Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996
Dated Feb 8 1995.
I first went up the Waihou River in 1936 to Paeroa, while serving as engineer in Winstone's small auxiliary scow the "DOMINION". After a year I moved to the "COMBINE", a larger vessel of the same type. Both carried sand and shingle for the building trade. We loaded sand from the large bank just inside the Kopu "swing-bridge", which carried the road traffic across to Thames. The bridge was operated by a man who ran a small farm on the Thames side of the river.
In those days the Northern Steamship Company ran a 'regular service' with their steamer "TANIWHA". The bridge operator knew when to expect her and was ready to open the bridge, which consisted of turning a moveable section which swung aside, allowing the steamer to pass through. The "TANIWHA" ran to timetable but we were governed by the tides and had to steam around "blowing our whistle" until the operator heard us and stopped what he was doing, and got on his bike and pedalled to the control and let us through. With the demise of the river trade, that type of sand now comes by road from the Waikato River at Tuakau.
The river was quite wide but the navigatable channel was marked by makeshift signs, one a small green dinghy moored under the willows, another, two water tanks on stands. Alright if the Navigator knew his way but disaster if he didn't. I left Winstones after three years and joined Nobel's Explosive Co. in their auxiliary ketch "MIRO". We travelled around the N.Z. coast, a voyage of approximately 3000 miles. We made numerous trips to Paeroa with explosives for the Martha Mine Co. at Waihi. During the war when invasion seemed a real threat, it was decided to shift the contents of the magazine at Maraetai to the Martha Mine. We could carry about 60 tons and as the job took over a week, it must have involved moving at least 500 tons. Some years on I went with the boys for a "run" through the "Gorge" and called at the Mine and were conducted around by a guide. I asked where the magazine was and she had no idea? Maybe nowadays they only keep a small amount on deck for safety reasons.
In the early days, butter from the factory at Te Aroha arrived by barge, towed by a small steam tug, with a 'collapsible funnel' to enable it to pass under the bridge. We also did a few trips up the Piako to the Public Works Department Depot at Kerepehi with loads of hardwood poles. We also did one trip up the small river at Waitakaruru with a load of sand for the road bridge under construction, the sand being, not from the Waihou but from Whangapoua on the other side of the Coromandel Peninsula, opposite Mercury Island. It was a very busy harbour in those days with as many as half a dozen scows loading.
While I was on the "NGAHAU", the end came when the "grab" started bringing up discoloured sand. The scene was then switched back to north of Cape Rodney, not far from Waipu.
Changing the subject back to "MIRO", I stayed with her until after the War was over, then left and joined Holm & Co, with the object for a B.O.T. Certificate. This accomplished, I decided to see a bit more of home so I joined the Ferry Co. and stayed there until the Harbour Bridge put an end to that, so I left and joined the Harbour Board. After some years in the 'repair gang' I got the job of standing by the new floating crane "HUKANUI". It was really to help the Chief Engineer of the old Crane Company. We were together for two years and we finished up as engineer and surveyor. When this ended I returned to the yard and finished the job as the engineer and the pilot launch job became vacant. I stayed there until a job on the floating crane became unexpectedly vacant, so I left the pilot launch job and stayed there till I retired in 1965.