Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 26, November 1982

by Nell Climie

The Waihi Goldmining Coy. owned the Power Station at Hora Hora for approximately 30 years, using Power for its Waikino Battery, before the Govt. purchased the Station in 1918, A proviso allowed the Coy. to use all the power it needed, the balance to be sold to other users. At the time the Waihi Borough did not wish to participate, partly because it had a flourishing Gas Industry.

Local community leaders formed the Thames Valley Electric Power League to investigate setting up a Power Board for the whole of the Thames Valley. This was established with headquarters in Te Aroha, in 1920, Mr. F.M. Strange being elected chairman, and Mr. R. Sprague Clerk and Treasurer. The first big job for the engineers and linesmen was to put through the lines from Waikino to Paeroa and Thames, the poles to support them being shipped from Australia.

Paeroa had the honour of being the first town supplied with power. Mr. Gordon Coates, then Public Works Minister (and later Prime Minister) threw the switch that lit Paeroa's first electric lights in March 1921. This major step opened a new era for country people too - with an influx of electric milking machines on farms.


In Paeroa Mr. Joe Walmsley was one of the first employees of the newly formed Board. In the Administration Department he travelled the Hauraki Plains selling electricity and remained in charge of Paeroa Office for 37½ years till his retirement in 1959.

On 20-4-82 Joe Walmsley and his twin brother Bill (of Auckland) reached their 90th Birthday and this was celebrated when the Paeroa R.S.A. put on a wonderful party in their honour. Senior Citizen Friends were there from near and far to enjoy the convivial scene and reminiscences midst Old Time Music provided by Grace and Barney Havill.

It was regrettable that illness prevented Mrs. Joe Walmsley from being present.

Bill Walmsley's career with N Z Railways took him away from Paeroa but it was wonderful that these outstanding TWINS were able to celebrate their 90th Birthday together. They were pre-deceased by two brothers, Stewart and Harry, and four sisters, of whom the late Mrs. Isobel Edwards was best known in Paeroa having been Mayoress for many years. She received the Q.E. Coronation Medal in 1953.

A record of endeavour for Paeroa, which would bear comparison in any part of New Zealand, is held by Mr. J.H. Walmsley who for many years placed service before self. Five life memberships have been bestowed upon him by district organisations as well as the New Zealand R S A 's Gold Star and Certificate of Merit.

Mr. Walmsley, who was born at Matata, came to Paeroa at the age of ten, and after being educated at the then Paeroa District High School joined the Waihi Goldmining Company as a mechanical engineer at Waikino, where he remained for five years.

In 1915, as a member of the 6th Hauraki Regiment, he joined the First N.Z.E.F., and served with the Seventh Reinforcements in Egypt and France where he was seriously wounded in the Battle of the Somme. He was in hospital in France for four months, in London for two months and convalesced at Hornchurch before being invalided home in 1917 when he spent six months in hospital at Rotorua. Because of his wounds Mr. Walmsley was unable to return to mechanical engineering, and took a position with the Thames Valley Electric-Power Board as officer in charge of the Paeroa office and district, where he remained for 37 years before retiring in 1956.

He served for 15 years as a member of the Paeroa Borough Council and was deputy mayor for most of the World War II years. He was chairman of the finance committee for six years and was the first chairman of the Urban Fire Authority, a position he also occupied for six years. Treasurer of the then District High School Committee for 13 years, Mr. Walmsley received a letter of appreciation from the Auckland Education Board.

He was foundation secretary of the then Paeroa sub-branch of the R.S.A., and with the late Mr. David Vincent, was responsible for its formation in 1918. He was an active committee member for 30 years and a past president and is now a life member of the Paeroa & Hauraki branches. In 1946 he was honoured for his services with the New Zealand R.S.A.'s Gold Star and Certificate of Merit.

Mr. Walmsley was a member of the Paeroa Rehabilitation Committee for 7 years and gave generously of his time in the interests of returned personnel. The Minister of Rehabilitation wrote and thanked him for what he had done, and especially for the history he wrote on his experiences with World War I veterans.

His administrative sporting activities were varied. He was unable to play Rugby because of his disabilities but was secretary of the old Goldfields Rugby Union for three years. He took an active part in the formation of the Themes Valley Rugby Union and as secretary was the first member of that body to attend a conference of the New Zealand Rugby Union when Thames Valley was granted affiliation. For his services to the union he was made a life member in 1922.

Chairman of the Paeroa Rugby Sub-union, for many years, Mr. Walmsley is a life member as he is also of the West Football Club. He was an active member of the Paeroa Bowling Club for several years and was president for a term.

Mr. Walmsley was married to Miss Edna White of Waihi, and they have a family of four sons, Stewart, Peter, Eddie, Barrie, and two daughters Bethmay and Janice.