Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 54, September 2010
(An assignment by Myra Powell, daughter of Mr and Mrs Ernest Powell, while at the Auckland Teachers' Training College in 1943. It has been in the Paeroa and District Historical Society's archives since 1970.)
The following project is concerned firstly with the early history of Komata and then going on with the story of our farm, "Ingleby". I have found much interest in doing this project. I feel that I have added much about the local districts to my general knowledge and shall be able to pass it on to others who may also be interested and also I have discovered that there is more to farming than meets the eye. I thank Mr Kenny, our surveyor, Mr White and Mr Royal for giving me information and their time. I have pasted Mr Royal's account into my project after he had taken time to send it to me.
"Te Komata is the name of the locality which is owned by the Te Kiriwera tribe, a sub-tribe of Ngati Tamatera tribe.
"About 50 years ago the tribe was living as a community at a place called Puke Totara and the chief then was a warrior named Te Ahiataewa Tukukino. This warrior was a near relative of a famous chief called Taraia Ngakuti and after a battle with Ngaiterangi any hostile prisoners were often killed and eaten. These two chiefs were known throughout the land for their cannibalistic traits and as a matter of fact they were the last two to hold a cannibal feast in New Zealand.
"Teahiataewa Tukukino was lord over a vast area of land. The northern boundary was Te Iringa o Pirori on the banks of the Waihou River running in a straight line to Parakawai on the east coast and the southern boundary was Te Puke on the Waihou River running due east to Mataora on the east coast.
"One of the many incidents that happened in the early days was the attempt by Teahiataewa Tukukino to prevent the Government from forming the present railway through his property from Hikutaia to Paeroa. Many obstacles were put in the way of the contractors such as removing tools at night or accosting the men whilst at work.
"The interference went from bad to worse and in desperation the contractors applied for protection and received it in the form of a troop of armed constabulary despatched from Auckland. The outcome of the whole affair was finally settled at a meeting which took place at Puke Totara in which a deed was drawn up exempting Teahiataewa Tukukino for all time from paying rates and taxes. The provisions of this deed are still in force up to the present day.
"Trig Station above McKee's: Kotore Kikoke
"Black Rock: Ngawhaka Ripanga.
"A cleared patch in the heart of the bush a mile or so behind the Trig Station was a safety area during raids by hostile tribe named Patao.
"Peak above Buchanan's were one pa or fortress redoubt was named Potiki o Rehua.
"Another peak above Morrison's property is named Taumaharua.
"Much of the history of Te Komata unfortunately has never been recorded and the incidents and information that I have related are authentic and can be vouched for by Keriata Kiniwe, who is the only living authority of the past.—A. K. Royal."
Our farm is a portion of a block of 2000 acres of native land called Komata North.
This block extended three miles to the north of the Komata station and south about one mile, bounded on the west by the Waihou River and extended for approximately half a mile to the east of the Thames Road to the foot hills of the Coromandel Range.
A considerable amount of this portion was undrained swamp, other parts kahikatea forest, mainly opposite Netherton and on the higher land by the Komata Stream. Down Rangiora Road and on the higher land of our property was fern and manuka, the lower part being the swamp land was flax and rapu.
Running through this same block is the railway. It started in 1884 to give access to Thames and a rough formation right through to the Thames was planned and commenced upon. All work was suspended for nearly 20 years until after the completion of the link between Te Aroha and Paeroa.
For some years, however, the Thames to Paeroa Road was the only land communication between the centres of Paeroa and Thames. This road also passed through this block of native soil.
The coach changed at Hikutaia, a distance of six miles: In the winter a journey of four to five hours; in summer two and half hours. The first coach company was owned by Richards and Company.
This road was first surveyed in 1885 and also commenced upon as they surveyed and made at the some time.
The river traffic to Thames and Auckland went along the Waihou River, which itself would make an interesting project, and which was the western boundary.
The only access to the Netherton district on the opposite side of the Waihou River was through the Te Komata Block and by ferry across the water.
It could therefore be seen by a man with foresight and ambition the suitability of a portion of this block in spite of the difficulties of purchasing it from the Maori.
It was interesting to note while I was collecting my data on the early history, of a flax mill existing and thriving beside the Komata Stream. This was worked by water power.
