Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945
More Fertile Farms
Waihi Plains and District
GREAT PROGRESS MADE
Fertile farms also exist at the southern end of the County, of which Waihi is the centre, and there are great potentialities for further development in that part. The Waihi Plains, Whangamata, Waitawheta, Waitekauri and Katikati areas as well as others need very much more development work before the lands are used to the fullest advantage.
The general impression of those unacquainted with the district is that the existence of Waihi depends entirely on mining; few are aware that the town and district possess an important and growing primary industry as a second string to the bow. This is dairy farming, which has made rapid progress during the past years, though still, comparatively speaking, in its infancy. Thirty years ago the idea that the Waihi Plains and adjacent areas, covered mainly with stunted manuka and fern, would ever become a thriving farming district, was scouted, and when the Crown Lands Department, towards the end of 1911, subdivided about 6000 acres, chiefly with the object of giving miners no longer fit for permanent underground work an opportunity of supplementing their earnings, the feeling was that those who took up sections would rue the day. Even the officers of the Department were sceptical, as on the plan drawn, the holdings were invariably described as inferior second-class land, and the upset prices were so low that it was clear that they regarded the outlook as anything but bright. And so it proved in the case of a few of the pioneers, men with no farming experience and insufficient capital. They walked off within a few years, sadder and wiser, and, in most cases, losers; but those who held on have reaped their reward, and to-day the township is surrounded by smiling fields and contented kine.
Now, from within a radius of six or seven miles of the post office, butterfat to the value of scores of thousands of pounds a year is sent away to the factories, and not all of the land suitable for dairying has yet been brought under cultivation. Standing high and dry, immune from floods, but with a bountiful rainfall, well distributed, the plains form ideal country for this important branch of farming, and the ready response to manurial treatment is nothing short of remarkable. Established farms are carrying up to 70 milking cows to a hundred acres, in addition to dry stock, horses and pigs, and few of the settlers find it necessary to provide other than hay for the winter ration. In the early stages, farmers were content to milk anything with two horns and an udder, and as a result the returns were comparatively small. With the coming of herd-testing, and the elimination of inferior producers, the output steadily mounted up, and to-day there are quite a number of herds averaging up to 350lb. of butterfat per cow — some more. In a few isolated cases it is known that cows have given up to 500 and 550lbs.
Better Results to Come
The apex of output has by no means been reached, as the farmers are taking all possible steps to improve their cows, and there is every reason to anticipate that in the course of a season or two the production of 400 to 450lbs. of fat will be reached by more than one, and that 350lbs. will be by no means uncommon. As returns such as these become more widely known a strong demand must set in for land about the district, and with the thousands of acres still uncultivated there is room for many more farmers to take up holdings on more favourable terms than in old-established dairying centres. Some have already made this discovery, while others have recently been making inquiries, and finding the prices attractive, have been buying. This is not surprising, as the holdings they have taken up at a cost of from £10 to £15 an acre can be brought in for £7 or £8, thus providing them with some of the cheapest and best dairying country in the Dominion. With these newcomers, and others to follow, there is every reason to anticipate that in the not very distant future the butterfat payments will be doubled, and that, as time goes on, Waihi will become one of the most prosperous of New Zealand's many farming districts. And the end will not be reached by dairying, as there are thousands upon thousands of acres about the foothills, and running back into the bush, that will ultimately become grazing areas for sheep and cattle.
A review of the future prospects of the Waihi district in both primary and secondary industries shows that Waihi has now stepped right into the front rank in respect to the productivity of its farming lands. This fact was recognised by farmers from Taranaki, the Hauraki Plains and other districts. Sheep-farming has increased so rapidly that a fair was held early in the year and attracted much attention.
The butterfat production this year from the Waihi district is estimated to reach at least 2,000,000lb. of fat at 1/8 per pound, representing a monthly payment of approximately £14,000. Other farm returns in the way of pigs, sheep, poultry and dry stock will materially swell the total. Inclusive of dry stock, the total number of dairy cows was estimated at 20,000.
