Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945
Waihi and Paeroa Boroughs Formed
Karangahake Petitions for Borough
Rivalry between the mining and farming interests on the County Council was very keen in the boom days of mining in Karangahake, and generally the balance of power was so nearly even that any action taken was swayed by one vote. It was not uncommon for that one man to have more power than the chairman. It was he who decided what would or would not be done. The miners' representatives claimed — and probably not without cause at the time — that as much money should be spent in Karangahake as was spent in Paeroa. That was how the Karangahake rotunda came to be built. Naturally the other faction always tried to see that it was a farmer who held the balance of power. So keen were some to secure office that they were willing to spend considerable sums of money to achieve their object. Miners' rights could be purchased for 5/- - they still can - and each one entitled the holder to a vote. It was by no means rare for a candidate to purchase miner's rights to the cost of perhaps £20 or£30, thereby securing for himself scores of extra votes.
Centres Seek Local Control
Just as the Ohinemuri area broke away from Thames, so, as the district became more densely populated, did the centres of greatest population seek to obtain local control. In spite of very strong opposition from the County Council, which naturally was reluctant to lose the huge amounts it received in gold revenue, the people of Waihi were successful in their fight for independence and the Borough of Waihi was incorporated on March 1, 1902. Five years later, in September, 1907, county ratepayers living within two miles of the Karangahake Post Office petitioned the Governor, Lord Plunket, asking that a borough be constituted. The petition said the township of Karangahake had then been in existence for over twenty years, and that during that period improvements effected by the County Council and expenditure in the township had not been commensurate with the very considerable increment from the riding from gold revenue, rates and timber royalties. The population within the boundaries proposed exceeded 2000, it was stated, and it was claimed that the revenue had been chiefly expended in other ridings, the residents of which had no interests in common with the Karangahake residents who were essentially miners. Moreover, it was contended that no effort had been made thoroughly to prospect the gold area contiguous to the township; that recent developments in the Talisman and Crown mines warranted vigorous prospecting, which could not be carried out because of lack of aid to prospectors; and that in consequence of such unfair treatment the inhabitants of Karangahake had been subjected to gross injustice. "Your petitioners desire to improve these matters and to provide and protect the inhabitants of the township of Karangahake and Mackaytown against the absolute neglect and indifference to which they have been subjected by the local authority," continued the petition, "and for that purpose to elect a Mayor and councillors who will be well acquainted with the local requirements and who will have power to govern the said township under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1900, and its amendments." Petitions and complaints laid before the County Council had generally been ignored, neglected or only partly attended to, it was added, and the petitioners saw that it was of no use approaching that body. By reason of the large extent of the county to be looked after, roads and bridges to be attended to, and other important works, the council was not able adequately to make provision for the growing requirements of the township.
The petition was not successful, and now, alas, little remains of the former glories of that flourishing mining centre, Karangahake. Next to break away was the Borough of Paeroa, which was incorporated in 1915, but that is dealt with elsewhere in this booklet. As time went on the farming industry in the districts on the western side of the Waihou River — including Netherton, Kerepeehi, Tahuna and Patetonga, which were then in the Ohinemuri County — became more and more developed, and in the year 1920 it was deemed expedient to form a new County of all those portions of the Ohinemuri and Thames Counties on that side of the river. This became the Hauraki Plains County, but later portion went to Piako County. A further nibble at the County territory was made in 1926, when the Waihi Borough Council took as portion of that borough the main residential area at the north end of the Waihi Beach. As, according to law, no borough can be divided, the Waihi Borough Council also took over the Beach Road, 6¾ miles in length and for its full width, to be portion of the borough and as the connecting link between the borough proper and the Beach area.
By way of a change, in 1937 and as the result of a petition from the settlers in the area, a portion of the Tauranga County was seceded to the Ohinemuri County. This included the area to the commencement of the Athenree gorge, and all that portion of the residential area of the Waihi Beach south of the Waihi Borough portion.