Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994

The month of April 1964 saw the establishment of the present Historical Society in Paeroa. The following month a meeting with representatives of the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum Association (WACMA) saw the establishment of the Historical Section of WACMA and an agreement reached to produce a combined Journal. Thus this year we commemorate the Thirtieth anniversary of the formation of the Paeroa Historical Society and the Historical Section of WACMA. We also commemorate the Thirtieth anniversary of production of the Journal.

This issue contains the story of the establishment of the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum Association, written by Mrs Elizabeth Lee-Johnson, the newspaper reports of the meeting establishing the Paeroa Society, and of the meeting at Waihi which resulted in the establishment of the Historical Section of WACMA. In this anniversary year it is timely to reflect on the hopes and intentions of those who played a part in the establishment of the societies.

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In 1964 The Rev. Rogers, M.A., first president of the Paeroa Society, wrote on the purpose of an historical society and journal - "This Journal is the result of a conviction that, without a knowledge of its past and an appreciation of the work of its pioneers, a community is like a tree without roots. The conditions under which we live today did not come into being by accident, but were created by the vision, sacrifices and toil of pioneer men and women. Unless we show some awareness and some appreciation of their work in laying the foundations of our society, we are unworthy heirs of a great heritage. Moreover, if we have no appreciation of the price which was paid in human endeavour and sacrifice for our present liberty and prosperity, we are liable to hold them too cheaply and so to make possible the weakening of the foundations of our civilization.

"A further result of an interest in local history is the increased delight in our enjoyment of the present. The beauty of the land around us is enhanced when its features are peopled with the memories of those who lived and worked there in earlier times and who have made their marks there for perceptive eyes to see. To give this knowledge and this interest is the task of a local historical society and its journal.

"The purpose of an historical journal is twofold. On the one hand, it sets out to make residents aware of the rich history upon which their present prosperity and security is founded, on the other hand, it has to record the story of the past so that the historical facts may be preserved before they disappear with the pioneers who made them. Unfortunately, many of the pioneers have gone and for knowledge of their ideals and their work we have to depend on the journals and letters they left behind. These are invaluable and such a Journal as this serves a most useful purpose by recording and preserving such manuscripts. Photographs and sketches made in earlier days play an important part in our endeavour to recapture the past and these too are material of value for societies and journals.

"There are two elements in all history, persons and events, and of these the former is the most important. It is true that, in the broad sweep of national history, persons are liable to fade into the background of events and movements. Nevertheless, it should never be forgotten that there are no historical events or movements without the persons who originated them and those others who kept them moving and developed them. For example, we may write of a war or of a battle in such a way that it would appear that these were events or a series of events which conditioned the lives of the people of the time and which dominated the lives of those who followed. But there are two factors that must not be overlooked in such a situation. The first is that the wars would not have happened except for the decisions and actions of persons; that the battles were fought and won by generals and soldiers. The second factor is that persons are never really at the mercy of events - they can and do control them and transform them.

"Thus in our own district we are heirs to a rich history created and developed by men and women, each of whom helped to lay the foundation of our present affluent society while it is obvious that some by their personal abilities and force of character had a greater part to play in this development than others and deserve our special gratitude. It is also true that much is owed to men and women of lesser abilities, since no one can be a leader without those who are willing to follow. It is, therefore the privilege and delight of local historians to delve into the past and to reveal to present day citizens both the events and the persons which made possible the kind of life we now enjoy.

"Let it be clear, however, that our debt to the past dates further back than to the coming of our pakeha pioneers. Those Maori inhabitants, who possessed the land long before the Pakeha came, have also made their contribution to the conditions of today. Their impact upon our modern New Zealand way of life has been considerable and has not always been given its due place in historical research. This is an error which our two local societies will not perpetuate."

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Mrs N S Climie, first editor of the Journal, also recorded (in 1964) the background leading to the publication of the first Journal.

"When the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum Association (W.A.C.M.A.), was established about two years ago, it first concentrated on its Museum, but also aimed to link this with written historical records, as well as to provide for Ohinemuri, a cultural centre which would cater for several fields of interest. Its constitution provided for an Historical Section thus: - "To publish papers, periodicals, journals, books, reproductions or photographs relating to the history of the Ohinemuri County and connected areas." For various reasons it has not been easy to bring this aim to fruition but considerable work has gone on behind the scenes supported by valuable "lone rangers". However the arrival in Paeroa of the Rev. L M Rogers, M.A., Past President of the Whakatane Historical Society, has given us both inspiration and impetus and now affiliated groups in Waihi and Paeroa are more formally active, holding meetings for speakers, discussions, films and tapes; also, we hope, Maori topics. Hence we are at last venturing into print - perhaps as an act of faith - and launching this first Journal of a series."

