Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 34, September 1990

It was a sad day in Waihi's history when the Borough Council held its final meeting on Tuesday, October 10, 1989 after 87 years of service. It also took the opportunity to pay a town-wide tribute to retiring Mayor, Owen Morgan, whose only fault was, as one councillor put it, in being 'far too fair'.

It was Mr Morgan's last council meeting ending 32 years of local body service to the community. The first 20 were as a Councillor and the remaining 12 as the town's mayor. As Deputy-Mayor, Ken Watters, put it - the Mayor was retiring 'undefeated - a champion'.

Although his elected term in office as Waihi's number one citizen was at an end, there was no doubt Mr Morgan's unstinting community service and example would continue unabashed. Central government directives might close the borough but they could not change the calibre of its last mayor or the community's on-going respect.

One by one the councillors praisedMr Morgan for his humanity, earnestness, sincerity and thoroughness. He was presented with a cap with the borough crest embroidered on it, a lazi-boy chair and a pair of wool-lined slippers.

In accepting the tributes on behalf of himself and the Mayoress, Mr Morgan shared his praise with her, saying that Rosemary was always his willing and dedicated partner.

In his valedictory address to the council he said:

"It is customary at the end of a council term to give a resume of the activities and achievements of the council and its staff during its term of office. But in this my final speech, at this historic final scheduled meeting of the Waihi Borough Council, I intend to traverse very briefly, the life and times of the borough over a much longer period.

Waihi's last Mayor & Mayoress, Mr & Mrs Morgan

Waihi's last Mayor & Mayoress, Mr & Mrs Morgan at the celebrations of the Borough's demise.

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 34, September 1990
Waihi's last Mayor & Mayoress, Mr & Mrs Morgan

"Firstly, though let's not forget or hasten over the achievements of the retiring council, which have been most notable, even spectacular. First on the list I put the completion of sewerage reticulation. This has permitted and brought about residential subdivisions undreamed of a few years ago, resulting in a boom in new dwellings only equalled in the first decade of this century, and to a lesser extent in the late 1950's thus giving the town an air of prosperity and promise.

"The completion of the sealing of the remaining 5 km of metalled roads, in addition to the upgrading of many of the old sealed roads, made possible by generous grants from the National Roads Boards, is also worthy of mention, and a project very dear to my wife, Rosemary, has been the continuation of the beautification of our streets and reserves, with Seddon Street in particular, a joy to behold.

"Overshadowing all these activities, and hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles, was the decision to be made by the Local Government Commission as to our future administration. When the sword finally fell, in what I now believe was a prescribed course, we must live with the decision and make our part in the new Hauraki District work to the best of our ability.

"But while the events of the last three years are fresh in our memories and easy to recall, let's not forget the 84 years prior to this, and the hustle and bustle of a town going about its business with vigour and determination, aided and administered by councillors whose only objective (they didn't even receive any expenses or remuneration until 1960) was to make their town a better place in which to live and work.

Since 1902 there have been 127 councillors and 11 mayors who have guided this town through good times and times not so good. All have made decisions which have determined our welfare and progress. Sometimes the decisions have had to be unpopular decisions, but always they have made decisions which were the right ones based on the knowledge and information available at the time.

They steered the town through the boom years of the first decade when the town was growing like a mushroom, the depression years, and more recently have nurtured a whole host of small industries, which are now the life-blood of the town's economy.

"They have farewelled Waihi men and women to two World Wars and later been able to welcome them home again, but alas not all of them. Waihi is proud of the contribution it made to New Zealand's continuing freedom, but saddened by the sacrifices that were made to maintain this.

'The contribution it made to the economy of New Zealand is also well-known, with 8 million ounces of gold and 56 million ounces of silver providing overseas funds enabling the purchase of farming equipment and fertilisers. From the social aspect too, Waihi has gone down in history as the town which in 1912 became the watershed of industrial relations, and the cradle of the New Zealand Labour Party.

"The Waihi miner was a tough self-reliant enterprising man whose skills are often underrated. His life was hard and dangerous, sometimes shortened by underground accidents, but mostly he was denied the joy of living out his full life because of the misery and death brought on by the dreadful silica dust which penetrated his lungs. The skills of the Waihi miner were sought elsewhere as well, such as in the tunnelling corps of the 1st World War, and later during the '30's in the construction of the Homer and Rimutaka tunnels. The Waihi School of Mines became well-known throughout the mining world by the skill and expertise of the men who received their tuition in that now dismantled building. The Borough Council made a modest but very acceptable annual grant to this school.

"In 1954 the town took on a new look. The languishing Martha Gold Mine had finally come to the end of its life, but this was to herald a new resurgence of vitality as a new confidence swept through the town. The independence and resourcefulness of Waihi people came to the fore with new industries including the sensational development of the electronic industry. New houses became a common sight, the ailing water supply was augmented from a source in the Waitete Valley, and the first positive discussion on a sewerage project took place. A little later a regular rubbish collection was established.

Today as we enter a new era as a servicing centre for the horticultural development in the Waihi Basin, which together with the open-pit mining activities, our rich farming land and the multitude of small industries, we can look back with pride on the achievements of this community based on Waihi.

The efficiency of the Council and its staff in management, the goodwill created with the ratepayers is legend. Never during my association with the management of the borough - never since 1950 have I known the Government's Auditor to express any concern whatsoever in the way the affairs of the borough have been managed - a truly splendid record.

The Waihi Borough Council also led the field in opening up all its meetings to the public. This happened first about 1965 when Albert Thomas was the mayor - long before it became a statutory requirement and for the last nine years it has become a practice to hold four public meetings each year to give any person an opportunity to ask questions of the councillors.

"So this present council can feel confident as it hands over its authority to the Hauraki District Council, that it is leaving a town in good heart and financially sound. Waihi will be a valued and respected partner in the new District Council, and to those councillors who are allowing their names to go forward and are offering their services to the new administration, I, as we all do, wish them well, knowing that if they are successful, we will be well represented.

"Ladies and Gentlemen. I give you a toast - a final toast - a toast to the memory of the Borough of Waihi and the men and women who through nine decades 1902-1989 have fashioned it into the caring, friendly community it is today.

"With pride we remember the past, with confidence we look to the future."

[See also in this Journal: Accolade for a Popular Lady, Waihi's Mayoral Chain and Mayor's Tokotoko]