A.G. Matheson

Re-produced by the Te Aroha & District Museum Society in 1978 with the kind permission of Mr A.G. Matheson, author Historical Soc. Journal, publishers.

Probably few people other than residents of nearby districts know where Waiorongomai is. But nearly a century ago the area was a scene of bustling activity, when it was opened as a gold field. The field promised to be one of the best in the colony, but the ore proved to be refractory and of a low grade and the terrain difficult. Fortunes were lost time and time again as massive capital investment in plant and development was only rewarded by gold in low quantities. Only eleven years after the opening of the first crushing battery, there were reported to be just sixteen men left on the field. The town, which at one time boasted three or four thousand inhabitants and a hall, three hotels, and a number of shops, was all but deserted. Today, some 96 years after gold was first discovered at Waiorongomai, the only signs of the once-thriving town are a couple of old chimneys standing in a paddock. Further up the valley, the bush has not yet claimed all the relics of men's struggle to win fortune from the earth.

The site formerly occupied by Waiorongomai town is 3 miles southwest of Te Aroha, at the foot of the Kaimai range where the Waiorongomai Stream disgorges, onto the flats. Gold was first discovered at nearby Te Aroha in 1880 by one Hone Werahiko. The discovery was made just south of the present town, in a gully at about 1,000 ft. above sea level on the slopes of the mountain. This started a rush to the locality in November of that year, but the gold was found to be "floaters" i.e. it did not signify the presence of an auriferous reef.

Werahiko prospected the Waiorongomai Valley throughout the winter of 1881, and in November discovered gold on the east face of an exposed rock reef at about 1,800 ft A.S.L. He claimed this as the "New Find". The assay of the ore was 2 oz of gold per ton, gold being worth ₤2/16 per ounce. Because of the exposed nature of the reef and availability of water-power and timber etc. it was thought that the ore would be profitable at as low as ½ oz. of gold per ton. The main or "Buck", reef on which Werahiko found gold, runs almost north-south along the valley for almost 2½ miles. The surrounding ground has been eroded away to expose the reef for 1½ miles of its length, projecting up to 200 ft in places. Other portions of this reef were also claimed, including the later-famous Premier and Colonist claims.

Plans were immediately made to erect a crushing battery. Josiah Clifton Firth, one of the richest men in the country and owner of the huge Matamata estate and another wealthy Auckland merchant, James McCosh Clark, formed the Te Aroha Battery Co. and in 1882 bought the Piako battery at Thames. They transported it to Waiorongomai that year and erected it on the flats at the township. It consisted of 40 head of stamps, with automatic self-feeders connected to a 500 ton capacity ore hopper, and also 12 berdans. The battery was powered by three turbine water-wheels built by Price's in Thames. Two water races totalling 2¼ miles in length were constructed, giving a head of 225 ft. and a total output of 90 hp. The total cost was about ₤20,000, a vast sum of money for those days. The battery was described by the Inspecting Engineer as "...one of the largest and most complete crushing plants in the colony." (Mines Report 1883)

The plant started crushing ore in November 1883 from the Premier, New Find, Colonist, Werahiko, and Waitoki claims. Work stopped for Christmas, but didn't resume until the end of January because of a dispute over a cut in the workers' daily wage from 9s to 8s. It seems that strikes over pay disputes are not only a recent phenomenon! Eventually the wage cut was accepted by the employees, and up until the end of March 1884, 4,136 tons of quartz were crushed, yielding just over 1oz of gold per ton, which was thought to undoubtedly prove the field payable.

To connect the many claims with the battery, the Piako County Council was persuaded by the Battery Co. and others to build a tramway, and a Mr Stewart and his surveying party spent three months of 1882 preparing plans and specifications. Construction commenced in November of that year, and the line started operating on November 1st 1883. The final cost was about ₤18,000, the Government contributing £9,000 and the use of 156 tons of iron rails. The tramway was a little over 3 miles long, and consisted of three level sections along which trucks of ore were pulled by horses, or later, a steam locomotive, and three self-acting inclines, falling a total distance of 1,400 ft. The claims that were not immediately adjacent to the county tramline were connected to it by shoot and hopper or aerial tramline (wire ropeway).