Very little publicity has been given to that side of farming which deals with the production and fattening of stock. That large areas are being successfully devoted to this purpose may be best illustrated by reference to the numbers of stock despatched by rail from Waihi. During the past three years the average number of cattle railed from the Waihi station has been over 10,000 per annum, while over 10,000 calves and pigs have been railed on an average each year, during the same period. Perhaps the most impressive fact is that these numbers of cattle include more than one thousand fat bullocks which in the course of each year have been sent from Waihi to Auckland to provide prime meat for the city shops. One farmer with 200 bullocks, according to a prominent buyer, was producing some of the finest beef in the world.
Possibilities of Whangamata
Large areas yet to be opened for settlement exist northward of Waihi, toward and about Whangamata. Attention would, no doubt, have been directed that way long before now had it not been that communication was unsatisfactory; in fact, almost impossible during the winter months. In 1939, however, the road was taken over by the Main Highways Board and made a main highway with annual contributions from the Ohinemuri and Thames County Councils. The whole length is now greatly improved. It is in good condition and can be used at all times. There is much flat and easy country between Waihi and Whangamata that can be and is used for dairying, and still more that will ultimately become grazing runs. During the past few years the Native Department has been carrying out an extensive development scheme, and quite a large area has been brought under cultivation and production. Quite apart from the potentialities of the district from an agricultural standpoint, Whangamata must become a popular seaside resort. Due to the improvement in the road, the Port of Whangamata, with its very fine harbour and beautiful sandy beach, has become very popular, so much so that the old mining township, comprising some 150 quarter-acre sections, has practically all been taken up. The privately-owned Miami Estate has also been cut up, and to date almost 100 of these sections have been sold, mostly to Waikato residents. There are ample camping grounds to be procured cheaply, and fish in plenty can be taken from the harbour limits. The port is also handy to Mayor Island, the Aldermen and other waters, where deep-sea fishing can be had by those in search of swordfish and mako shark.
Opportunities at Katikati
Possessing many splendid potentialities, Katikati, the prosperous farming centre that lies eighteen miles from Waihi, on the East Coast main trunk railway, has forged steadily ahead, since it is linked up by a main artery of steel. The coming of the line meant much to Katikati; it meant a big reduction in the cost of transit of fertilisers and other farming requisites, and it brought the settlement into closer touch with the town of Waihi, the nearest important business centre. It also meant that products could be carried to Auckland for despatch abroad at much cheaper rates than before. Hard and unremitting toil by the early settlers and their descendants, as well as by more recent comers, has made the district one of the most successful dairying areas in the Dominion.
Until the Katikati Co-operative Dairy Company was established 44 years ago, the district progressed but slowly, but for years butter made by the company has possessed an enviable reputation, both in New Zealand and in England. Closer settlement must follow. Large areas have not yet been broken in and the acreage is easily sufficient to support the factory with its present capacity doubled, and this can be done at no great cost when the time comes. If all unimproved lands were brought under cultivation, and all partially improved holdings were utilised to the best possible advantage, production would be three times what it is now. The land is relatively cheap, and as it does not require any more top-dressing than the £100 an acre Taranaki land to bring it into good shape, it is certainly a good investment. Unimproved Katikati land at the present time probably costs on an average about £10 an acre, and once it is properly manured a settler should never look back.
Ideal for Fruit Growing
Katikati is also ideally suited to the carrying on of several supplementary industries which the shrewd farmer would find very useful and profitable adjuncts. All fruit, especially the citrus varieties, does well, and within eight years one can have a good lemon orchard, while Island oranges also thrive. Apples and plums are another useful sideline; conditions for maize-growing are all that could be wished, and pig-raising can be, and is, in some cases, carried on profitably, many carcasses being sent out of the district.
Waihi Rail Station
Importance to District
The importance of the Waihi Station to Waihi, and especially the surrounding district, is shown by the following statistics which appear in the Railways Statement for last year. These figures show the wonderful productivity of the Waihi Plains and of our farming districts considering the short time that the lands have been brought in. During the year ended March 31, 1945, there were railed from the Waihi Station 10,448 cattle and calves and 10,715 sheep and pigs. The number of passengers carried from the station was 16,031, and the total outward revenue was £8973.