Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 56, September 2012

Two significant events have taken place in the past 12 months which have had an impact on the Thames Valley attractiveness for both local, national and international tourists—the opening of the new Kopu Bridge and the Hauraki Rail Trail.

The new bridge, opened last December, just prior to the Christmas-New Year holiday season, has given much improved access to the Coromandel Peninsula. Gone is the traffic chaos, which was frustrating to say the least for motorists getting on and off the Peninsula. However, the new structure has created question as what to do with the 80-year wooden structure it replaced.

The old bridge, opened in 1927, is the only remaining centre swing span structure, to allow shipping access up the Waihou River, left in New Zealand. Already there is support for the bridge to be preserved as a piece of the Thames Valley history for future generations. There are suggestions that the bridge be used as the Hauraki Trail crossing of the Waihou River when the trail is extended to link in the seabird coast at Kaiaua. Another suggestion is that the bridge be dismantled and re-erected over the Kauaeranga River to provide an unique access for trail users to reach Thames.

Either proposal is going to cost money, and those promoting their respective ideas have yet to come up with the final answer: Who is going to pay the estimated $2-3 million to meet the maintenance bill and the cost of opening and closing the bridge for vessels wishing to navigate the Waihou River?

There is no way that ratepayers of the Hauraki and Thames-Coromandel Districts should be loaded with all this cost. One of those pushing for the preservation of the bridge, the Historic Places Trust, is doing so without the funds to back its "dream". And the local people calling for the saving of the bridge have not declared their funding options.

If the structure is to be preserved as a national icon then the cost should be jointly borne by Waikato Regional Council ratepayers and central Government, just the same as we here in Thames Valley have to pay for the Lake Taupo cleanup project and more recently the cycle velodrome at Cambridge. It is either this solution or the bridge be dismantled and sold for scrap. A hard decision, but the most commonsense one.

The Hauraki Rail Trail, opened in May last, has already become "a must" for local, national and international cycling enthusiasts. The route from Te Aroha to Thames and Paeroa to Waihi has given the many visitors a rare opportunity to cycle through productive farm lands, early mining history of the New Zealand and a scenic river gorge using the old railway links between these centres.

It is understood that the Hauraki trail provides more interesting and historic features than the renowned Otago trail. Visitors can branch off at Karangahake and investigate the relics of this town's golden era—1880-1920. And the 1.1kms long rail tunnel is an added attraction. At Waikino the old Martha Mine gold recovery battery is gradually being restored and there is the vintage train ride from Waikino to Waihi.

Already many of the business ventures close to this rail trail are receiving the benefit of the trail, and this support is moving into the towns along the way.

In this issue of the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal there are several articles reprinted from early issues of the Hauraki Plains Gazette. These were written by people who had living memory of events taking place around and before 1900. And these articles make interesting reading.

Thanks go to the members of the Milroy family for providing information covering their connecting with Mackaytown and Karangahake for over 100 years. Thanks also to those who have provided tributes for members of their families who have passed away, namely Mona Townshend 102 years, Sylvia Plummer, 98 years, Lola Tye, 96 years and Flo Roberts 96 years, all of whom passed away within the first six months of 2012.

Former Awaiti farmer, Colin Mudford, has supplied photos and information on the popular airstrip his family had on their property. And also Thelma Vowles has provided additional information to the coverage of the Kerepehi Easter Monday sports, which was published in the last issue of the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal, No. 55.

Rev. Colin Sutherland has been most helpful in supplying additional details in tracing the history of St. John's Tamatera Church in Rotokohu Road, Paeroa.

Again an appeal is made to those early residents of the district to record they experiences and have them published in the Journal. In this way a very good appreciation can be obtained of life some 50—60 years or more years ago.

I commend this issue, No. 56, to readers.

Graham Watton, Editor.