Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 49, September 2005

By Elaine Staples

In NZ Gazette 2004, page 749 on 25 March 2004, the New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa advertised, pursuant to Section 12 of the New Zealand Geographic Board Act 1946, a Notice of Intention to Assign a Place Name, to change the name of Neavesville to Nevesville. The intention notice was also published in the Hauraki Herald, on Friday, 2 April 2004.

The person who made the original submission proposal provided a very comprehensive and compelling case to justify a spelling correction and this was the reason that the Board agreed to notify the intention to make the correction.


On Saturday, 10 April 1875, the Thames Advertiser carried the headline "IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES: NEW GOLDFIELD PROCLAIMED: RUSH TO TAIRUA". The report recorded that "for some years past, Messrs Preece and Graham, who own the sawmill at Tairua, and who have leased a large extent of the splendid kauri forests of that district, have kept a man named Neave prospecting there. This man some time since found a reef from which a number of specimens were taken, and which was richly gold bearing".

The reef discovered was high above the upper reaches of the Tairua River, not far from a peak called Pakirarahi. Neaves pegged out his claim illegally on 8 April 1875, the day before the new goldfield was officially proclaimed, but he pegged again on 9 and 10 April, to be on the safe side. A rush followed and within eight days of the proclamation, a shareholder's meeting had been held and the Tairua Gold Mining Company was formed.

Two distinct settlements quickly sprung up. One, centred around the previously deserted gum diggers' huts earned the name "Measletown", because of an epidemic which struck it. This settlement was threatened during a severe storm by the danger of falling trees and was soon abandoned. The other settlement was named "Upper Township". On 4 June 1875, the following report was published in the Thames Advertiser:


A meeting of the residents of Pakirarahi was held at the Tairua Company's claim on Saturday, the 29th May, at which a large number were present. Mr W Sully was voted to the chair, and explained the object of the meeting, viz., to christen the township now forming on the Tairua Company's (the prospector's) claim. After several names had been suggested, Mr J B Beeche proposed, and Mr J Whitby seconded, "That the name of the above township be 'Nevesville', in honour of Mr John Neves, to whom the public are indebted for the discovery of this valuable and extensive goldfield." The motion was carried unanimously. After drinking "success and prosperity to the field", a vote of thanks was passed to the chairman, and the meeting terminated.

On Friday, 28 May, 1875, the Thames Advertiser carried a report on the Application from Mr Neaves for the granting of a License. "Yesterday was the day appointed for the granting of the licence applied for by Mr Neave, and as five objections had been lodged, it was the Warden's duty to appoint a day for the hearing of these."

Subsequent articles appeared in the Thames Advertiser on 16 and 17 June, 1875 concerning the proceedings of the objections to the claim by John Neves. The ownership of the claim by John Neves was also debated. It is significant that in the reports of the proceedings in the Warden's Court, that the spelling of "Neves" was used approximately thirty times and this constituted good evidence of the correct spelling of the name of the gold prospector after whom Neavesville was named. A further reason put forward by the person who made the submission for a spelling change from "Neavesville" to "Nevesville", was the fact that large economic interests were at stake and the objectors would have looked for any loophole they could have found with a view to proving the application invalid, thus leaving the disputed territory available for themselves. The name written on Neves's mining application was thus of considerable interest. During the proceedings, the register of mining applications was actually produced to establish in whose name the application had been made. No doubt Neves and his associates would have been very careful in their documentation.

After a lengthy hearing, agreement was reached between all parties and the objections were withdrawn.

An article appeared in the Thames Advertiser on 9 August, 1876 about the progress of work on the Tairua goldfield at Nevesville and an article entitled "Reminiscences of an Excursion to Tairua East" in which the names Nevesville and Neves were used was published in the Thames Advertiser on 10 August 1876.

Other evidence produced by the submitter of the proposal for a spelling change in the name were as follows:

· Marriage Certificate: John Neves, miner, aged 35, married Margaret Catherine Breen aged 18 on 9 August 1876 at the Office of the Registrar of Marriages, Thames.

· Birth Certificate: Susan, born on 22 March 1882 at Hastings, Tapu, Daughter of John Neves, Miner aged 42 years, born in British North America and Margaret Catherine Neves formerly Breen, aged 25 years, born in Victoria, Australia. The informant was John Neves, father.

· John Neves, Tapu, miner, appeared on the 1903, 1905-6 and 1908 Thames Electoral rolls.

· Death Certificate: John Neves, died 17 November 1910 at Mental Hospital, Avondale, verdict, senile decay.

The Death Certificate records him as being aged 82, having been born in Canada and having resided in New Zealand for 48 years. He was shown as a farmer and miner, with daughters aged 32 and 28 and sons aged 35 and 24, with another son, age not recorded.

· Extract from New Zealand Gazette, 27 January 1876, appointing Henry Gillett as Postmaster of Nevesville from 16 November 1875.

· Extract from "Roll of Persons in Government Employ", 1881: R G Munro, Postmaster, Nevesville (Salary £1.)

· Extract from Wises New Zealand Post Office Directory 1887 - 88: NEVESVILLE, Auckland. 14 miles by horse and coach from Thames; in Thames county. ("Nevesville" also appeared in the 1890 - 91, the 1892 - 93, the 1894-95 and the 1901 Post Office Directories. )

Wises New Zealand Index 1912: "NEVESVILLE, Auckland. 19 miles from Thames. Rail to Puriri, then 10 miles. Mails tri-weekly. Post and Telegraph office. Store and hotel. Gold mining and gum digging. Named after James Neve, who was the first to discover gold there. Doctor at Thames, 16 m." (The same entry appeared in the 1915 and 1917 Indices and in the 1930 Index it was shown as "NEVESVILLE, Auckland. 149 miles south-east from Auckland. Rail to Puriri, thence 10 miles. Thames County. Post and telephone office.")

Thus, until the 1930s, the place was more consistently spelt as "Nevesville", but "Neavesville" appears to have become firmly established after that time and it is clear that the name has been spelt incorrectly since it first appeared on mapping.

In A W Reed's book, Place Names of New Zealand, (AH& AW Reed, Wellington, 1975) it is stated that the township was named after "Francis Neave, Neves or Neaves (the spelling varies) . . . "


Objections to the change of spelling from "Neavesville" to "Nevesville" were lodged by three parties:

Objection 1

The objector opposed the name change and argued that the site should have its traditional Maori name restored, being Pakirarahi.

Objection 2

This objector pointed out that the area had been known as Neavesville since the early 1930s and that the existing road is named Neavesville Road. Many families living along this road have businesses operating from the Neavesville Road address, so changing the spelling of the locality would be likely to have a significant impact on them.

Objection 3

The third objector disputed the spelling correction, believing that Neaves is correct. He said that there had been long term usage for 125 years as Neavesville.


The New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa met on 30 November 2004. The Board's comments were summarised as follows:

· While the area is remote, there are a lot of houses in the lower part of the existing road, which is named Neavesville Road, so there could be potential for confusion with their postal addresses if this change is made.

· Pakirarahi is considered to be site specific to the hill and not the mining locality.

· Pakirarahi has been applied by the Maori Land Court as a localised area.

· Pakirarahi is already an official name for the hill, so confusion caused by duplication could be an issue.

· Neavesville is an historic mining settlement and would not have been named if gold had not been discovered there. All the mining records show Neavesville with an 'a', ie there has been long term usage of this spelling.

There is some uncertainty about whether the person after whom the place is named, spelt his name as Neave or Neve.

As a result of this decision, no change will occur to the spelling of Neavesville."


All information has been supplied by the New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa and quotations are reproduced by permission of the New Zealand Geographic Board.