Claim owners were initially charged 2/6 per truckload (1¼ tons) for the ore to be transported from any where along the tramline to the battery, but this was raised to 4/6 per truck within a few months. The battery treated prospectors' ore for 10s per truckload, making the total cost of transporting, crushing and treating a truckload of ore 14/6, the equivalent of approximately 5½ dwt of gold. By the time the battery and tramline were operating, some 91 claims had been taken up, and it was estimated that ₤15,000 had been spent in prospecting and opening up the mines. There were 100 houses at Waiorongomai and twice that number at Te Aroha.

Many of the miners on the Waiorongomai field had originally been attracted to the area by the "false start" of the Te Aroha field, and then shifted their attentions to Waiorongomai when gold was found there, leaving their families at Te Aroha and travelling to the fields each day. The combined population of Te Aroha, Waiorongomai, and "the camps on the hill" at Waiorongomai was estimated at between 1,800 and 2,000 in April 1884. There were three hotels at Waiorongomai, the largest of which was the Waiorongomai Hotel, a two storey wooden building with 20 bedrooms, 4 sitting rooms and a dining room that seated 100. The foundation stone of the public hall was laid on 26th September 1884 by J.C. Firth and it was situated almost midway on the right-hand side of the street leading to the battery. The inhabitants of the town had a good range of merchandise to choose from in the shops, of which there were nearly a dozen, including general stores, bakeries, and agricultural implement maker, a hardware and ironmongery store, butchery, grocery etc. Several of the stores had deliveries "up the hill" to the miners' camps, and there was at least one store situated in the Canadian Gully area. Nearby Te Aroha was a very popular holiday resort because of the hot mineral springs and their alleged curative properties, and Waiorongomai thus became a minor tourist attraction, with people coming to see the battery, mines, and especially the tramway.

However during 1884 work was restricted to a few old claims, with no new ground being opened up. The total output of quartz from all the claims was only 11,000 tons, less than half of what was expected. The reasons for this were two-fold. Firstly, the rock was very hard and thus the labour costs for extracting quartz were high. The cost of crushing the ore was also quite high. Secondly, the fineness of the gold and the fact that it was complexed with base metals meant that less than half of the gold was actually extracted. The tailings were saved by the Battery Co. and stored on the opposite side of the creek "to await the time when a more scientific method of extracting the gold will be available". (Mines Report 1885). Many of the formerly profitable claims such as the New Find, Colonist and Canadian were now only marginally so, and work was stopped on many other claims.

To avoid this great loss of gold, Messrs Ferguson, Fraser and others started in 1884 to build a new crushing and grinding plant called the New Era Battery and Reduction Works on the banks of the Waiorongomai Creek 1¼ miles upstream from the township. This was being constructed on a different principle from Firth and Clark's battery, and in April 1885 the Te Aroha Mines Warden reported that ...."it will be some time before this new plant is ready, but the owners are confident that when they are in a position to crush quartz, a far greater quantity of fine gold will be saved than by the berdan process which is now used. This battery or plant when completed will reduce and amalgamate about 20 tons per diem." The battery was carried piece by piece up to the site on packhorse, and assembled there. It was connected to the county tramway by a branch line about ¼ mile long, estimated to cost ₤1,500. A Mines Department subsidy of ₤1,000 was authorised.

By March 1886 the battery had been erected, but although more than the estimated ₤1,500 had been spent on the tramway, it had not been completed. However, people were still optimistic about the plant, which was expected to save some 80%, of the silver and gold from the quartz. In April of that year the battery was finally connected to the mines by the tramline, and a trial crushing of about 200 tons of ore was made. But the battery then lay idle for the next year, for two reasons. Firstly, all the claims that the battery company was relying on for a supply of ore had been abandoned, one after another. Secondly, the refractory nature of the ore was not overcome.

