Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 44, September 2000

By Ken Clover

The Historical Society of the Hauraki Plains was formed in April 1992. From the beginning of the Society many old papers, maps and photographs were collected and stored. As well as this, a concerted effort was made to collect as much as possible of the history of the area by using tape recordings of the oral memories of the early pioneers who were still with us.

While concentrating on this work it was found that members of the Society were continually stumbling onto various items of old farm machinery and at the same time other items were arriving at our doorstep. Although most members of the Society were not interested in these rusty bits of machinery it was realised that there were some members who had old tractors, cars and other machinery tucked away in their sheds and loved tinkering and restoring them. These other additions to our history were also valuable.

When it was decided to put on an exhibit at the local Plains A & P Show this was done with general historic items and photographic displays and also with the help of those machinery enthusiasts who then brought out their tractors and cars for the occasion. Such was the enthusiasm of the half dozen members that a Machinery Division of the Historical Society was immediately formed and from there it went from strength to strength. The Machinery Division had been in existence for less than a year when the members decided to hold a Rally and invited other Vintage clubs to come along and participate. This rally was held in the car park of the John F Jones Complex at Ngatea. It was really quite a small event compared to rallies we attend today but was enthusiastically supported by all the local Vintage people, the general public and also by interested people from the Clubs in the Waikato, Franklin and other areas who brought their machines along.

Some months after this the Society decided that a much larger Rally was the answer so in 1993 they organized and ran a Vintage Machinery Rally at Waitakaruru on the Domain which, because of it's size and locality, was ideal for the event. Farmers with adjoining properties gave the use of their paddocks for car parking and also for use in ploughing demonstrations while the Domain Board and North Football Club cooperated to the fullest with the use of their facilities. The theme for the day was "If it has wheels and moves then bring it". This encouraged everyone to come along and there were tractors, cars, trucks, military vehicles, motorbikes and small motors and machinery of all descriptions there.

Just where the horses came into this wheel's theme we don't know but Mr Jack French brought his team and large hay sledge along and that was a great thing for the children. As well as these exhibits there were the obligatory stalls, food outlets and fairground rides for the children. This day was a great success and has led to more and more enthusiasts from the area becoming known and joining in with the club activities.

It was found that there were actually many more local people who were interested in this type of a hobby and unbeknown to us there were dozens of tractors and cars and motors in the workshops of the local population just waiting for a bit of T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care). Some of these enthusiasts were already members of Vintage Clubs in the Waikato and Franklin districts because there had been no local club up until then.It was decided that the time had come to form an actual Vintage Machinery club in the area and so in 1995 the Hauraki Vintage Machinery Club became a reality with Keith Barriball as President and Dick McCoid as Secretary. This club has since that time held a further Rally at Waitakaruru, it's members always attend the various Rallies held by neighbouring clubs while the members large collection of mainly farm machinery has stopped the wholesale destruction of the agricultural history of the area.

The old Machinery Division of the Historical Society is still in existence to care for certain items which have been donated and which have a special historical significance to the Hauraki Plains. At various rallies organized by the Hauraki and other clubs these items are displayed and run under the banner of the Historical Society of the Hauraki Plains.

The Hauraki Plains was opened up in 1910 and the first tractors arrived in the 1920s. At the same time cars such as the Ford Model T and A came into use but this depended entirely on the formation of decent roads and the building of bridges or ferries across the rivers. At first the tractors were used mainly by the Local Bodies for road work but it wasn't long before some farmers saw the potential of these machines for doing the heavy work on the farms then being done by horses. It is examples of these early tractors that are displayed at rallies today.

Electric power came to the Plains in the 1920's and we have examples of the old motors which drove the cowshed milking machines before that. Machines of every description are on display at these rallies from the not too distant past to the very earliest of machines and motors. "Blokes and Sheds" has been the theme of a of a recent book and TV. show and judging by the number of local Vintage enthusiasts in the area and their great collection of machinery there is room for another listing of sheds right here on our doorstep.