found much ‘tupera fever’ in this region, meaning double-barrelled guns. There had been the Rotorua War as recently as 1834-36.
It happened this way, as related by Best. The new British Government was horrified by the cannibalism, and sent Colonial Secretary Shortland, who became acting Lieut. Governor when Hobson became ill, went on a mission including Best, and interviewed Taraia at Puru. Taraia said it was a purely Maori matter, and if the new Government tried to interfere, "he would have a fish or two first."
Taraia's KatiKati raid had left a wake of disturbance at Tauranga Harboui and a military mission went there under Major Bunbury and set up camp at the base of Mount Maunganui, with an observation post on top, and meanwhile tried talking. Meanwhile there was to-ing and fro-ing by water, which met Admiralty timber ship Tortoise, which supplied flares and blue lights and other fireworks. Used in Tauranga Harbour, they filled hitherto contending parties with a depth of supersistious fear that drove all warlike thoughts out of their heads. The news naturally travelled, and what a recent historian dismissed as a corporal's guard or whatever became a potent force for peace, and nothing more was heard of tupera fever in Hauraki.
An important event for Te Mata-Tapu happened in 1843. A ship called the Bolina under Mair took from New Zealand a cargo of kauri gum. At that time varnish was popular, and both England and U.S.A. found kauri gum ideal and the yearly totals expanded down the years to thousands of tons.
Now in the hinterland of our region, successions of kauris had come and gone, and the hills, clothed in kauri forests still, when Logan Campbell passed along in 1840, and for quite a few years thereafter had great stores of kauri gum in the soil. At first the getting of kauri gum was a purely Maori matter.
The trade was already developing during 1844.
1845-46 saw ‘War in the North’, the reason being Maori annoyance with trade and prosperity going from the Bay of Islands to Auckland. By this time kauri gum was appearing among the trade items through the Port of Auckland.
The old track into the interior between the two streams along the ridge-way began to be used again. Some years later a newspaper correspondent described a party of Tapu "natives" he met coming out of the wild wet interior, dressed only in heavy shirts, trousers being an encumbrance in the wet and cold conditions pushing through sopping wet undergrowth.
"With the dying out of "tupera fever," and the growth of trade, quite a few European things, listed in shipping reports as "sundries," became ordinary necessities - flour, sugar, tea and so on. And liquor. And especially tobacco. When the Te Aroha people had a river blockade lifted, imposed by other tribes downriver, the first things they wanted were European foods they had been missing. And being away from the sea, sea foods starting with a barrel of small sharks.
Along the Thames
Coast, sea food continued
to be a staple, the big item being shellfish, adding to older deposits or
making new ones. Kai moana was a more regular source of protein than pigs and
birds, which were more on the treats side of things. Then as now,
"pork and puna" was a frequent item. The gardens and orchards
produced vegetables and fruit. Potatoes in big quantities were more for trade,
kumaras for more flavoursome eating
Copper was quite an important export, in ore concentrate form. Exports through the Port of Auckland from April 11 to November 20, 1845, came to £22,558, of which nearly a third, £7,128, was copper ore. Kauri gum came to half, with £11,899 (a little over half). But timber was only £1,670, as most produced was used for houses and businesses and shipbuilding locally. Whale oil came to £715. That gave some employment to the descendants of far travelling navigators, with skills already developed from fishing. As late as 1874, Hauraki could produce for a gathering at Whakatiwai (Miranda area) not only canoes and cutters and schooners, but also several great vessels meriting a better word than canoes.
Much fishing from various craft, also used for a good deal of general moving about and transport of goods, these were familiar features of the environment. The mouths of both the Te Mata and Tapu, with quiet deep waters going up some distance, especially with high tides, saw various vessels moored, or in the case of canoes, pulled up on shore, especially where there were beaches.
For 1847, some newspaper glimpses. The New Zealander of August 28,1847 gave Maori shipping of European type vessels. "Thames" had the 15 ton schooner Random under Waiparu. A 12 ton schooner called Ocean Queen was under Hou of the Ngati-Maru, the tribe of around present day Thames. He also skippered the 9 ton cutter Te Kerekora.
Under the heading "Kauaeranga, " (right at the south end of present day Thames), the 13 ton schooner Wakapokai was under Taipari, given as of the Ngati-Whanaunga, and the 10 ton schooner Maungaroa, under Te Waka of the Ngati-Maru.
Coromandel had 3 cutters. Black Joke, Caroline and Tereparu. Manaia had a schooner. Maori owners were also having a cutter built at the shipyard at Whitianga. Though they were fewer in number, the European settler traders and timbermen and mining people had a larger number of cutters and schooners. Flax was another item. In the Auckland exports mentioned above, during a period in 1845, 25 tons of flax exported brought £304.
There had been feverish growing and processing of flax during the Years of the Musket c. 1815-30, when a whole bale bought one precious musket. Now things were more settled.
In 1848 there was a gold discovery in California, and 1849 saw the 80,000 "Forty-niners," in the world's first great gold rush. They were joined, particularly in 1850, by 1,000 from New Zealand, from which ships went to take cargoes of kauri timber, including a house in numbered sections and split kauri shingles for roofing, to help build the wooden San Francisco which went up in flames with the earthquake of 1906.
Auckland and the Hauraki region prospered. There were bigger demands than ever for Hauraki, upper Thames Valley and Waikato food, timber, gum, flax and other. Cash money, through production or jobs, was easy to get. As regards jobs, the loss of 1,000 out of a European population of 27,000, was severely felt. Especially with 1500 to Australian gold from 1851.
This led in 1852 to increasing rewards for a gold discovery near Auckland, with a claim for same, with specimens picked up in his partnership log Driving Creek on October 15, by Charles Ring, who had been to California with a shipload of kauri timber from the Coromandel sawmill of the 3 Ring brothers and the 2 McGregors, and had done some prospecting around in California before returning.
There was immediately a small rush, of at most 300. (Official accounts long gave 3,000 from a misprint in the English translation of Hochstetter., It was mostly over after Christmas, with only half a dozen left by March, 1853. One of the best miners was a woman called Mary Tiki.
No great impression was made on Hauraki as a whole. The around 100 European settler-traders and timbermen in and about Coromandel Harbour continued as before. A bigger European concentration was the 500 Cornishmen at the Great Barrier copper mine, while Auckland had between 5 and 6 thousand.
Meanwhile from 1853 gold began to be found in the South Island, and from as early as 1857 attempts were made to reopen the Coromandel goldfield, the agreement with certain chiefs for a limited area in 1852 having been for three years only.
After California boom conditions, however, there was recession, while Auckland was growing more and more of its own food, so that in the Waikato in 1857 fields were noted given over to weeds. As with the Bay of Islands in 1845, when trade and prosperity went, bitterness grew, with a King Movement in the Waikato by 1858.
In which year A.H. Spicer, who had married daughter Harriett of Retired missionary James Preece, living in retirement on a Coromandel estate, visited her father-in-law, and found things quiet among the Maori