So the New Era Company applied for a special claim, comprising the Premier and other mines, hoping to float a company in England to work the ground in connection with the battery. One of the principal proprietors of the crushing plant, Fraser of Messrs Fraser and Sons, engineers of Auckland, built a small testing plant at his Auckland foundry to perfect the operating methods of the New Era reduction works. At his testing plant he successfully treated small samples of different ores. The treatment involved dry-crushing, roasting in a reverberatory furnace, and adding salts to change the chemical nature of the ore and make it suitable for pan-amalgamating or chlorination and leaching. Ferguson went to England in 1887 to float the company: in 1888 he was still "at home", but he was eventually successful, because by 1889 the New Era works were back in operation again. Ore was mined in the premier area, and taken by the tramway to the battery. This did not continue for very long though, for in 1892 the Mines Warden reported that "the Ferguson's plant has been sold and removed." The hopes of the district for a crushing plant that would save a reasonable proportion of gold had not been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, Firth and Clark's crushing battery at the township was still struggling along. The year ending 31st March 1886 was very disappointing. There was a considerable fall-off in gold returns, and several companies suspended operations. The summer of 1885-6 was very dry, and in November '85 and February '86 no crushing was done because of the shortage of water. In 1886, J.C. Firth went to America with the manager of the battery, H.H. Adams, to study mining methods. They visited the principal mining centres in California, Nevada, and other western states, and upon their return adopted the method of roasting the ore after crushing. The Battery Company bought the New Find, Canadian, May Queen and Colonist workings, and laid claim to a large area at the southern end of the Buck Reef. But the 1886-7 year was also poor, with no crushing done in January or February 1887 because of the water shortage.

When Firth and Adams returned from America in 1886, they happened to be fellow-passengers with W.R. Wilson, one of the proprietors of the famous mines at Broken Hill, New South Wales. Wilson was interested in their reports of Waiorongomai, and later visited the area. Despite the depressed state of the field at the time, he must have been impressed with what he saw, because in March of 1888 he bought out Firth and Clark's interests in the area. For the sum of £29,000 cash and ₤20,000 in paid-up shares, Wilson became the owner of the battery, tailings, other plant, furnace, water rights etc. He formed the Te Aroha Silver - and Gold - Mining Co. and planned to spend about ₤20,000 developing the field, extending the water races and erecting a new smelting furnace. The Te Aroha Battery Co. had stopped driving operations in the New Find claim, concentrating on working blocks already opened up, but Wilson let contracts to carry on the drive and sink more winzes.

He engaged Mr John Howell, a mining expert from America, to refurbish the whole battery. This was started in July 1888, and when completed at a total cost of ₤22,780, the battery was described as ....."one of the best plants in the whole of the Australasian colonies..." But no sooner was the plant erected than the company found out that the quality of ore they were led to expect was in the lode did not exist in sufficient quantity to keep the plant at work. Indeed, it is the same old story - instead of spending several thousands of pounds in prospecting and testing the mine, the company had full confidence in the information they received, and spent their capital in the erection of a plant. (Mr H.A. Gordon, Inspecting Engineer, to Hon. T. Fergus, Minister of Mines, April 1890).

So the company reduced the scale of its operations, and only kept the Werahiko and New Era claims working. But even this was not worthwhile, so during 1890 Wilson's syndicate removed the concentrating plant to Australia. The rest of the plant was sold to former manager, H.H. Adams, and a Mr Wicks for ₤3,000. Buying and improving the plant had cost Wilson's company over ₤60,000. Despite this, optimism, as always, prevailed. The Minister of mines, Hon. R.J. Seddon, reported to the House of Representatives in 1891: "Notwithstanding the great loss sustained by this company or syndicate, there are reasons to believe that the mines will turn out a great deal of gold, and that Te Aroha will yet become a large mining district."

Adams and Wicks, as the Te Aroha Syndicate Co., consolidated their operations. Of the 213 1/3 acres of claims, they only continued to work the Silver King and New Find areas. The battery was dismantled, and only 20 heads of stamps out of the original 50 and 30 berdans, were retained. The plant kept a few men employed, and with one or two other prospecting parties, it represented the sum of mining activities in the district. In addition to the Syndicate Co's Silver King and New Find claims, the Premier was also being worked. This had belonged to the ill-fated New Era Co., but was taken over by Newsham and a party of two men. In 1892 and 1893, the main battery crushed a total of only 3,116 tons of quartz and 1,125 tons of tailings, earning him 627 oz. of gold worth £l,711.

