Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 48, September 2004


By Graham Watton

Waihi's most respected citizen and one of its notable sons, Owen James Morgan MBE., JP., passed away on 21 November, 2003, after a lifetime of unselfish service to a wide cross-section of his community. He was aged 84 years.

Mr Morgan was born, raised and educated in Waihi and also attended the Waihi School of Mines, which was under the control of his father, who was also the first manager of the Waihi Gold Mining Company.

After working for a period as a laboratory assistant at the School of Mines, Mr Morgan joined his father's business producing amalgam, which was used in dental fillings by school dental clinics throughout New Zealand.

During the Second World War, Mr Morgan served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and rose to the rank of Flying Officer. Towards the end of the conflict he met Rosemary and they were married in 1946.

Mr Morgan commenced his forty-year association with local territorial government when he stood and was elected to the Waihi Borough Council in 1950. It was during his first term that the Waihi Gold Company closed its Martha Mine operation and Waihi faced an uncertain future.

Mr Morgan was re-elected for a second term, but missed out in the 1957 elections. However he returned in 1960 and then maintained an unbroken thirty-nine years of Council service. He was elected Mayor in 1977 and held the position until the Council was dissolved in 1989 with the restructuring of local government. The Waihi Borough joined with Paeroa Borough and the Counties of Ohinemuri and Hauraki Plains to form the Hauraki District.

He represented Waihi on several district and regional ad hoc organisations, including the Thames Valley Territorial Local Authorities Association which was formed in the early 1980s. Mr Morgan was involved in many local community groups including the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Waihi Historical Society, the Waihi Museum and Arts Society, the Waihi

Information Centre, the Waitawheta Youth Camp, Waihi RotaryClub, Goldfields Steam Train Society, the establishment of the Karangahake Historic Walkways, the formation of the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park, and he freely shared his in-depth knowledge of the history of Waihi.

Mr Morgan's tremendous contribution to the Waihi community was recognised in 1992 when he received the Queen's Birthday award, Member of the British Empire Medal (MBE) for services to the community.

Upon his enforced retirement from local government, Mr Morgan maintained his interests in his beloved community. In recognition of this service, the former Recreation Ground in Waihi was renamed Morgan Park. The recent addition to the Waitawheta Education Camp, the former Waikino Post Office used as an adult volunteer's bunkhouse, was named Morgan House. He was either Patron or Life Member of several local organisations. Hauraki District Mayor, Basil Morrison, said that Mr Morgan's passing had left a void in Waihi District. "Mr Morgan was one of nature's gentlemen and an outstanding son of Waihi. He always worked hard for the town and through some difficult times. He has left his mark on the greater Waihi area", said Mr Morrison.

Another to pay a tribute to Mr Morgan was the District Council's Community Services Manager, Gary Paterson, who was a member of the Waihi Borough Council staff during the latter stages of Mr Morgan's term as Mayor. "He was a quiet, intelligent man who always wanted the best outcome for Waihi. He has left an indelible mark on Waihi", said Mr Paterson.

Mr Morgan is survived by his wife of 57 years, Rosemary, and five children, Christopher, Timothy, Michael, Deborah and Matthew, and six grandchildren.

More than three hundred mourners attended Mr Morgan's funeral service, held at St. James' Church, Waihi. At the conclusion of the service, two of Mr Morgan's grandchildren released a number of pigeons, in keeping with a long-standing custom.