Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 20, June 1976


About 3 years ago Mr. Ted Roberts and I were interviewed by members of the Tauranga Rock and Mineral Club who had located the old Maoriland Battery at Waitekauri. They purchased it, took it to pieces in the deep gorge in which runs a tributary of the Mangakara Stream and with enormous difficulty conveyed it to Tauranga to be reassembled at the Museum's 14 acre Historic Village.

A few miles along the Waitekauri Road the track to the "Maoriland" turns to the left and climbs steeply through Mr. Bob Stubb's property to some logging skids at an altitude of about 700 ft. From there access is by foot or 4-wheel drive vehicle along an old Tramway alignment for about 2 miles. The tramway formation goes right through to the vicinity of the Paeroa Cemetery, the last stretch now being known as Reservoir Road. It was the original "Waitekauri Track", via which, machinery was conveyed to the mines. When the goldfield was in its heyday the tramway bore quartz to the Battery from several mines, including the Shannon, the Ferguson and the Young New Zealand.

The history of the old Battery is somewhat obscure but it was probably established around the turn of the century. My father, Mr. Charles Mann, now 96 years of age and living on the coast north of Thames went to work in the Maoriland Battery about 1908. I am indebted to him for authentic information about early days. He had been working in the Waikino battery for 8/6 a day and on Sundays (his only day off) was in the habit of prospecting in the hills.

During this time he came across the Maoriland battery and was offered a job at 10/6 a day, so promptly took it. He moved to Gordon's boardinghouse in Waitekauri and each night walked to the mine along the blackness of the tramway to reach it in time for his midnight to 8 a.m. shift. Before he started two men only had been keeping the battery going by working 12 hour shifts so they welcomed him and future 8 hour shifts.

At the boarding house Charles Mann got to know Margaret Gordon, one of the daughters of the owners. Several years later he returned to Waitekauri and married her.

The Maoriland battery consisted of one five-head bank of Stampers made by Price & Co. of Thames linked to a similar five-head bank made by Judd's foundry at Thames. These were driven by a pelton wheel turned by a jet of water piped from a point on the stream about 500 ft. above the battery site.

The manager of the battery when my father went there was a man named Christie whose son, Willie Christie used to break up the quartz with a maul until the pieces were sufficiently small to go under the stampers. The other men were: Steve Morgan and Ted Basket. After working at the battery for a year my father left but returned about 1911 and worked for another year or so. He took some excellent photographs while there.

As children at Waitekauri we took many walks through the bush but did not come across the battery secluded in the deep gorge. Indeed we understood it had closed down during the 1st W.W. and had been dismantled and removed. However in 1930 Mr. Ted Roberts, then living in Waihi, bought the battery from the Crown for £12/10/0 and worked it as a one man operation till 1945. In 1921 he had had a garage in Waihi and subsequently was a garage foreman in Tauranga.

With his mechanical ability Ted Roberts got the old battery working again and the same pelton wheel operated the stampers, the berdans, the agitators in the cyanide tanks and the wilfrie table [Wilfley concentrating table – E]. In the 15 years he had the battery he said he made a good living from it. When he closed it down in 1945 he moved most of the buildings that covered the machinery to the old Talisman Battery site of Karangahake where he worked for another 3 years, but now lives at Thames.

Back on the Maoriland site the bush took over. John Collin and Tom Elder searched the locality till eventually they stood almost in the middle of the battery before being able to discern it among the tangle of undergrowth. After clearing the area they found it to be remarkably intact, and with great resourcefulness - and endurance - the Club members aided by local helpers recovered the still valuable machinery and conveyed it to Tauranga.