Adams withdrew from the Waiorongomai field in 1895, selling his interest to Messrs Middleton and Fleming for ₤4,000 (privilege of prospecting) with the right to purchase the plant within one year for ₤8,000 which they did. Malcolm Fleming had previously worked at the Thames goldfields, and very soon after the two men had taken up the 300 acres at Waiorongomai, they received "a very tempting offer" from the New Zealand Exploration Company, which was accepted. The N.Z. Exploration Co. was in fact an English company, and it managed its Waiorongomai interests as Aroha Gold-Mines Ltd. By 1896 the company had acquired mining rights on 395 acres of land, including almost all of the small claims that were profitable in the early days. It did quite a bit of driving in various claims, and treated a total of 308 tons of quartz by wet-crushing and amalgamation (42% recovery of gold) and 400 tons by dry-crushing and the cyanide process (85% recovery). Prospecting was carried out on most of the claims, including the Seddon, Cadman, Welcome, Loyalty Palace, New Munster, Great Western etc. An average of 60 men were employed, and things were beginning to look up for the district.

In 1896 the Exploration Company started work on a project which had first been suggested a full ten years before, when Firth and Clark owned the battery. Instead of digging vertical shafts in claims further up the valley at an altitude of 1,500-2,000 ft. the idea was to start a low level tunnel at the bottom of the valley and drive it right along the main reef for some 2¼ miles. This would obviate the need for double-handling and expensive transport down the tramway and also enable greater areas of the main reef to be got at easily. The cost was estimated to be at least £30,000. By April 1897 300 ft. of the tunnel had been driven, being 11 ft. high by 8 ft. wide in the clear to take a locomotive and wagons. A single tramway with passing loops ran the length of it and underneath the track was a rimu box drain. The drive was closely timbered with 10in. by 8in. sawn rimu and split slabs, and cost about ₤3 per foot. It was intended to use compressed-air rock-drills to speed the driving of the tunnel, so a high level water race consisting of 1,300 ft. of 14in. steel pipes was constructed. This had a fall of 630 ft. and drove a 10 ft. pelton wheel, producing 104 hp. which powered the 75psi air compressor. By April 1898 the air compressor was practically complete, with one 2 in. and one 7 in. air pipes laid the length of the tunnel, but the water power was not yet available. The tunnel had been extended to a length of 1,230 ft. and the size reduced to 8 ft. by 8 ft. so that the gold-producing areas could be reached quickly.

Driving also continued in the company's Colonist and Silver King claims, but neither proved payable. Because most of the company's work was concentrated on driving the low-level tunnel, no quartz was crushed at the battery. During 1897, employing 44 men cost the company ₤9,500, and it could not continue to expend great sums of money on exploration and development without financial return. The company had spent a total of ₤15,000 in development without finding gold in payable quantities in the low level.

The fortunes of the district at this time were also closely related to the success of the Rev. Joseph Campbell's "thermo-hyperphoric process" of treating refractory ore. Campbell developed the treatment for dealing with large quantities of low-grade ore. The Montezuma Company commenced in 1897 to erect a plant in the Tui Creek area, just north of Te Aroha, based on the thermo-hyperphoric process.. It was thought that the Waiorongomai district would once again be profitable if this process was a success.

The plant was gas-powered, with a 70 hp. engine capable of breaking 50 tons of ore per day down to pea-sized lumps or dust. The ore was then fed to furnaces heated by producer gas to 2,000°F. and remained there for two hours while being subject to treatment by water-gas. This, it was hoped, would remove the base metals to which the gold was complexed, thus making it suitable for amalgamation. 95% of the gold being extracted at a cost of only 8s per ton. By 1898 the plant had been erected but the process not perfected. Two years later Campbell was still "actively experimenting" with the process, but had not met with much success. Despite the optimism showed for it and faith put in it, the thermo-hyperphoric process was never successful, and did not give the promised boost to the Waiorongomai field.

