Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002

By Selwyn George Wood

There are several meanings of Komata that I know of - a sharp, pointed instrument; end of a low range of hills; the place of the cabbage tree. I favour the last, as the cabbage trees were very plentiful on the north side of the Komata Stream, from the main road down to the Waihou River.

The area was owned by the Kiriwero Tribe with Ahitawa Tukukino as Chief. Shu Tukukino, recently deceased, would have been the son or grandson, as he was known as a Chief. He had a dairy farm in the Maori Settlement Huhukino.

In 1898 rail was opened between Thames and Paeroa after the surveying was delayed some time by Chief Ahi. There was a station, siding and two railway houses.

Enter the Wood's family on the scene. Grandfather George Wood sailed out from England, landing at Auckland, from where he sailed on down to Thames and paddled up the Waihou River to Wharepoa, buying a small farm near the river. He soon found it to be too wet, and moved to Komata. The farm there stretched from the main road to where the present hall is. The road was named Komata North, then Station Road and, later, when the Station was taken away, Rangiora Road. Rangiora means shrub.

George Wood donated a piece of land and the Komata Hall was built in 1917, the floor being of Matai timber, which proved to be an excellent floor for dancing, for many, many years.

School children were transported across the Waihou River and attended the Netherton School. Cream from the creamery was also on the launch. (Darcy Bishop's house had been the creamery.)

School was then opened in the Hall in 1920 but it was very cold in the winter due to the walls being made of corrugated iron, with no lining. I can remember starting school in the Hall, before transferring to a new school which opened in 1928. It consisted of one room, a shelter shed and conveniences, built for $630.

A schoolhouse was then built and the first resident teacher was Mr R A Rutherford, a nephew of Lord Rutherford, the atom splitter. Ray's claim to fame was that he taught me at Paeroa Central School, as the Wood family, by this time, had moved to a Thames Road farm, leaving a sharemilker at Komata. Later, Ray taught my daughter at Komata, when I was in residence there.

After the War, in 1946, I took over the Wood's farm, along with a number of returned men and young men on other farms at Komata. We were all much of an age, hence the school roll reached 48 pupils and the shelter shed was pressed into service as a classroom. A prefabricated building was supplied and two new teachers arrived, Mr and Mrs Len Burgess. Len went sharemilking on Kilgour's farm, thinking to farm would be easier than teaching. They moved to Whangarei, and, for their 50th Wedding Anniversary, were given a ticket from their family to fly to Antarctica. Unfortunately this turned out to be the Erebus flight.

By 1968 the school roll had decreased to thirteen boys and the Education Board closed the school. It was later moved to Paeroa Central School on Nahum Street, where it is being used as a library or reading room.

School generated a lot of activities and the Hall was used for Indoor Bowls and Table Tennis, the teams playing on to Thames Valley. Table Tennis Association Tournaments did well. Women's Division of Federated Farmers was very active. Dancing was very popular over the years and Square Dancing, in later years was popular. Sunday School was taken by the Innis twins, Christina and Anne.

There were numerous swimming pools on the Komata Stream, the main one up Reefs Road, two kilometres up the road, in a Reserve maintained by the Komata folk. A changing shed was provided. Unfortunately there were vandals in those days too and they had a bottle breaking contest in the pool, and that was the end of our swimming in that pool.

We had a well-respected Maori settlement in the area; the names Royal, Tukukino and Winiata come to mind. Girls of the Royal family still live in Paeroa - Pela Rautahi, Heke Bennett, Ainy Winiata, Estelle Baker and Puha Kidd, in Rotorua.

We had a mouth organ band which played at the Orphans Club functions and surrounding Clubs.

Food supply deliveries were well catered for in the area. Victoria Bakeries delivered bread twice weekly and it was the kid's delight to get a Barracuda loaf, break it in half and eat the fresh bread from the centre before getting inside the house.

Housewife Relief Stores in Paeroa would telephone and procure a grocery order which would be delivered in the afternoon. Clarry Butchery would do the same thing. Housewife Relief Stores gave away a plate at Christmas time. I have one still and the Paeroa Museum has one.

Away back, dairy herds increased in size, and separation of the cream from the milk came in. Cream was transported by Bob Gibson every day, on his horse-drawn wagon.

All the Services were good and we had two and three telephone party-lines of eight. No long talks were allowed.

There were two crushing plants in the area, one on the Paeroa side of the Komata bridge, on the left, and one just over the bridge, on the right - Julian's Dragline crusher.

In September 1960 I got a phone call from Elsa Hughes, "Please come and take my piano out of the house". The stopbank on the Komata Stream, where it joins the river, had broken. Grabbing tractor and trailer, we proceeded to remove the piano and other valuable articles. We also pulled up newly laid carpet as water was expected to rise to waist-high. Many helpers from the Paeroa Lions and Jaycees assisted the residents to put valuables up high, or remove them to the Hall for safe keeping. The roar of the water coming was eerie and it didn't take long to inundate pastures and enter houses. Most of the stock was removed to higher ground.

The Army was brought in to help, sand bagging from a barge and gradually, after a couple of days, the flow was cut off. And then there was the cleaning up and drying out of the houses, after the water had gone. It wasn't a nice experience. In one house the water had reached to just beneath the table, leaving dry many utensils piled on top of it. A washing machine had tipped over, spilling its oil on top of the water, and this stuck to walls, etc., as the water receded. There were no water blasters in those days to help clean up .The flood affected all farms below the railway. That episode increased the community spirit and the feelings that we had for one another.

The Komata Hall is now owned by the Netherton Car Club. We had lined it, as well as putting in a ceiling and a kitchen, which made for a very comfortable place for a Clubroom.

In its heyday, there were thirteen farms on Rangiora Road and today, through amalgamation, there are only five. Three of the early homesteads have been burnt down.

I left the area in 1971 and, on looking back, it was good to have been there and participated in all the activities, as well as making life-long friends.