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Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945

Opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfield

(Contributed by Mr J. B. Beeche, Waihi)

On February 18, 1875, an event of far-reaching importance to the Ohinemuri district was consummated and which opened up a large area of land to prospecting and mining for gold. Prior to this date gold had been discovered, and certain small areas had been worked on the surface, but this was only done while the goodwill of prominent Maori chiefs was retained. One such chief was Haora Tareranui, well known to Paeroa residents until his death at a ripe old age not many years ago. He, with a party of four consisting of Messrs. J. W. and A. J. Thorp and J. B. and J. M. Beeche, prospected and won some gold at Karangahake, but it was only by the Deed of Cession entered into on February 18, 1875, that the Ohinemuri goldfield was declared open for mining. Even then prospecting was fraught with difficulties, for, apart from those associated with attempts to locate that which was below the surface of the ground, recalcitrant natives, to use an expression well known now seventy years later, took "direct action" to prevent the work proceeding.

The Deed of Cession was made between His Excellency George Augustus Constantine Marquis of Normanby Earl of Mulgrave, Governor of New Zealand of the one part, and the Chiefs and people of the tribe Ngatitamatera of Haw, Aboriginal natives of the Colony of New Zealand of the other part.

The document, in true legal form, provided that in consideration of the covenants therein contained, and of the sum of Ten Shillings paid by James Mackay the Younger, Government Land Purchase agent, on behalf of the Governor, the native chiefs and people "did demise, lease, grant and assure" unto the Governor for gold mining purposes within the meaning of "The Gold Fields Act, 1866," and its amendments, all that piece of land containing an area of 132,175 acres or thereabouts known as the Ohinemuri Block, together with all the coal and other metals and minerals and all rights of way, all water courses, rights and easements and all appurtenances thereto belonging for such term as the Governor or his successors and assigns should desire to use the same for gold or other mining purposes.

The Ohinemuri Block was defined, and briefly might be described as bounded towards the north from Kurere by lines known as "Tales line" forming the southern boundary of Hikutaia No. 3 Block, McCaskill's land, and Whangamata Nos. 3 and 4 Blocks to Te Papiri on the East Coast; thence towards the east by the East Coast from Te Papiri to Nga-kauri-a-whare, thence towards the south by a line forming the northern boundary of the Tauranga district 86,489 links to the Waitawheta Stream, thence by that stream to the north-east angle of the Aroha Block, thence along the northern boundary of the Aroha Block to Mangauta, thence towards the west by a straight line to Titarahi, Te Karaka and Omatao — the last-named being on the River Ohinemuri — thence by that river to Te Konto and then on to Te Paeroa, thence by straight lines to Te Komata and to Kurere, the point of commencement.

The Deed of Cession provided that any person mining for gold on or otherwise occupying any part of the Ohinemuri Block should be the holder of a Miner's Right issued for the said Block, and must pay a rent or royalty equivalent to that prescribed by the Waste Lands Act. Any holder of a Miner's Right was entitled to dig for kauri gum, and to cut timber (other than kauri) for mining or domestic purposes, but no one could cut timber for sale unless he first paid a fee of £5 in respect of any area not exceeding 20 acres, and every labourer employed in the work had to hold a Miner's Right.

The Deed provided also that all kauri trees on the Ohinemuri Block should be sold to the highest bidder, subject to the right of any holder of a Miner's Right to purchase kauri trees for mining purposes for the price of £1/5/- per tree.

Those holders of Miner's Rights, who desired to acquire Goldmining leases or Agricultural leases, could do so on terms and conditions prescribed by regulations to be made in accordance with the Gold Fields Act. Residents of townships that were anticipated to rise were under obligation to pay annually in respect of their allotments for business purposes £5, and for residence £1. Certain areas, however, were not subject to the terms of the Deed, and therefore were not open for mining. These were reserves for native occupation and residence at Waihi and Mataora, which were set aside and proclaimed as such.

The final clause of the Deed provided the real consideration for the granting of the rights and privileges contained therein. All rents, royalties, moneys and fees (other than registration fees) payable were to become the property of the native owners of the lands affected. But, first of all, provision was made for the repayment to the Colonial Treasury, out of such rents and royalties, of the sum of £15,000 which had already been advanced to the native owners by James Mackay, the Younger, on behalf of the Governor. All moneys subsequently available under the Deed would be paid to the native owners.

It was this historic document, signed by Hareata by making her mark and by 158 others, most of whom also made their marks, that enabled the Government of New Zealand to declare the Ohinemuri goldfield open for mining.