A meeting was held on Tuesday, 21 April 1964 to establish an Historical Society in Paeroa. The report of the meeting appeared in the Paeroa Gazette on 29 April 1964 and is recorded below.


The Paeroa and District Historical Society was reformed on a high note of interest at a meeting held recently in the Ohinemuri County Council chambers. Presiding over the meeting, Mr Fielden Thorp said that local interest in the past and present of Paeroa would be stimulated by the Paeroa jubilee to be celebrated next year. Visitors were welcomed from Karangahake, Hikutaia and Waihi, and with a good attendance of local persons, it was evident that there was ample interest in the reviving of the society. An address given by the Rev. L M Rodgers M.A., past president of the Whakatane Historical Society, and a tape-recorded interview with Mr W T Hammond, noted 95 year-old historian of Thames, proved extremely interesting and most informative.

The meeting had been called to see if there was enough interest to warrant the reviving of the society, and Mrs N S Climie, whose interest in historical matters was most active, had been instrumental in bringing it about. It was most gratifying to see a good attendance, and particularly so many Maori members present. Their history was much older, and they had much to contribute. The Rev Rogers gave a special greeting in their own tongue to the Maori members present. He then spoke on the function and task of a local historical society, and the valuable contribution it made to the work of professional historians.

While a wide sweep in their historical coverage was made by the professional historian, local societies gathered much more specifically and recorded much of the day by day lives of ordinary men and women. The local historian dealt with the familiar - his own environment. "An interest in the past makes a deep awareness of the present; makes one a part of the area, not just a traveller," he added.

Referring to the "marvellous" Domain in Paeroa, a heritage from the past, the Rev Rogers pointed out that beautiful as the trees there were now, they were in fact an expression of someone's thought for the future - our today. With a knowledge of local history, street names, place names and contour of the land all had added meaning, not merely beautiful scenery, but a living, breathing, lived-in-place, stretching back from the present and future into the past.

The function of a local historical society was to record and propagate the story of the place and the people. Too many people died and left their stories untold, but sometimes the richness of a family journal came to light and was kept for posterity, helping to keep the present in perspective. Too often, though, family letters and papers were destroyed. History was, of course, being made now and contemporary records and documents were valuable records for the future. "No man," said Mr Rogers, "is a real person unless he has his roots deep in the past and is therefore a part of the place in which he lives."

The periods which the speaker stated should be recorded fell into four headings: Maori period, first settlers and traders, missionary period, and colonisation. A lot of helpful data could be obtained from existing museums and libraries, and much interesting information could come to light through defining place names and investigating the origin of street names. Collections of photographs of sites, buildings, and people could reveal much of past happenings.

Introduced by Mr Thorp, Mrs Climie said that she was a member and council member of the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum because of her interest in local history, not just of Waihi, but of the Ohinemuri district. Her research into old newspapers had brought forth exiting stories which made fascinating reading and gave a great deal of point to the progress now evident in the district. She had talked with all sorts of older folks whose valuable recollections should be recorded now, not lost forever. Mrs Climie said that she would like to see an amalgamation of Waihi and Paeroa in this work.

Producing some early newspaper photographs of the Paeroa Domain, Mrs Climie said it was marvellous how folks had kept things like this for so long. It showed a feeling for the district, and now these things should come into their own. She had come across journals dating back 100 years from such well-known families as Mackay and McCombie. Regular publication of gathered materials was illustrated in several historical journals of established societies which Mrs Climie showed to those present.

A great deal of debt was owed to such local people as Mr Hammond, Mr W C Kennedy and the late Mr Ben Gwilliam, who had written some wonderful articles which were of great value. Tape recorded talks with some of the older citizens would be a splendid way of recording much valuable data, she suggested.

Mrs E Lee-Johnson of Waihi, agreed that a close liaison between the Paeroa and District Historical Society and the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum would be of mutual benefit, and arrangements could be made if necessary for the temporary or permanent housing of historical documents in the Museum at Waihi, when they would be available at any time for recall to Paeroa.

