Old Shipping Days Recalled
The steady progress and prosperity which has taken place in the Ohinemuri district during the past 60 years is due, in a large measure, to the navigable waterway running from the Firth of Thames to Paeroa. This highway has, during that period, served the district well and freighted economically enormous traffic, feeding settlers and towns from the Thames to Waihi.
Shortly after the opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfields, 1875, many steamers were carrying passengers and cargo between the then thriving town of Thames and Ohinemuri. The s.s. Waitoa, s.s. Despatch, p.s. Patiki were busy traders on the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers, and, except for horse tracks, the river was the only highway between Thames, Ohinemuri and Te Aroha districts.
Passenger Service Commenced
In the year 1888 a direct passenger and cargo service was commenced between Paeroa and Auckland. Prior to this date, all passengers and goods were conveyed to Thames from Auckland and transhipped at that port.
The s.s. Ruby, owned by the Hauraki Steamship Co., with the late Captain W. Bettis in charge and E. Adlam as mate, was the first vessel to commence the above service, and although her draught was 6ft, she traded regularly to the centre of Paeroa, landing her freights and passengers in Wharf Street.
The p.s. Patiki, mentioned previously, was from 1890 to 1900 frequently chartered to run excursions on the Ohinemuri and Waihou Rivers. Her accommodation for excursionists was 400, and there are still many people in the district who recollect the happy times spent aboard her when a moonlight excursion or picnic was taking place. There was space aboard for dancing, and the Paeroa Brass Band, then in charge of E. Cooke or the late Geo. Mettam, did much towards the enjoyment of such outings. The landing this vessel departed from was Wharf Street or the Railway Wharf, and she was in charge of Captain E. Adlam.
In the year 1891 sea-borne traffic between Auckland and Ohinemuri was increasing rapidly. At various points on the waterway many timber mills and flax mills were in full swing, a flour mill, owned by J. C. Firth, and a condensed milk factory also operated on the river in Paeroa. The former was built alongside the Kuaoiti creek and driven by waterpower from that source, and the condensed milk factory was below the junction.
In 1892 the Hauraki Steamship Co. replaced the s.s. Ruby with a larger vessel, the s.s. Paeroa, and in opposition to her the N.S.S. Co., then trading between Auckland and Thames with the p.s. Rotomahana and Enterprise and between Paeroa and Thames with the p.s. Patiki, built the s.s. Ohinemuri to run direct between Wharf Street, Paeroa and Auckland.
With these two vessels in the Auckland-Paeroa service and increasing passengers and cargo, the opposition fight became very intense. This fight was fired somewhat further because the gentlemen managing the local business for the N.S.S. Co, (the late Mr. F. Cock), and Hauraki Steamship Co. (the late Mr. Edwin Edwards), were prominent and well-known figures through the district, each serving many years as a member and chairman of the Ohinemuri County Council. During the opposition fight passengers were carried by the Hauraki S.S. Co. between Auckland and Paeroa for 2/6 return and by the N.S.S. Co. free, with meals included. Needless to say, many settlers and miners took advantage of the opposition fight and had a trip to Auckland.
Finally the Hauraki Steamship Co. was bought out by the Northern S.S. Co.
In the year 1895, the well-known local trader s.s. Waimarei [Waimarie - E] was built (late Captain Wm. Sullivan) and shipping headquarters was moved from the centre of Paeroa to the junction, a point two miles further down stream. Trade between Auckland and Paeroa was, for the next two years or so, carried on by the s.s. Waimarei, s.s. Paeroa and s.s. Ohinemuri. The whole of the mining machinery for Waihi, Waikino, Waitekauri and Karangahake was brought to Paeroa by these vessels, sometimes assisted by others, and along with outward cargoes of wool, fibre, timber, etc. a very busy freighting business was in progress.
About this time the McGregor Steamship Co. built a fine steel vessel, and after its arrival from Scotland it was placed in the Paeroa-Auckland service, with Mr. H. Poland as the Paeroa agent, to run in opposition to the N.S.S. Co. It traded to the Puke wharf. However, after a year or so she was bought by the N.S.S. Co. and placed on a West Coast service. As the Ohinemuri goldfields further advanced, and land for farming was being occupied, sea-borne traffic continued to increase. The s.s. Taniwha, a sister ship to the Waimarei, was built in 1898, and these two vessels carried on a very brisk trade.
Removal to Puke
On account of the mining operations in the upper reaches of the Ohinemuri the river at the Junction continued to shoal, and in 1901 the shipping was further moved to the Puke, and is now established at Ngahina Wharf.
The s.s. Taniwha, with occasional assistance, carried on a busy trade between Puke and Auckland until 1937, when the slackening of passenger trade, caused by the improved roads, motor and rail services, necessitated taking off that steamer and substituting cargo vessels. These cargo vessels still carry a big proportion of the goods between this district and Auckland, the outward cargoes consisting chiefly of dairy produce, which in the latter years, as the district became settled, has taken the place of timber and fibre.
A Valuable Water Service
Water transport has provided this district with a medium of cheap transit second to none in New Zealand. The annual value to the community in the Ohinemuri district in the saving of freight from and to Auckland, compared with other inland towns the same distance from a distributing city such as Auckland, but having no water transport, is very much indeed, and, solely on account of our waterway, the Ohinemuri district along with other districts touched by the river, enjoy a preferential rail rate and also reduced charges by other transport services.
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