In 1898 the Waiorongomai battery and mines changed hands yet again, this time to Edwin Henry Hardy. Hardy had been educated at Otago University and in England, and before coming to Waiorongomai had spent sixteen years in the civil service as Government Surveyor in Otago and Auckland. He formed the Te Aroha Gold-Mining Co., and employed twelve men to repair the old battery and water races. The company acquired the right to use the tramway, and opened once again the Empire and New Find claims. A trial crushing of 200 tons from there proved to be "exceedingly encouraging". Despite being able to use only five of the ten heads of stamps at the battery because of a shortage of water. 1,006 tons of ore were crushed in the year ending 31st March 1900, yielding 738 oz. 16cwt. of gold worth ₤1,974/4/7. Hardy started working the field after a great deal of capital had been used to develop it, thus being able to reap the benefits of others' efforts. In fact, the quartz from the Empire and New Find claims that was so profitable was taken from the side of winzes sunk by previous owners. He also did not commit the mistake made by so many previous companies - that of over-expansion before the claims had proved themselves to be profitable. The battery was kept small but complete: ten heads of stamps, six berdans, one Watson and Denny and one Fraser amalgamating pans, one Union Vanner, one Witly [Wilfley - E] concentrator, and cyanide appliances.

Hardy continued to operate profitably for several years. In 1900 he turned his efforts to the Premier claim, where he did much driving and stoping He also excavated an open cut 60 ft. long, 20 ft. wide, and 4 feet deep in the Big Blow claim on the main reef at the northern end of Buck Rock. This was to be connected directly to the battery by aerial wire tramway, to supply ore if the more distant mines were ever cut off. 200 tons of ore were taken from the Big Blow claim and proved to be payable, so 7,000 ft., of wire rope was purchased for the aerial line.

In 1901 the Empire claim ran out of easily accessible and profitable ore, so the 20 men were dismissed, and six months protection placed on the property. Work continued in the Premier claim, where ₤1,490/13/7 worth of gold was extracted. Hardy's success carried on and in 1902 he purchased ten heads of stamps with which to expand the battery. From his purchasing of the property to that date, he had crushed 3,545 tons of quartz, yielding ₤8,222/10.0 worth of gold, an average of ₤2/6/5 per ton. This average was quite high, and coupled with low operating costs enabled Hardy to run his concern profitably.

In order to develop the property more systematically and with more capital, Hardy floated a company. Hardy's Mines (Limited), which in April 1904 took over his interests. The new company spent that year altering and extending the battery, which was consequently non-productive for that period. Operations started again in the 1905-6 year, and the first half of it was spent opening up a low level drive below the tramway. The quartz was raised to the tramline by winding gear driven by Pelton wheels. But the ore there was not as rich as expected, so some men were discharged, and the rest put to work in the Premier section. 1727 tons of ore were crushed, yielding an average value of ₤3/13.6 per ton. Although this was higher than most districts... "the general results are not reported as being profitable when spread over the whole of the company's operations". (Mines Report. 1906). The workforce was reduced from twenty men to six, and for six months the company’s properties were under protection. Hardy's Mines (Limited) had rights to 500 acres of land, but lacked the capital to develop them, having already spent ₤18,400 in this way. Although Hardy had extracted plenty of gold "... the company has not so far been able to secure enough of the precious metal to carry on the works their scheme proposes without getting into debt, hence the desire to obtain time to find further means to extend their mining operations." (Mining Warden's Report, 1907).

In 1907 Hardy Mine's (Limited) let a contract for what was to be their last operation: the driving of McLean's addition on the No. 5 level in the Colonist lode. This kept an average of ten men employed, without producing any gold returns, until 1910 when the company went into liquidation. Its assets were bought by a syndicate of people from Napier who intended to thoroughly develop the property. The battery was sold in the next year to the Westralia group, and the syndicate (Hardy's Mines) concentrated on driving in the Premier claim. However, their capital was exhausted even more quickly than the previous owner's and the mines were placed under protection in 1912. The syndicate decided to treat some 3,000 tons of the tailings left from the early days which, it will be remembered, still contained about 50% of the assay value of gold because of the inefficient extraction process that was the downfall of the district. So a small cyanide plant was built in 1913 and treatment of the tailings began. 1750 tons treated during the next year, and ₤1,427/7/8 worth of gold being extracted.

