By W. E. Lawrence
When we look at the lush pastures today in Waihi area, it is hard to picture what they were like sixty or seventy years ago when most of the land would only grow stunted scrub and fern about half a metre tall.
In those times also, the country was partly bush sick and cows would pick up old bones and chew them showing that something was lacking in the soil. At that time, Waihi soil was rated a poor third class, but it had the first essential for making it the good dairying country it is today - a good rainfall.
New Zealand was lucky to have a cheap and plentiful supply of phosphate from Nauru Island. Also, we developed some of the world’s best soil scientists and this advice was freely given for the asking.
The use of cobalt as a trace element was vital in helping young stock to grow into healthy animals, and later in the early 1950's the use of potash raised the carrying capacity and productivity to a point far beyond the wildest dreams of the farmers of that time.
It is a good example of how co-operation between the working farmer and the scientists using raw materials supplied by nature can turn what was a struggling industry into some of the highest quality grassland farming in the world.
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In the twenties it was common to graze cattle off the farm in Winter months if possible to allow some growth for spring feeding.
We were able over several years to graze stock on Bowentown Reserve, so this meant a 13 mile cattle drive and a return journey by gig - quite a fair effort for one day.
An early start and correct tides were essential and some kids to be ahead of cows to see that gates were shut as we took the cows through the town. At that time the only access to the beach was down the north end where the Surf Club is now, so the cows got the full benefit of the seaside stroll. Some of the cows seemed to be fascinated by the waves and would follow the receding water only to have it swirl around them with the next wave.
Getting them away to bring them home was a bigger problem as quite a few did not like ending their seaside holiday and would cut back into scrub and hide.
Those were the days of hand milking, separators turned by hand and manure spreading done by hand. In short, a lot of what are now highly efficient farms were started by unpaid family labour.
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A number of Waihi Borough Council employees were clearing scrub from Martha Mine hill some years after the mine closed down, when they came across an old stone monument. Nobody can throw any light on to who put it there or why. It was certainly not the burial place of those whose names are on it, and the word 'Remembrance’ would indicate this. The stone has now disappeared and its whereabouts is not known. It was obviously not an authorised monumental stone as is indicated by the incorrect spelling of 'McCombie' and 'Remembrance’ has also acquired an extra 'e’. Whether it was preserved or thrown away as rubbish is a matter of conjecture.
The above copy of a photograph of the stone was handed to the Waihi Historical Society by Mr. Fred Pratt of Waihi.
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