Also I was told of a Maori legend which concerns a hill, not very significant to the casual observer, but there all the same. It seemed that a Maori chief of importance was travelling across country and tore his clothes. On reaching this hill he stopped his journey while his clothes were being mended. The hill was named on that account "The mending of the clothes of this Chief". His name I cannot discover but this supposed to be the longest word in Maori.
The district in which the block of Te Komata is, is now called the Thames Valley district and the immediate surroundings of Paeroa is Ruawehau, which is not generally known. It is called Ohinemuri, which is the original Maori name but apply only to the river, which is a branch of the Waihou River, The Maori call the land from east of the Tamaki River, Auckland. including Paeroa into the Bay of Plenty, the Hauraki.
The first white man to purchase land about Komata was Mr Wight. A son, Mr Walter Wight, afterwards bought a considerable portion of the Te Komata Block and from whom we purchased our farm of 113 acres in 1937. Mr Wight bought the land from a Maori called Paraku.
The right to this land was disputed by Willie Nicholls, who was afterwards county chairman and who really claimed the land for his wife from Paraku and Haerau. However, Paraku and Haerua agreed not to go to court and took half each, which was thus divided into different parts and owned by various families. Mrs Nicholls claimed land elsewhere in the district.
The locality of our farm is three and half miles on the western side of the main highway between Paeroa and Thames. There is a section map showing the boundaries of the 113 acres.
Our road frontage is approximately three quarters of a mile along the main highway and quarter of a mile along Rangiora Road, thus giving us one mile of road frontage.
Our view from the front is that of the foothills and in places the Coromandel Range itself. On our northern side we enjoy the view of the Firth of Thames and over yonder at our back are the Clevedon and New Brighton Hills.
The prevailing winds are the north nor' west and on the whole the district a good average rainfall which is beneficial to dairy production.
Means of Livelihood
The holdings of the farmers in this Komata North district, vary from 20 to 200 acres and the main type of farming is dairying with home separation. The cream is collected daily in the season and sent to the New Zealand Co-operative factory in Paeroa.
On the hills, sheep are raised and many fat lambs sent away. Hundreds of pigs are fattened as baconers and porkers for the local market. At the beginning of each season hundreds of calves are collected by a tri-weekly transport, purchased by the Pig Marketing Association and sent forward to the Horitu Freezing Works.
By contributing to the needs of some of the above, the farmers thus earn their livelihood.
Owing to the proximity of the nearest town Paeroa, which has a population of 2000 approximately, there has never been much social life among the neighbouring farmers in the dairying district of Komata.
There is a hall which would be ideal for any entertainment, but since the war and for a time before no dances or social evenings have been held. This again accounts for the nearness of Komata to Paeroa, where the farewells to soldiers and airmen have been held: And also the wrong element from Paeroa who wished to gate crash.
The people, however, are very friendly and in time of sickness and harvesting I have noticed they seem willing to co-operate.
There is a sole-change school which has a roll on an average of about 30 pupils. Now and then the children organise an evening's or afternoon's entertainment to raise school funds or to aid the patriotic appeal.
We have noticed that the people here give generously according to their means and unlike other communities do not mind if there is no entertainment forthcoming.
The grounds of the school have been kept orderly and the tennis court there attracts the youth for a game on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We are also fortunate in having a creek with many deep swimming pools and in the summer we gather before and after milking.
There are no churches, stores or a post office at Komata. The farmers collect their necessities in Paeroa.
About a mile from our farm is flag station on the Paeroa-Thames railway line with a loading-bank for general merchandise and stock. The bus passes our place twice a day either to Paeroa or Thames so we are not cut off from civilisation.
Perhaps after the war the returning youth will indulge in a more vigorous policy of entertainment more at Komata than in Paeroa. That though, for the present, will remain a hope.
On taking over the land, drainage, fencing and water were practically non-existence and only an old shed was on the property.
Our first necessity therefore was to provide an adequate water supply then followed by sub-division, the opening up of the drains and top dressing, manuring and general harrowing.
The 113 acres have been sub-division into 14 paddocks. Chiefly totara, red birch and silver pine posts have been used for fencing. The majority of the fences consist of seven wires, barb and plain and 11ft long gates to give access to every paddock.
The acres of rich loam soil was stumped by bull-dozer methods and all the fields have been sown in English grasses.
