PIONEERS on PUMICE LANDS
“Who in the days that lie ahead can assess the invisible asset the creation of which may be attributed to the Young Maori Party leaders in their attempt to conquer the uninviting soils of Rotorua.”
Sir Apirana Ngata, in 1932
LAND development operations on the Horohoro pumice lands, commencing early in 1930, have a special place in Maori history. They mark the fulfilment of the chief ideas behind the Young Maori Party whose prime mover was the late Sir Apirana Ngata. Being the first scheme to be started under the land development legislation, Horohoro pioneered the agricultural movement which has achieved the greatest social improvement of all times for the rural Maori.
Even for people backed up by Sir Apirana Ngata and an act of parliament, pioneering is never easy. It was therefore with just pride that Horohoro elders, at the jubilee celebrations last February, looked back on their 25 years of effort to bring their lands into production.
The Horohoro lands were saved from being a forestry project by the action of Raharuhi Pururu who entered negotiations for the lease of the land at a nominal figure to another Maori. Raharuhi Pururu took this action as he realised that the land was valuable for more than the growing of trees and with the hope that one day it would be brought under cultivation.
In 1931–32 the Geological Survey Branch made a field survey of the pumice area and other belts. Horohoro soil it was found was derived from the Taupo shower. It had a generous rainfall which was well distributed throughout the year.
The summer temperatures are high while the winter temperatures are low. Ground frosts are fairly common from April to November. Owing to the low temperatures pasture growth in this area is slow moving until after October.
The Taupo soils were found liable to develop an anemia (bush sickness) but this has been mastered by the Agriculture Department through the use of cobalt first applied through licks and later through topdressing. It was, however, a handicap to the development of the pumice lands which we are liable to forget and we should not forget the men of science who did so much to make Rotorua and the pumice lands such a great dairy and sheep country.
The founding of Horohoro was an appeal to the spirit of adventure of the Maori and to a pioneering spirit which was necessary to develop these second class lands of the dominion. What might be termed the Horohoro system was conceived after passage of the Maori Land Act, 1929.
The then Minister of Maori Affairs met the owners of the Horohoro blocks at Ohinemutu on the 29th November, 1929, when they agreed that their lands should be brought under Part 23 of that act and that a portion of the land should be offered to the Wairoa people. This area was 8,343 acres. The Wairoa people of the Kahungunu tribe were introduced to Horohoro in an endeavour to lead the Arawas in their farming activities. Farming in the Wairoa area, it must be remembered, was far in advance of that existing among the Maoris in the Rotorua district at this time. On the 21st January, 1930, a party of Wairoa Maoris, half of whom were returned soldiers under the leadership of Tupara Rotoatara Kingi who had held a lieutenant's commission in the Maori Pioneer
Battalion, left Wairoa for Horohoro. At the same time eight men of the Ngatituara and Ngatikearoa sub-tribes who owned the Horohoro blocks were selected by the owners to occupy and develop a portion. The Wairoa people worked from the centre southwards and the locals to the northern portion. A topo survey made at the time showed 100 farms. (The areas were suitable for depression economy but later proved uneconomic.) Raha ruhi Pururu, their leader and one of the largest owners, decided to devote his life to the success of development and a few months later resigned from the management of Mr Robert Levin's farm on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. (He has since seen this farm returned to Maori ownership and farmed by the Maori owners.)
The works at Horohoro such as the school, the church and the marae are the spirit of Ruhi and no finer memorial can be built for any man. Ruhi has built much of it himself by an unselfish devotion, industry and expenditure of much of his own personal wealth. During 1930–31 the development programme was vigorously pursued. A notable feature was the sudden expansion of the population. A school had to be erected but they started with marquees and the teachers lived in tents.
The total population at the end of the second year, men, women and children was 140 and so healthy were the conditions under which they lived and worked that although most of them were housed under canvas and the children taught in a marquee there was not a single death among them up to the end of March, 1932.
The effects of development at Horohoro lead people in the area and further afield to look at their land resources in a different light and convinced many refractory and difficult Maori communities that development in this manner was better than the isolated effort. The scheme built a fund of experience in handling other areas and demonstrated not only the possibilities of pumice land but a relation of land settlement to the health and social problems of the people.
This scheme did much to lift the spirit of the people in the serious years of depression. Nothing has fired the imagination more of the right thinking Maori in recent years or done so much in restoring to him the self respect which the loss of lands and other resources of his social state had almost destroyed.
Today along the Horohoro-Atiamuri roads we have under development 10 land development schemes ranging in area from 400 acres to 6,300 acres. In all the total area of the Horohoro schemes is 30,966 acres of which 15,243 acres are in grass. The stock at present carried on these schemes, which are mixed stations, are 28,600 sheep and 5,470 cattle. In addition to the scheme areas there are in the Horohoro area 18 unit farmers whose overall area is 3,097 acres with a grassed area of 2,849 acres and are at present carrying 4,400 sheep and 850 cattle. Many of these unit farmers have been granted leases and it is hoped that before long all of these settlers will have secure tenure. Upon completion of the development work on the 10 stations mentioned above it is anticipated that some 103 further farms will be settled in the Horohoro area. It is worthy of noting that since settlement in the Hororhoro area the coveted Ahuwhenua Trophy (which was presented by Lord Bledisloe a former Governor-General of the dominion for competition between Maori farmers in an endeavour to promote the farming standard) has been won four times by settlers at Horohoro—three first places being gained by dairy farmers (namely John Edwards, Tihema Kingi and Joe Wharekura) while first place for the sheep section of this trophy went last year to Patu Raharuhi.
The Hokianga County Council has adopted the increasingly popular idea of appointing a full-time officer to deal with Maori rates. He is Mr P. Wairua who will act as a liaison between the Council and the Maori people of the district on rating matters. In a meeting held last July, Maori leaders in the county resolved to drop the butterfat levy as a basis for rating and accept the European system, thus assuming all the usual burdens and privileges of ratepayers. Hokianga is the first Tokerau county to adopt this policy.
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A combined effort by the Waitemata Tribal Executive and M.W.W.L. District Council is being made to survey housing needs of Maori people in Auckland. Very detailed information is being gathered, and this new survey does not only aim at getting applications for State Houses, but covers every possible problem and solution.
Wide publicity was given in the Auckland press, which was very sympathetic to the efforts of Maori families to lead good lives in the face of great housing difficulties. The government, at the outset of the survey, promised every help in solving the problems revealed.