Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 29, October 1985


In our 1984 Journal [see Journal 28: Historic Trails - Waitawheta - E], Gary Staples' excellent article on Historic Trails in the Waitawheta area sets the scene for a more recent development there. Prosperous farms now replace most of the Kauri Forest and incorporate the meagre blocks of rough country granted to would-be land owners. An article in our first Journal (1964), written by Mr Charlie Kennedy M.B.E. [see Journal 1: Waitawheta Recollections - E], then in his 90th year, told us that his family settled in the Waitawheta Valley in 1875, the year of the opening of the Goldfields.

Quote:- "The area was cut up into 50 acre blocks, the rent being £2/10/- per year, and no one was supposed to take up more than one section. Even at that low rent it was difficult to make a living." He recalled that he attended the "Half-time Schools" at Owharoa and Mackaytown.

Years later Waitawheta children were taught in a local Hall and then a small school was built on Franklin Road but was later closed and children were transported to either Waikino or Waihi. In 1973 the School building was moved to Waihi Beach where it became a Play Centre, but its original 2 acre site and facilities have assumed a much bigger role.

In 1975, the "temporary" buildings which had served as Class Rooms for the Waihi East School since the fire that destroyed the original one were replaced by a permanent structure. A new use was found for some of the temporary rooms and the Waitawheta Camp was born. From small beginnings a dedicated Management Committee headed initially by Paeroa's indomitable Scout Leader, Lawrence Gleadow, the Ohinemuri District now has a wonderful asset which can provide accommodation for nearly 100 children. The Committee consists of representatives of Paeroa and Waihi Borough Councils and the Ohinemuri County Council as well as Service Club Representatives. School Parties from a wide area as well as regional Scouts, make full use of the Camp's educational and recreational facilities.

The Camp was officially opened in 1979 and has continued to increase its resources to something of which the district can be proud. As well as the base Camp, the Society has the use of two Bush Huts - one built by the Paeroa J.C.'s and the other by the N.Z. Forest Service. The assets are now in the vicinity of £250,000.

It has always had good co-operation from neighbouring farmers, Graeme Mercer, and John Vogels as wall as Public Accountants, McMillan and McPherson (Paeroa) and Ashley Tubman (Waihi) and the B.N.Z. Waihi. With the assistance and advice of Mr. Ron Brown of Hamilton, (Assistant General Manager of the Goldfields Steam Train Society) the purchase and re-location of a Frankton Railway House at a reasonable price has now become a reality. Mr and Mrs Basil Mills have taken up residence as Caretakers and a new dimension of usefulness and efficiency is apparent.

The present Committee consists of:- Owen Morgan W. Chairman, Graeme Woodhead P. Secretary, Bob Nicholls P. Treasurer, Mary Smeaton W., Lance Carrington W/0, Kath Blomfield W., Basil Mills, Caretaker.

The cost of providing extra facilities has been beyond the immediate resources of the Committee but the continued occupancy of the Camp, together with donations and new members, it hopes to reduce its overdraft, and extend its scope. There can be no doubt about its gratitude to all benefactors, and hundreds of children will echo those sentiments as well as appreciate the benefits they receive.

Many interested people have thought of ways and means of assisting the camp's finances and it is fitting that we should record the 1984-85 marathon cycle ride of 72 year old School Caretaker, Laurie Bramble of Paeroa to the Bluff and return - (a distance of 3,105 kms) in 20 days. Accompanying him was well-known Athlete Wally Kingsford of Waihi, driving the Tony Richards Toyota support van fueled by Toyota Service Station of Paeroa. Both of these Firms were the major Sponsors, but others contributed and much enthusiasm was engendered.

With considerable sporting background, Laurie trained seriously for his big challenge. Being an admirer of Jack Swartz he invested in a Swartz Custombuilt 10 speed bicycle weighing only 5.9 Kgs. and gladly accepted advice from the Professional. The adventurers left Paeroa at 4.45 a.m. on Mon. 14 January 1985. Says Wally "It was a long trip and sometimes tough", but a victorious pair arrived back in Paeroa to a tumultuous welcome at 1.30 p.m. on Mon. 4 February. They have expressed their gratitude to the many contributors who had helped them and in their effort to assist the "Waitawheta Outdoor Education Camp".

Since then Laurie has completed another feat which fulfilled his dream of cycling the whole length of New Zealand. Accompanied this time by Mr and Mrs Mills the Caretakers of the Camp he cycled from Paeroa to Cape Reinga and again returned triumphant.


Laurie Bramble's Grandparents were among the early pioneers on the Coromandel Peninsular and their Mining interests necessitated long journeys. The early Bramble Family took part in the Waitekauri Gold Rush and Laurie's father then moved to Karangahake about 1900.

Ada Edwards, fiance, was Nursing at the Coromandel Hospital and he frequently visited her during "Change of Shift" which gave miners a few extra hours of leisure. The tracks were long, rough and hilly but to Bill Bramble on his "push bike" they presented no problem. He was an outstanding Footballer and Captained early teams as old photographs show.

After their marriage Bill and Ada made their home at Karangahake where Laurie was their first child. He was followed by:

Molly (Mrs Lillico) Hamilton.

Mervyn Auckland.

Joy (Mrs Moore) Paeroa.

Trevor who owns his own plumbing business in Paeroa, and

Audrey (Mrs Miller) Tokoroa.

While still in their teens the girls took turns at running the Karangahake Postal Service which during Depression years was in danger of lapsing because of the lack of suitable premises after the Fitzgerald family left the area. On a friend's property near the Karangahake Railway Station —- the depot for "Mail Bags" - Mr Bramble erected a simple structure which served as a Post and Telegraph Office for some years and Joy Bramble in particular was in charge there until she was transferred to the Paeroa Office. Then, a new phase of the "Family Story" began when Joy married Harold Moore.