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No. 25 (December 1958)
– 31 –

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This is the main track to Albatross Point, near which the new harbour may be one day built. The depth of the ironsand deposit may be imagined from the height of these dunes. (W. Martin)

THE IRONSANDS OF TAHAROA

TAHAROA has suddenly become famous. Three years ago very few people had even heard of this small remote Maori village; the only facts about Taharoa known to the scholar were that in 1820. Taharoa was the scene of a battle between the Waikato and the Ngati Toa people under Te Rauparaha, and that as a result of this battle Ngati Toa began his eventful journey southward. After that a Waikato group, all descendants of Kiwi, and part of the Ngati Mahuta subtribe, settled in the fertile valleys and fished in the lakes, rivers and inlets.

When the King Movement started, the people of Taharoa became its ardent supporters. Indeed, long after the King Country was surveyed and settled, the people continued to resist the inroads of the European. The government, in spite of much effort, was never quite able to persuade the people to have a road built to their settlement, so that their isolation was maintained and their present way of life must be almost unique in New Zealand.

It is these people, resourceful and industrious, but as remote as possible from the rest of New Zealand, who found one day that they were the centre of interest of scientists, officials, business men, and the press as the holders of one of the major iron reserves of the world. The dark sand on their beaches, hitherto regarded only as an increasing danger to farm lands, turned out to be worth millions of pounds.

But it was not only a matter of money. All these intruders made it clear that one day in the not distant future Taharoa would be a centre of industry; there would need to be a port, there would need to be separating machinery to take iron ore out of the sand. There is even a possibility of the ore being smelted in Taharoa, but this depends on the process to be used. And the experts found that Taharoa was just the right place for an industrial site—plenty of fresh water in the lakes and this would be needed in huge quantities to separate the ore; and a perfect natural harbour. Of course a modern road would need to be built but if this was done. Taharoa would be close to cities, coal supplies and all the rest.

Who exactly are the people of Taharoa to whom this strange thing is going to happen? And what, in a few words, is the iron and steel industry it is planned to set up? How are the people of Taharoa going to benefit from it? We shall try to answer these questions in the following pages and first we shall present a picture of the life of the people of Taharoa, written by Miss Ngahinaturae Te Uira, herself from Taharoa, and at present in Wellington on a Social Science bursary.