Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970

By Les Morgan.

When the late Otto Bjerring, the first of the Danes to settle and commence farming on the Whangamata Road, sent word home to Denmark regarding the possibilities of the area, four young men - K. Bjerring, the Larsen brothers and Christen Christensen decided to come to Waihi. The latter, who was interested in timber, had intended to go to Canada, but decided to come to New Zealand instead. They arrived in 1921.

On arrival, the Larsen brothers took farms, while the other two commenced cutting timber, on contract for Otto Bjerring, and they also did some work on his farm. A small mill, driven by water power, was erected in a gully on the property, and was worked on an average of two days per week, and cut about 500 feet of timber per day. The young men also did a considerable amount of post splitting when not engaged at the mill. This mill operated for about two years.

When the mill closed down K. Bjerring took up a farm, but Christen Christensen, being more interested in timber, erected a mill at Whiretoa, [Whiritoa – E] in partnership with Bob Hughes. This mill was driven by a kerosene engine and did its job quite well, although on one occasion the cylinder blew up. Most of the timber cut at this mill was native timber and it was intended to cut all the bush on the hill behind Whiretoa [Whiritoa – E], but, when an application was made to the Conservator of Forests and a survey carried out, permission to mill it was refused. About this time, after nearly 10 years of milling there, a heavy flood in the valley washed out part of the mill and it was decided to abandon it.

Christen and Neil Christensen then purchased 400 acres of unimproved land in the locality and commenced to farm it in partnership. After a time Christen purchased 400 acres of improved farm land on the main road and moved there while Neil continued to farm the other property.

Christen Christensen however, was still more interested in timber and milling and in 1949 was instrumental in forming the Mataora Timber Co., and established a mill in Consols Street. Cutting rights were obtained for timber on the hills toward Waitawheta and this was mostly native timber. This mill is still operating and employs 20 men, but the timber cut is now about 50-50 native and pine. In 1956 cutting rights to a pine forest at Whangamata were obtained and a mill erected there by the Mataora Company, and it was in operation for about 4 years until it was destroyed by fire in 1960.

Although most of the men who came from Denmark as a result of the early reports of Otto Bjerring on the possibilities of farming near Waihi became successful farmers, Christen Christensen was responsible for an industry which was, and still is, an asset to Waihi. Many of the homes erected in the past few years contain timber cut at the Mataora Company's mill.

In addition to his activities as a farmer and sawmiller, Christen Christensen found time to take part in local body activities and devoted over a quarter of a century of his life in that respect. Prior to coming to reside in the Borough, be was a member of the Ohinemuri County Council and he served on the Waihi Borough Council for 3 years prior to being elected Mayor of Waihi, a position he occupied for 9 years until he retired in 1964. "Chris" has also been a prominent member of the Waihi Bowling Club and Waihi Golf Club for a number of years, but owing to failing health has had to forego these activities.