Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 19, June 1975
By A.M. ISDALE, B.A.
The Ohinemuri River, rising near the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula flows westward, cuts through the main range between the fault-riven cliffs of Karangahake Gorge, to be joined by the Waitawheta River and dominated by Karangahake Peak, 1786 ft. high. Then with rapidly flattening grade it winds its way to join the Waihou a little beyond Paeroa. For some 40 years after 1875, the mountain and its spurs were to yield much gold and silver, causing the rise of a town with a population of around 2000 by the year 1909. But headway was lost, gold mining petered out, and by 1921 buildings were following people out of Karangahake. The imposing peak was left riddled from near the top to below river level, while above ground nearly all evidence of great installations and a crowded town were gone.
After the agreement with the Thames Maoris had opened that goldfield in 1867, Te Hira and other Chiefs continued to resist the opening of Ohinemuri. James Mackay, Govt. Land Purchaser, a skilled and astute negotiator, proved very accommodating with food and other supplies for Tangis etc under the "raihana" or rations system which had been very successful at Thames. He kept careful note of the money value of the "raihana" as advances against the acquisition of land. When the debts against Ohinemuri totalled £15,000, James Mackay struck. He told the Maori people that he would foreclose and take their land unless they agreed to open it for Goldmining and residential purposes, though certain areas were to be retained as Native Reserves.
(Discussion had continued for years and according to Official Documents lodged in the Turnbull Library, some Chiefs agreed to lease their land as early as 1868 but it was extremely difficult to obtain a unanimous decision about boundaries and payment when so many people were involved. ..Ed.)
At the Ohinemuri settlement, soon to be named Paeroa, Alfred Thorp and others were busy laying out a township on the land that Auckland Solicitors (Russell and Jackson) had already leased from the Maoris. They were anticipating the legal Declaration of the Opening of the Goldfield. Arrivals by river craft formed a camp there to supplement one already at Cashells Landing near the Puke. A quick inbetween type of construction used at the time was a wooden frame with calico walls. It is recorded that some of the more venturesome diggers even joined an encampment at Mackaytown, (then known as Te Kahakaha) in order to do unofficial clearing and prospecting.
On February 16 the High Chief Te Hira moved to Te Moananui Flats from his home near Karangahake where pakehas were already burning off fern and scrub. As a young man Te Hira had seen such fires when the Ngapuhi besieged Totara Pa and desecrated the land. Now it was a conquest, not with guns, but with money and pieces of paper.
On 18 Feb. 1875, at a great gathering on the Pai - o - Hauraki Marae, Maori owners of the land met the Representatives of New Zealand Government and signed the important "Deed of Cession".
On 25 Feb., leasehold sections of the projected Paeroa Township were sold by Auction at Thames Academy of Music, and on 3rd March, at Mackaytown the Ohinemuri Goldfields were declared "open".
Sources - "Tainui", by Leslie Kelly.
Various booklets and reports by James Mackay.
"Thames Advertiser"& "Evening Star" (1874 - 1921)
Govt. Geological Survey Bulletins, Nos. 15 & 26.
"Gold Mines of the Hauraki District" J.F. Downey, 1935.
Diamond Jubilee of Ohinemuri County, 1885 - 1945.