Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970
By Ian Parlane
The earliest note we have of a Vice Regal visit is that of Sir George Grey in the summer of 1849-50. It is recorded in a little book entitled "Journal of An Expedition Overland" and concerns a journey from Auckland to Taranaki via Rotorua, Taupo and the West Coast. The Governor's party was received at Mr. Joshua Thorp's home "Belmont" at Puke Road and was very impressed by the progress that had been made by our first white settler.
After the opening of the Goldfields in 1875 and especially after Ohinemuri became a separate County in 1885 there were probably other distinguished visitors who ventured from either Thames or Tauranga but Paeroa was definitely en fete for Lord Ranfurly when he came in 1898 [image below - E]. It seems that he was most popular and also stayed with the Stewarts at Athenree. Another early notable was the Rt. Hon. R.J. Seddon, Prime Minister, who unveiled the Bradford Memorial on Primrose Hill 1903 and on 3rd June 1912 (47th birthday of King George V) the Hon. W.D.S. McDonald, Minister of Public Works and Buildings, opened our County Chambers.
The establishment of local government in this area, after the abolition of provinces, coming as it did just at a time when this district was being opened up to settlement created in turn a citizen who, it appears, was politically very conscious, on the local level. From old newspapers we can read reports of some of the local body meetings. Criticism of local bodies was obviously just as rife as it is today but these hardy settlers were much more vociferous about demanding alterations; and deputations and petitions to Councils were a much more common event. It went even further than that. The Citizens came forward and stood for their Councils and in turn pestered the central government with petitions, deputations and urgent requests for "the Minister to visit the district".
Our Borough Council files commenced in 1915 and I notice that in 1916 a mass visit of Ministers and Members of Parliament was organised to come to the Thames Valley and Bay of Plenty despite there being a War on. In March 1921 Mr. J.G. Coates visited the area for the switching on of the power by the Thames Valley Electric Power Board, Paeroa being the first Borough in N.Z. to have its streets lit by Power Board Electricity. [For background refer Hora Hora – E]
During the course of a visit on Saturday 23rd April 1921, by the Rt. Hon. John Rushworth - Lord Jellicoe of Scarpa - he and Lady Jellicoe planted trees in Mackay Street near the National Bank. This was part of a scheme being carried out by the Paeroa Beautifying and Improvement Society of which Mr. J.L. Hanna was President and Rev. Enticott, Secretary.'
The Hon. W. Nosworthy and Hon. R.F. Bollard (acting Minister of Lands) visited Paeroa on 3/12/1923 to iron out a long argument over the inadequacy of the municipal reserve which had been vested in the borough on its format ion in 1915. As a result the Council was later able to acquire the Rawhitiroa reserve.
The Hon. A.D. McLeod came on 26th January 1925 and Mr. Coates was back as Postmaster General for the opening of the Post Office of 27/5/1926. (This was the day when the present Borough foreman Mr. N. Neil, as delivery man for Wallace Supplies drove his truck through a pothole near the Mackay Street intersection and splashed muddy water all over Policeman McClinchey who was in full uniform, only a very short while before the ceremony was to commence).
The next Vice Regal visitor was Lieut-General Sir Charles Fergusson on 9th December 1926. His father had been Governor of the Colony from 14th June 1873 to 3rd December 1874 when Charles was a boy of eight. He was accompanied by Lady Alice Fergusson, Miss Fergusson (a niece) Mr. James Fergusson (son). After the address Lady Fergusson planted a Japanese maple and Sir Charles a scarlet oak (pin oak) still to be seen in the Domain.
In April 1927 Mr. A.M. Samuel, M.P. for this area wrote giving the itinerary for a visit by the Minister of Lands Mr. A.D. McLeod and the Minister of Works, Mr. Williams. It read, "Arrive Frankton by the Limited [train – E] from Wellington on the morning of Monday 11th April 1927 and proceed by car to Morrinsville for breakfast. At 8.30 leave for Waitoa and Elstow and be in Paeroa for the evening. On Tuesday leave Paeroa at 8 a.m. for Awaiti Block, Netherton, Turua and Thames. Wednesday leave for Orongo settlement Waitakaruru, Ngatea and Kerepehi in the evening. Thursday leave for Kaihere, Patetonga and district and join Main Trunk Express at Frankton in the evening".
That would have been quite an excursion under the conditions and with the vehicles which were available in those days. (Digressing, during the prohibition period the Ohinemuri Club was conducted where the main bar of the Criterion Hotel now is. A Mr. Roigard ran the hotel for a while and the caretaker of the Club was Albert Kay. One visitor wrote thanking the Council and Club for "the copious hospitality provided by the Club"). Hon. K.S. Williams came back as Minister of Works to open the Criterion Bridge on 5/4/1928. Hon. R.A. (Monkey) Wright came a fortnight or so before on 20th March 1928 as Minister of Education and 1929 looked to be a peak year. Hon. E.A. Ranson, Minister of Works 19/3/1929. Hon. W.A. Veitch, Minister of Mines 30/4/29. Hon. W.B. Taverner, Minister of Railways 9/6/1929. Other visits recorded are: Hon. A.J. Stallworthy, Minister of Health 3/4/1930 for the opening of the Paeroa Maternity Hospital. Hon. J. Bitchener, Minister of Public Works and In Charge of Roads and Public Buildings 13/6/1934.
Our next visitor was Lord Bledisloe on the 28th June 1932 who expressed a particular desire to meet farmers. He and Lady Bledisloe planted two trees near the entrance to Primrose Hill. The one planted by His Excellency was a Rewarewa. His address may still be worth repeating if only to show how little we have achieved in international trade in the last 40 years.
I see a visit by Viscount Galway on 26th January 1939 when be was Governor General from 1935-41 and on 7th June 1944 the district was able to welcome Marshall of the Royal Air Force the Rt. Hon. Sir Cyril Louis Norton Newall. (I noted that the inside of his hat bore the caption "Like hell its your's, put it back and take another").
Hon. Bob Semple, Minister of Works came on 27/1/1938 for the Ceremony Of Turning the First Sod for the Paeroa Pokeno Railway. A function was held with great gusto at 2p.m. in Coronation Street near where the Saleyards now are.
Hon. Walter Nash, Leader of the Opposition was in Paeroa 24/11/1956 for the opening of the Memorial Hall, and Hon. Michael Moohan as Post-master-General on 26/11/1958 for the opening of the Telephone Exchange. Other visitors about whom I can be less specific were Sir Joseph Ward in the 1920's and Mr. W.F. Massey about the same time but I cannot locate either dates or reasons.
The following further visits are recorded:
25th June 1948, Lieutenant General the Rt. Hon. Baron Freyberg, V.C.
5th April 1955, Lieutenant General the Rt. Hon. Baron Norrie (Sir Willoughby Moke Norrie) but without Lady Norrie.
15th March 1962, Rt. Hon. Viscount Cobham and Lady Cobham - (He bought Carter Brown detective novels from Criterion Dairy!)
18th March 1964, Sir Bernard Edward Fergusson and Lady Fergusson. (Both father and grandfather had previously been Governors and Sir Bernard was also well known for his military exploits in Burma during the 1939-45 war).
And now we await a visit from Sir Arthur Porritt whose connection with this town will be very obvious.