Waihi Municipal Water Supply Dams
Achieving a plentiful and reliable municipal water supply was a considerable milestone for the new Borough of Waihi.
In a presentation made to the Premier, Richard Seddon, the Mayor pointed out "the urgent necessity for a pure water supply, and the inadequate supply they had now to put up with, which was practically useless in case of a big fire" (NZ Herald (?) May 1903 - From Waihi Borough Council Scrap Book, 1902 –1904). This supply may have been from the Mangatoetoe, via a pipe along the Bulltown timber tramway, to a small concrete reservoir on Martha Hill (personal communication with the late Owen Morgan).
The Waihi Borough Council's Engineer selected Walmsley's Creek as being most suitable for the new supply, and recommended that an area of about 900 acres within the watershed of Walmsley's Creek be reserved as a water conservation area for the Borough.
The Waihi Gold Mining Company had exclusive rights to the waters of this stream (and others around Waihi), and had concerns.
Mine Superintendent H.P. Barry was at pains to be clear about what the Company was prepared to agree to: "the Waihi Company would give the borough two sluice heads at Walmsley's Creek but would object to any of the water so given being used for purposes of motive power." (The Waihi Daily Telegraph, Friday, November 27, 1903). A surprisingly lengthy discussion was entered into regarding what this meant in practice (see the Appendices). One sluice head equals one cubic foot of water per second.
In December 1903, at a special meeting between the Waihi Company and the Borough Council, the following was recorded.
"The chairman, in introducing the business of the meeting, explained that the Waihi Gold Mining Company held certain rights over the water area in question, but were willing that one sluice head should be used for the benefit of the public of Waihi, as provided for in the Act.
"Mr Barry stated that he was quite willing that the borough should have the use of one sluice head without any conditions being placed thereon. His company had the rights to all the water after one sluice head, but if a second sluice head was required it should only be used exclusively for domestic purposes. He should like it to be understood however, that if the first sluice head was used for motive power, the borough could not claim a second sluice head for domestic purposes. It was very nice no doubt for tradesmen to have the right of motive power to drive sausage machines, etc,, as well as for domestic purposes, but when others had to go short it was not a matter of what one would like."
There was further discussion on what constituted "domestic purposes", with Mr Barry replying "that the practice of watering gardens could be very much abused. He considered the use of a hose would not be included in the meaning of 'domestic purposes'. Persons could wash their gardens away with a hose, and if every gardener watered with a hose the consumption of water would be great. He considered the use of a watering pot the only legitimate means as coming within the meaning of 'domestic purposes'. The one sluice head would be sufficient to provide for all that." (The Waihi Daily Telegraph, December, 1903).
On Friday December 11, 1903, the Water Rights Committee of the Borough Council had this to report: "Your committee on this subject have to report that an agreement is being prepared by which the Borough will acquire the exclusive right to divert one head of water at the point now pegged out as the site of the dam, to be used for any municipal service, also the right to divert a further quantity up to two sluice heads, provided that when the amount diverted exceeds one head, water shall not be used for motive power. These rights to vest in the Borough as first rights on the water, and to be placed on record in the Warden's Court. A clause will be inserted giving the Borough power to lay the pipes on the Company's tramway grant [timber tram up the Walmsley Valley – E] on such terms and in such places as may be arranged between the Borough Engineer and the Waihi Company." The report was adopted. (The Waihi Daily Telegraph, 11 December, 1903).
In February 1904, Mr J.A. Pond, Government analyst, forwarded the following report on the analysis of water intended for the Waihi water supply to the Council.
"This is a first class water, and if the sample submitted is a fair average of your supply it would be difficult to find a better one. It must not be forgotten, however, that at this period of the year all upland waters are at their best if running, there being no freshets to disturb organic sedimentary matter, while most of the small swampy deposits are cut off from the supply. Therefore, although the analysis shows this to be a water of exceptional purity, very careful observation will be required to see whether it retains this position. It is a water of marked softness; the total solids are very low, while the dissolved organic is exceedingly small, and these characteristics show that its value is high, not only as a potable water, but also for boiler purposes." (The Waihi Daily Telegraph, Friday, February 5, 1904).
On the 22nd October 1904 the following Public Notice appeared in the Waihi Daily Telegraph:
"Burgesses who are within the area to be supplied with water are requested to make application for connections forthwith. Pipes will be laid in the following streets :—Broadway, Waihi-street, Walmsley Road, Barry and Mataura Roads, Stafford-street, Dobson-street, Gray-street, Junction Road, Kenny-street, Clark-street, Gilmour-street, Mueller-street, Haszard-street, Tauranga Road, Silverton Road, Victoria-street, Moresby Avenue, Martin Road, Walker-street, Kensington Road, Toomey-street, Rosemont Road.
"Houses and lands within 100 yards of water mains will be charged a water rate whether the water be taken or not.
"H. D. MORPETH, Town Clerk."
It was not without some debate, and rancour amongst the councillors, that the Premier, The Hon. R. J. Seddon, was invited to turn on the water, which he did on March 13th, 1905.
Twenty-one thousand pounds were borrowed for the borough waterworks.
In 1957 two concrete dams were constructed on the Waitete Stream to supplement the Walmsley supply. The one in the main valley (northern dam) is still in use today.