Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994

The desire to have a road between Thames and the eastern coast settlements of Tairua and Whangamata by a short route over the Coromandel Range had been around since the 1880's. Most efforts had concentrated on using the Kauaeranga Valley and the Fourth Branch of the Tairua River.

The subject of this Highway has relevance to Paeroa in that its design and construction was to a large degree the responsibility of the Paeroa Office of the Ministry of Works and also the opening of the highway made much of the eastern coast of the Peninsula more readily accessible to Paeroa residents.

The original track was used by prospectors and bush-fellers. With the opening up of the Hikuai area as a returned soldiers farm settlement after the 1914-18 War, pressure was put on the Thames County Council to provide an access road so that settlers could have reasonable access to such facilities as the Thames Hospital. It was to be almost another 50 years before it became a reality.

The catalyst for the eventual project was the National Roads Act 1953 promoted by the then Minister of Works, Hon. W S Goosman (Piako). The National Roads Board set up to operate the Act was soon persuaded by the District Roads Council to provide some funds for an exploratory survey. The Ministry of Works estimate for the engineering survey in 1957 was £5000. Contributions to that cost were made by Thames County Council £1000; Thames Borough Council £250; Thames Chamber of Commerce £625; East Coast Road Committee £153; and a Mr McCall £167.

This survey was in the charge of Mr M R Lancaster, later to become Resident Engineer, Paeroa, and later again District Commissioner of Works, Auckland. After studying aerial photos a decision was made to concentrate on a route up the Kirikiri Stream Valley.

In 1958 work commenced on a land development road at the Hikuai end but it was not until 1960/61 year that work commenced on the Kopu end. One of the first contracting firms involved was Green and McCahill Ltd. Later work was carried out by H Allen Mills Ltd from Rotorua. Working conditions proved extremely difficult. Soils were of poor construction quality, rainfalls of 100 inches per year (2.5 metres) turned disturbed ground to mud and in one section an ancient slip which had been "bushed over" was encountered.

The Official Opening of the new highway was carried out on Thursday 23 March 1967 by the Minister of Works, Hon P B Allen. The ceremony was held at the summit. It would seem a reasonable conclusion that without the Kopu-Hikuai highway Pauanui would not have been developed as it has.

Statistics are:

Length of Highway - 17.17 miles (28.5 km) Original formation width - 27 feet (8 metres) Original sealing width -18 feet (5.5 metres) Steepest grade - 1 in 10

Bridges - 7 with a total length of 950 feet. The longest 163 feet and the shortest 109 feet. 1 - Ten foot diameter Armco corrugated steel culvert 198 feet long, buried 30 feet deep in Andesite Valley.

Cuttings - up to 100 feet deep.

Distances from Thames to Hikuai:

Prior to the Highway - 53 miles

Using the Highway - 22 miles

As the crow flies - 13 miles

Completed cost - £1,080.000

Names associated with the job which have Paeroa associations: M R Lancaster and A W Stewart, Res. Engs. Paeroa.

M Crawford, D Robb, J Palmer and J Harper(6 years), Project engineers.

H (Shu) Tukukino, surveying.