Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 15, June 1971

EXTRACT FROM "POENAMO" by John Logan Campbell

I remember well the lovely morning when under a bright sun and a deep blue sky we pushed off in one of Wepiha's boats from Herekino bound for Waiomu. We had now dropped down to the sober earnestness of actual settling. We were not to know that for many a long year we were destined to pass through severe experiences, the lightest of which was sometimes going dinnerless - of being our own cooks with nothing to cook! In reality this was our true starting point for now we must be self supporting and no longer depend on Wepiha's hospitality.

"Big Webster" reigned supreme, not only at Coromandel but along the whole shore of Te Hauraki, even into the mouths of the Waihou and Piako Rivers. Waiheke, Ponui and adjacent islets owned his Sway, and in not a few places utterly unknown to other Pakeha, Webster (Wepiha) was a power. He was an American whose wife was a daughter of the great chief Taniwha of Capt. Cook fame. But his strength lay in an unpretentious little building at Herekino known as "whare hoko", his trading station - from which he dispensed blankets and guns, calico, spades, tomohawks and tobacco. Not only was he looked up to by the Maoris but he hospitably entertained Pakehas who found their way to his small kingdom.

It did not seem a very aspiring step to go and live in a small Maori village and help a Pakeha carpenter to build us a boat, and thereafter to go and squat on a little island utterly beyond the pale of even Pakeha sympathy. We were to be landed at our destination by the Pakeha trader who was being sent by Wepiha to his Trading Station at Kauaeranga on the Waihou River. The shore in those days was well studded with native villages, and the cultivation around them bespoke an industrious people. They planted fields of maize, kumera and potatoes and sold the product to traders in return for goods and guns.

At Waiomu, Ngati Tametara [Tamatera – E] under Chief Kanini mustered "en masse" to give us welcome, having heard that we were "Rangatiras" - untainted by "convictism or ship runaway-ism or waipiro-ism!" Sharing the raupo home of Palmer the boat-builder and his Maori wife we were grateful for the proverbial pork and potatoes which were the main items of diet, for the fresh water from the stream nearby and for our comfortable fern mattresses, but constructed beds for ourselves with the aid of saplings, supple jacks and flax and soon made a table and seats.

We had been dismayed to learn that Palmer had not enough sawn timber on hand to finish a boat he was working on let alone to build us one at short notice. He suggested that a large Kauri lying felled, near the edge of the forest, would make a splendid canoe. This appealed to us and on the 14th June 1840 we set forth with squaring axes to commence the work. At long last it was hollowed notwithstanding dramatic interludes such as a Tangi and a gun-powder explosion when the Dr. was able to practise his art. One patient was Te Rite, the son of Taraia of dread renown! (see Journal 14)

Many had been the visits paid by the Maoris to the forest where we were at work, for our log was really not modelled as a canoe but like a boat, with regular bow and stern. They had watched our progress with great attention and learning from Palmer the log must now be dragged out before any further work could be done upon it, Taraia and his son tendered the services of the tribe to drag out the "waka Pakeha" as payment for the medicine of the doctor! It was "te utu mo te rongoa a te rata"

It thus came about that the explosion of a half-keg of gunpowder dragged out our canoe, for after four more days it lay on the beach. Our work was now only a stone's throw from our own door and only a few more days were needed to remove the superfluous wood which we had left to enable the craft to stand its rough passage out of the forest. We were fortunate in having the skilled Palmer to help us with the finishing touches.

The task completed, willing hands helped to haul our canoe to the water. Our sojourn on the shore of Te Hauraki had run out; we must bid farewell to Waiomu, to the Ngati Tamatera and their grand old chief. Palmer's now finished boat for Wepiha and our own "waka Pakeha" were afloat. The small boat with the two sprit-sails set, one on each side was preparing to tow our canoe over the expanse of water.

We had shaken hands with nearly the whole Tamatera tribe and Kanini - nature's nobleman, sat alone muffled in his "kaitaka" mat on the beach. Is it to be wondered at, that estimating his high native worth, and the bright intelligence we had found under that tattooed face, we were moved to severe regret at parting with him.

"E noho nei?" (You will stay there won't you?) we said to him sadly.

"Haere - haere" (Go, go) came from him in a low voice.

Thus we set off to pitch our tent on our own lonely kingdom —"Motu Korea".

NOTE: Motu Korea (Brown's Island) lies off the entry to the Tamaki River. (Its present owners are the Auckland City Council).

Owing to the Government's proclamation controlling transfer of land Brown and Campbell were nearly dispossessed by Governor Hobson though Captain Symonds the Deputy stood by them. Finally they sold the Island though they deeply regretted this later. In recent times it was purchased by Sir Ernest Davies and presented to Auckland for use as a future park. On Miss Lutman's property near Waiomu, now a popular camping beach (north of Thames), a huge isolated rock crowned by a Pohutukawa tree is traditionally "Campbell's Rock". He is said to have pitched his tent in its shelter. Descendants of his Maori friends, the Ngati Tamatera, continue to own land near the area and are well represented and respected in Ohinemuri.


We gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to the Trustees of Sir John Logan Campbell's work for permission to use this extract from "Poenamo" and to reproduce the illustration of Auckland's first "Trading Station". Thanks also to Miss Lutman for her kindness and a photograph of Rock. (Editor).

[see in this Journal: Abridged Introduction to "Poenamo" - E]