Meanwhile, several other claims were operating in the valley. Thomas Gavin, who for some years had been prospecting at Waiorongomai and who had at one time been mine manager for the Aroha Gold-Mines Co. Ltd., formed the Bendigo Company in 1908 and made a claim near the Waiorongomai Stream. Work was mainly limited to the Silver King reef where a portion 8 ft. wide was worked, the foot-wall portion assays giving a value of ₤3/19/1 per ton, which the manager considered encouraging. On the basis of this, the company started building a small crushing plant to treat the ore, which was completed in 1910, but not until the following year was it connected to the county tramway by an aerial rope-way. In the meantime, about 1,000 tons of ore was broken out of the Silver King mine and stored. As soon as crushing began, it was found that the ore extracted from the mine was not of as high grade as that used for the trial crushing. The plant also needed alterations to obtain a higher extraction of gold, so it was shut down pending the alterations being carried out. The small battery and cyanide plant were bought back into operation in 1912, but for 246 tons of ore treated, only £33/11/7 worth of gold was extracted, a result so bitterly disappointing (2/9 per ton) that the company ceased operations.

The Bendigo lode was worked in a desultory fashion for a while, with several men employed just after the First World War. By 1920, 300 tons of ore had been broken out, to await treatment by the new oil-flotation process. But when it was treated in the next year, "the results did not come up to anticipation, and work has been temporarily suspended." (Mines Report, 1922).

The "temporary" closure was, however, to be permanent. The crushing battery was removed, but its concrete foundations and the cyanide vans can still be seen about ¾ mile up the Waiorongomai Stream from the old township, at the bottom of Butler's Spur.

The only other claim being worked at that time worthy of mention was the Westralia, which was up near the head of the Premier Creek, adjacent to the claim of that name. In 1910 this company, under J. Tallentire, was prospecting on three levels with satisfactory results. A trial crushing of 15 tons of quartz yielded gold worth ₤30/5/11. The twenty-head battery, water races etc. were bought from the syndicate operating Hardy's Mines. The Westralia company intended to put the battery in order and install cyanide vats by April 1913.

The company was bought out by the Waitawheta Gold Prospecting Company who continued to work the Vulcan and Bonanza lodes, and who owned the main battery when it was destroyed by fire in January 1912. They quickly erected a new ten stamp mill and cyanide plant on the site of the old plant. Records for the years of the First World War are scant, and little is known of the company's activities during that time. It seems, though, that the plant was for some of that period leased to a contractor who used it to crush road metal, for sale to the public.

It was bought from the Waitawheta Gold Prospecting Co., by the Piako County Council in 1918. In the following year a special poll of ratepayers authorised a loan of ₤7,000 for roading works in the county, and included in that sum was ₤1,600 for improvements or extensions to the Waiorongomai stone-crushing plant. The concrete structure containing hoppers, etc. that is still present at the end of the road was erected at this time, and it does not date from gold-mining days (although it is still referred to as "Hardy's Battery").

The quarry was located about 15 chains up the valley on the western side of the stream, and is still evident as a large open flat area through which the main track passes. A tramway (quite distinct from the gold-mining tramway) was built to connect it to the crushing plant, and stone was transported by horse-drawn trucks. However, difficulties were experienced with the amount of overburden and the mixed quality of the metal. A special committee of the P.C.C. studied the problems and recommended that mainly because of the cost of grading and sorting the metal, the quarry should be closed. The Council adopted their report and the quarry and plant were shut down in late 1927. The crushing plant was removed and presumably sold or scrapped.

Hardy's Mines continued to crush the tailings at their plant throughout the First World War, but on a very small scale, with only two or three men being employed in this work, finishing at the end of the war. The field lay quiet until 1934-35, when the Waiorongomai Gold-Mines Ltd did quite a lot of driving in the Cadman and Bonanza claims, but work was suspended because of lack of capital.

