Royal Standard Mine

Newspaper extracts

The whole area became very busy, with mines, batteries, roads, tracks (many now overgrown), and tramways and water races. One could move readily from Owharoa to Waihi, Waitekauri, Maratoto, Komata, and over into the Wharekiraupunga. In July, 1895, with the big mining investment boom of 1895-7, Kersey Cooper was off to England to get mining company investment. "The well known Wharekiraupunga, formerly known as the Brothers, is amongst the mines which Mr. Cooper takes Home." There were even mines taken up in the rough country between Wharekiraupunga and Waihi - or at least claims. Many claims taken up during the investment boom did not end up as mines.

By April, 1897, the Royal Standard at Wharekiraupunga employed 197 men, and by June 2 still had 160 when it had put off 40.

On April 5, 1898, the Royal Standard at Wharekiraupunga, which had been employing 80 men, shut down most works. Komata was prospering.

Extracts from a letter to Mrs Elsie Graydon

Not only was there connection between the sea and the Wharekeraupunga [note that there is variation in spelling here: Wharekiraupunga, Wharekirauponga, Wharekerauponga, Wharekeraupunga. Keep that in mind when searching - E], the sea outlet being just south of Whangamata, but also in the late 1890s in connection with the big expenditure on mining installations they made a light railway along the valley to the sea. Shall enclose a tracing.

Most who went to the Wharekeraupunga area in the 1890s did so by sea. There was no track in from the south. There was a rough track over from Waitekauri, and another track went over the range by "The Wires'' and down the Wentworth Valley and then up to the Royal Standard on the Wharekirauponga.

There was very little actual mining done at the Royal Standard. Mostly it was a case of living in huts on what was essentially a big construction site, with putting up buildings and plant and the light railway. The peak seems to have seen around 240 working in the forests, sawmilling, and on construction. The conditions for married couples with young families were somewhat better than for say single men in accommodation houses with barrack conditions and cookhouse. The couples had individual huts, somewhat smoky and primitive, but warm with the abundant firewood around. Rather hot in summer. Another estimate is 300/500.

Wharekirauponga was a recent variation by people who thought they knew better than the earlier Europeans, like making Tamehana into Tamihana, the i with an ee pronunciation as in "missionary" Maori, which from the 1820s replaced the earlier debara pronunciation, with Ds and Bs and Ss. The settlers who came later were inclined to make their own spellings to suit their own pronunciations, like Matatoke, now Matatoki. The settlers did not understand i saying ee, except in words like machine.

It was possible in the latter part of the 1890s to go by rail to Paeroa, and then by road to Waitekauri, and then by the track through dense forest and ridges to the Royal Standard, but by ship from Auckland to a landing south of Whangamata would be more usual. Work was going on vigorously as late as March 18, 1898, with "the tramway is almost finished and the foundations for the battery will be started at once," and carpenters as well as bushmen etc. busy. On April 4, however, the news was that all works on battery, water race, tramways and so on had been suspended to concentrate on the mine. However, the tramway had been completed down to the river landing at the limit of navigation, and then 25 men discharged, leaving 60. But by May 2 the mine too had been closed, "throwing a large number of men out of employment." The mining episode was brief, and little actual underground work done. At that very time, at the beginning of May, 1898, "the Komata township itself is progressing, new buildings being in course of erection.... public hall (already, with "several good restaurants" etc.) By May 23, 1898, there were only a couple of men on the ground, with a reputed 500 18 months before.

On October 51, 1898, it was reported that in a maintenance case at Thames, a woman described how her husband had been a cook at Wharekeraupunga, but was now out of work and drinking. Her charges could not bring back activity and good jobs to Wharekeraupunga, for about a year to a year and a half a hive of activity, with at least £25,000 spent on impressive works with nothing to profit.