Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 53, September 2009

Welcome to the 53rd issue of the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal. It is always a pleasure to gather the information and photographs of the Hauraki District and I hope you enjoy this publication.

It is great to see the Historic Maritime Park, on SH2 just outside Paeroa, being awakened from its slumbers of the past decade or so and given a new lease on life and soon again become one of the "must see" features of the district.

The husband and wife combination of Colin and Gloria James have taken the Park by the scruff of the neck and given it a very big shake. Colin, who took over the reins of president in 2008, has led by example in getting the park area tidied up and Gloria's main contributions have been the gardens and the interior of the Museum building.

The park was born in the late 1960s and was based mainly around the restoration of the historic paddle steamer ps Kopu, which had sunk at her moorings at the Old Puke Wharf in 1932. Someone had boarded the vessel and opened the water tap into the tank, which supplied water to generate steam, overflowing the tank and causing the boat to sink.

The Royal New Zealand Navy supported the park venture with the donation of two coastal patrol boats, while boating enthusiasts moored their historic vessels in the park area. The museum building was the former Public Works Department/Ministry of Works administration headquarters, 1917-1970, sited where the L and P bottle sits today, and prior to that it was the Waitekauri Post Office, built at the end of the 1890s and moved to Paeroa in 1917.

The ps Kopu was raised from its watery grave in the late 1979 and floated into its present position. Unfortunately the Park did not have the funding available to protect the boat from the elements and commence restoration. (See page 22). It is now past restoring and unfortunately one of the district's historic treasures has been lost.

The present park board has positively moved forward, having old and dilapidated boats and other "rubbish" removed and the park has now taken on a new look.

Colin and Gloria have received support from some very dedicated volunteers who have been tiding up the park and also the museum displays. They have a good organisation in place and welcome other retirees willing to put their expertise to good work.

However, sight must not be lost of the tremendous amount of work done by the very dedicated team lead by Andy Richards, Ray and Hilary Haysom over the past decade in keeping the park's "head above water".

The Historic Maritime Park has tremendous potential to record the earlier beginnings of Paeroa when it was a bustling river port from the 1870s to mid-1930s.

Another tourist attraction which is taking shape is the cycle-walkway linking Te Aroha, Paeroa, Karangahake and Thames, making use of the railway line embankment. The first section of this unique attraction is coming to fruition linking Paeroa with the Karangahake Gorge walkways and then on to Waihi. The Prime Minister's announcement in July that $1.2 million has been allocated to this area for the rail trail has ensured that the Paeroa-Waihi link will be completed and also the Paeroa-Thames section will be started over the next couple of years.

There is also a walkway proposed to link Paeroa with the Historic Maritime Park, using the right stopbank of the Ohinemuri River.

It is great to see the historic Thames Carnegie Free Library has been fully restored by the Thames-Coromandel District Council and is the home of the Coromandel Heritage Trust. Built in 1905, the building was one some 2500 such libraries built by Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American philanthropist, around the world. It is now one of very few still standing and fullly restored to its original condition. It was opened by the American Consul General, John Desrocher, who paid tribute to those involved in the six-month restoration project. The Trust is leasing the building from the council and will preserve the history of the Coromandel Peninsula area in special archival facilities. Congratulations all involved.

Finally an appeal is made to all residents of the Hauraki District to "put pen to paper" and record their experience in the district and these will be used in this publication. It is the personal impressions and experiences that make real interesting reading and also provide an all important record of the district history for future generations.

Graham Watton,