In 1936 E.H. Hardy's son, Malcolm was working on the Colonist reef, and also retimbering McLean's adit, which was the last major drive by Hardy's Mines when the Napier syndicate was at work. The work in McLean's adit was done to enable sampling to be carried out on behalf of an option holder. The sampling took several months of 1937, and six men were employed The sample was sent to America for analysis, and in the meantime work was carried out on the Hero lode. The property was taken over by a company in the next year, and ore was extracted from the Hero lode, picked or reduced in size and shipped to the Electrolytic Smelting and Refining CNO Ltd., Port Kembla, New South Wales, for treatment. Malcolm Hardy continued with this work until the end of the war, when the last mining operation in the valley closed down permanently.

Today, visitors to the valley can still see signs of mining activity, the county tramway being the most obvious. Apart from the lowest incline and level section, most of the tramway is in surprisingly good condition and is in use as a walking track.

The rails are in place, and the winding gear is still at the head of both upper inclines. The stables that once sheltered the tramway horses have unfortunately fared less well. Over the past five or six years they have gradually collapsed, and can no longer be utilised by travellers during a typical Waiorongomai rainstorm. "Hardy's Hut" at Canadian Gully has suffered more at the hands of vandals than from the vagaries of the weather, but is still used as trampers' accommodation. The New Era Reduction Works have almost completely disappeared apart from an obvious artificially-levelled section, although the careful observer may notice the levels cut out of the slope for the quartz hopper, stone breaker, and calcining furnace, and also traces of the latter’s brickwork. The valley contains many features, of interest to most people, whether they be historians, rockhounds, trampers, or just families on a short outing in the bush.


I would like to extend my appreciation to the friends with whom I have explored the valley over the past six years, especially Greg Frater who helped get this study off the ground and constructively criticised the draft. I am also grateful to Professor David Bettison and Margaret Oaten for stimulating discussions and encouragement to continue this work. The staff of the following libraries have been very helpful: University of Waikato, Alexander Turnbull, Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton Teachers College.

The Piako County Engineer kindly searched Council records to provide information on the quarry and crushing plant. Any errors, of course, remain my own.

Above all, I am deeply grateful to my wife, Joanne, for her continued encouragement in the writing of this, and her sharing of my interest in Waiorongomai.

Selected References:

Appendix to the Journal of the House of Representatives. 1882-1945. (Annual mines reports, including reports by inspecting engineer and mines warden).

Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, vol. 2 Christchurch. Cyclopaedia Co. 1902 (p. 472 E.H. Hardy: p. 835 Waiorongomai).

Downey, J.F. Goldmines of the Hauraki District, New Zealand. Wellington Government Printer, 1935 (pp 255-261, including a map).

Galvin, P. (ed) New Zealand Mining Handbook. Wellington Government Printer, 1906 (p. 281, 316-329).

Henderson, J. & Barton J.A. [Bartrum - E] The geology of the Aroha subdivision, Hauraki, Auckland. N.Z. Geol. Surv. Bull no. 16 (new series). Wellington Government Printer, 1913: (numerous references, especially pp 13-15, 116-118, maps; facing p89 and loose).

N.Z. Mines Department. Handbook of New Zealand mines. Wellington, Government Printer, 1887 (pp 322-327).

N.Z. Mines Record, vol. 1 (1897-98) pp 13, 102-3,155, 298-9, 522 vol. 3 (1899-1900) pp 45-6.

Stone, R.C.J. Makers of Fortune: a colonial business community and its downfall. Auckland University Press, 1973. (information on J.C. Firth and J.M. Clark, and the Te Aroha Battery Co.).

Vennell, C.W. and More, D. Land of the three rivers; a centennial history of Piako County; Auckland, Wilson and Horton 1976. (Ch. 20 pp 279-288).

Williams, G.J. Economic Geology of New Zealand. Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Monograph No. 4 Victoria, 1974: (map of reefs, p. 121).

With permission Te Aroha and District Museum