Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 50, September 2006
(By Rev L. M. Rogers, M.A., inaugural President of the Paeroa and District Historical Society.
Reprinted from The Ohinemuri Regional History Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, June, 1964.)
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 of our present liberty and prosperity, we are liable to hold them too cheaply and so to make possible the weakening foundations of our civilisation.
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 by its features are peopled with memories of those who lived and worked there in earlier times and who left their mark upon them. Heroic events and courageous people have made their marks there for perceptive eye to see. To give this knowledge and this interest is the task of a local historical society and its journal.
The purpose of a historical journal is twofold. On 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 most useful purpose by recording and preserving such manuscripts. Photographs and sketches made in the 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 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 of 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 the 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 the 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 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 local societies will not perpetuate.
To this exciting and rewarding research we invite the co-operation of all residents and, in particular, those whose own historical roots are firmly embedded in this district. We are confident that both the societies and their Journal will receive this co-operation and so confer a lasting benefit upon the present and future citizens of our district.