A great deal of success of a farm depends upon the drainage and water and shelter—although the last mentioned is not so important,
Our main drain, which is our northern boundary and which has now become known as White's Creek, has, I have since discovered, quite an interesting history. It would go back to 1880 when a half-caste Maori Willie Nicholls was county chairman. His wife disputed the right to claim the land and he, in case she won the claim, had a drain put right through the swamp to the Waihou River.
His wife did not get the claim, but others have since benefited by what would have been a valuable asset to Willie Nicholls.
All drains on both lower and upper parts of the farm followed the fall of the land and go east to west towards the river.
The water pumped from the a creek, which flows from the foothills of the Coromandel Range, by a power motor into a pressure tank, which is then automatically operated by an electric switch to maintain an average pressure of 60lbs.
The plant is sufficient to provide 10 water troughs, milking shed, the cottage and the homestead. The water is of good quality and a steady supply is always available.
Three big clumps of pine trees are the oldest means of shelter but unfortunately the trees are beginning to die.
Triangular parts have been fenced off and macrocarpa trees and gums are now making steady progress. Barbary and pampus have been planted along some of the fences.
It was not until two years after the purchase of the farm that we decided to build our home. My elder brother, who prior to him going into the army, was general manager, came out from Paeroa each day and prepared for the day when we had gathered our herd and finally lived on the farm.
We were all old enough to take an interest in drawing up the plans for our new homestead and we supervised the building with such eagerness.
At last the day came when we were able to shift and then began further plans for the lay out of the grounds. Many were the arguments, some members wishing for very little lawn and others wanting a park. However, Mr Powell Snr. succeeded in planting his gums, native trees, English oaks and flowering shrubs in roughly half an acre. How I remember those pioneer days when we decided it was just as well to cut the grass already there for lawn instead of sowing grass—and ploughing the ground for a drive.
Now after four years residence our trees, cutting and hedge slips have grown all beyond recognition and we heartily approve of a cattle stop instead of a front gate. Our home faces the main highway and the three front rooms the morning sun. It consists of six rooms with all electrical conveniences.
After a year the manager decided that with help he could milk a bigger herd and so a cottage was erected. We are fortunate indeed in having a family who have taken an interest in the farm and in their garden. The cottage has five rooms and lately a porch has been added.
The cowshed was the only building of the farm at the time of purchase. We have partitioned off the separator room, installed a Gane milking machine, concreted the yard and installed hot and cold water.
There are three bails and they hold six cows. The shed is also equipped for a change over to cheese production. The yard also has a dehorning race which is most useful for quick handling of stock.
About half an acre is taken up with pig runs and buildings. These piggeries have been divided into two sections and in three divisions are small sties for the purpose of breeding. All sties face the northern direct so as to get the sun.
In the fourth division is large sty consisting of four separate pens each with a concrete floor. Each pen holds about seven pigs. Skim milk and water are pumped from the cowshed.
Herd and Butterfat
The herd is on the average composed of 50 grade Jerseys. Each year the herd is heavily culled and only the sound cows showing good butterfat test are retained and the number being made up. All the calves are sold as bobby calves. Usually the factory test is kept at about 39 to 40. The herd during the past year produced over 300lbs of butterfat per head.
On the older parts of the farm beef stock are kept to keep the grass down during the flush of feed. A paddock is closed in early June to give feed for cows calving in August.
Each year and application of the following fertilisers are made: Lime, super phosphate and basic slag.
These fertilisers are applied to the fields by the top-dresser every alternate year. The grazing paddocks have an application of blood and bone.
The manures are applied in the autumn to promote early spring growth. The fields are well harrows and in the flush of the season, when the paspallum is predominate, they are topped with a mower.
Always the busiest period on a dairy farm for everyone concerned is the harvesting. We still carry out the old idea of feeding men from our own kitchen and so everywhere becomes a hive of industry.
Still if fortune favours us with good weather, harvesting can be a very happy time and there is a great deal of satisfaction to be held in seeing a well built stack standing in the field.
About September or early October, according to the season 12 acres or so are closed up for hay. The harvesting generally takes place about Christmas or New Year.
This time of the year the English grasses are in full leaf, good length and full of sap. The type of grass is rye, clover, cocksfoot, cow-grass, etc.
After harvesting, the paspallum comes away and provides early autumn feed. We generally manage a full team and if good weather favours us a good stack came be completed in two days.
(Footnote: A very human account of the development and working of the farm. Shows your appreciation of important factors in rural life.-- C. Gillies, 1943.)