When Mr Thorp asked for the feeling of the meeting about possible affiliation with the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum Association, Mrs Wheeler suggested that the first step should be the forming of a Paeroa committee. Accordingly, nominations were called and the following elected as the Paeroa and District Historical Society Committee:

Mr Fielden Thorp, the Rev. L M Rogers, Mr M C Baker, Mrs N S Climie, Mrs A V Wheeler, Messrs. V Nicholls, A Royal, J A Milroy, and C G Murdoch.

Mrs Climie was appointed acting secretary until the first meeting of the committee to be held at the Ohinemuri County Council chambers early in May.

The meeting at Waihi on 12 May 1964 establishing the Historical Section of the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum Association was recorded in the Waihi Gazette of 21 May 1964.


At a well attended meeting of people interested in the historical section of the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum, held recently at the centre, the Rev. L M Rogers of Paeroa referred to Waihi's good fortune in already having a promising museum housed in an excellent building, and congratulated those responsible.

He commended research into all aspects of local history and urged the necessity of recording and propagating the story of the whole district and the people who had lived in it - from its Bay of Plenty beaches and its Coromandel Range from Waihi to the Hauraki Plains -"surely a wonderful field for historical endeavour."

Old journals and diaries should be preserved and edited, and thought might well be given to recording "today's story" for future generations, said Mr Rogers. The meeting was convened by Mrs N S Climie, a member of the council, who said that, although she had been working "behind the scenes" for sometime, collecting data, she felt that the time was now opportune to organise local groups to further the work and assist in the publication of historical journals. A similar meeting held recently at Paeroa had resulted in the revival of the Paeroa and District Historical Society, which had agreed to affiliate with W.A.C.M.A., said Mrs Climie. The major aim in so doing was to co-operate in the production of journals relative to the history of Ohinemuri and district as set out in the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum constitution.

The Rev. L M Rogers, M.A., president of the Paeroa society, was then introduced by Mrs Climie, who said that Paeroa had been fortunate in securing his services. He was for ten years principal of the Whakatane Maori Theological College and a past president of the Whakatane Historical Society. Speaking on the function and task of a local historical society, the Rev. Rogers said it made a valuable contribution to professional historians. These, he said, make a wide sweep in coverage but local groups gathered much more specifically, and recorded much of the day to day lives of men and women in their own environment. "An interest in the past makes a deep awareness of the area, and not just a traveller," he added. "It enables us to see the hills around us not only with eyes, but with imagination, and here in Waihi your minds should go back, not only to your own forbears, the pioneers, and mining, but also to ancient Maori history. The periods which should be recorded fell into four headings: Maori period, archaeology; the missionary period; first settlers and traders; then colonisation and industry; said Mr Rogers.

Miners Transient People

Mr Norman Morton, president of the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum Association, warmly thanked the speaker for his eloquent address. Speaking of his own deep interest in these matters, Mr Morton said he regretted the fact that miners were often transient people and that many of the districts old identities were no more. He recalled several stories of early days, particularly the difficulty of establishing the first telegraphic communication. He heartily agreed that there must no longer be delay in weaving together the threads of the district's history. The publishing of periodical journals would entail a steady flow of contributed material, he added.

Rewarding Research

Before calling nominations for the historical section committee, Mrs Climie said that her own research into old documents had been most rewarding as had her interviews with old identities of Ohinemuri. Tape recorded talks could be a splendid way of preserving valuable data. An interview with 95 year old Mr W T Hammond of Thames told of his first visit to Ohinemuri in 1876 and had been tape recorded and was played back at the meeting.

Committee Elected

Members elected to form the W.A.C.M.A. historical section committee were Mr D McPherson, Mesdames A Wheeler, and M Haszard, Miss F Clark and Miss J Clark. The committee is to formulate a local programme and co-operate with others in the district by appointing a representative to a small publications committee, sponsored by Mrs Climie and Rev. Rogers (who published the Henry Williams Journal). Already material for the first issue of an Ohinemuri Journal, which will be available to members of the association, has been prepared.


With the completion of 30 years of publication a comprehensive index (25 pages) has been prepared covering issues 1 to 37. The index, with many cross references, contains over 1200 entries. It may be purchased from the Editor, Mr G Staples, Box 92, PAEROA. The cost is $10 including postage.