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No. 25 (December 1958)
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TAHAROA–how isolated it is—a small secluded Maori settlement bounded to the North and East by bush-clad hills; to the South by the Taharoa Lake and to the West by the ever thundering breakers of the Tasman Sea as it meets the expensive sand-dunes of the propossed Iron and Steel Industry. Inland from the sand dunes is the farming land of fertile soil, interspersed here and there with streams and swamps.

Taharoa is situated nine miles from the nearest township of Kawhia to the north and sixty miles from Otorohanga and Te Kuiti to the east. Access to Taharoa is difficult and there are two main routes. From Kawhia, one travels by launch across the harbour to Te Maika, where is situated a small grocery store and a post office from which the Taharoa people collect their mail and make odd purchases of food. From Te Maika, one must be a reasonable horseman, for the road that lies ahead is no road, but a track, across mudflats, through hilly bush country, ever winding uphill and downhill, to the inessant slush, slush of hogholes and squetching mud under the horses' hooves for seven miles; then suddenly between the ridges overlooking the fringes of the bush, one sees Taharoa in the distance—a valley-like vision, green, peaceful and secluded.

Now perhaps the other route, from Otorohanga or Te Kuiti, past the Waitomo Caves, has one advantage—that is, one can travel by car over the sixty miles to the end of the road—the Taharoa Lakeside. However, in taking this route, one must make arrangements beforehand to be

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General view of the ore field with the lake on the left and the sea coast on the right. The settlement is in the foreground on the left. (W. Martin photograph)

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Paica Makate and daughter Maria in centre a vast area of dunes. (W. Martin photograph)

met by one of the met by once of the boat owners of Taharoa, other wise one may suffer the misfortune of being stranded without anyone knowing about it. If arrangements have been made, then the traveller will reach Taharoa after half an hour's ride over the Lake on an outboard motor boat.

The Maori families are almost divided, geographically, into two settlements. The settlement nearest the Lake consists of nine homes and the only school, and almost five miles away, nearer the coast the other five homes are situated. Each settlement has its own meeting house, but unlike usual Maori villages, the private homes are not centred in close proximity to these meeting houses, but scattered over wide areas. Each home is of modern up to date standard, built by the owners, fully furnished, and some with refrigerators and washing machines worked by kerosene fed motors. Every home has a telephone and almost every home has a radio powered by portable hatteries. This is in spite of the fact that the area, due to roading difficulties has had no State development schemes and in spite of the need to bring all building materials to the area by boat and on sleges drawn by horses. There is no electricity and cooking is done with ranges, there being no restrictions of firewood for titree is abundant. Lighting is provided by the use of Tilley and Coleman benzine lamps and almost every housewife has a kerosene steam iron.

These fourteen families are descendants of their common ancestor. Intermarriage is er aged by the older members of the families indeed is common, but out of the for families in Taharoa today, only one marris the result of the Maori custom of betroth birth. Three of the wives, although relates from outside the Taharoa District.

Families co-operate at crop planting harvesting times, at sheep shearing times a communal gatherings such as weddings, sports, football and basketball matche funerals, and annually, at the local Cora celebrations of the Maori King, of what people are loyal supporters. The school and the local football and basketball teams visit outside districts for matches, and the and junior players of football never practis they almost always win their matches win result that “Home” matches are quite free and young and old travel by horse from the near to watch.

On the whole, the life of the people re around the growing, the harvesting and procuring of food and the maintaining of sheep dry stock. Dairy farming was common some years ago but because of the high cost cartage of cream, people switched over to farming for which the fertile lands are excellently suited. All farmers now have their own sheds and shear by machine, shearing being co-operative effort of the whole community.

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The idea to make iron from the dark sand on New Zealand's beaches is not new. The first attempt was made as early as 1848 by J. Perry of New Plymouth. It failed. A dozen or so other attempts were made since. They all failed too.

They failed for various reasons. To mention only one of them, chemical analysis shows that the ironsands of Taranaki and northwards contain several substances beside iron: in particular they contain a substance called titania. It is very useful in the painting trade, but to those who tried to make iron out of black sand it was a very devil. It has put many blast furnaces out of commission. And nobody quite knew how to handle this titania until the Norwegians and Swedes who have huge amounts of the same kind of ore, found a way about fifteen years ago.

Naturally, this Scandinavian discovery encouraged the New Zealanders to try again.

In 1949, a full survey was made of what had become known as the ‘Taranaki ironsands’. This survey was a revelation. For experts had previously believed that most of this sand was on beaches between Wanganui and Waitara (really in Taranaki) but that it might produce something like 27 million tons of iron. The survey proved that the most valuable deposits were not in Taranaki at all, but much further north, and also that the total amount of iron in these sands would be close to 400 million tons—a significant part of the world's reserves of iron.

It was at that stage that Taharoa's great store of iron was first revealed to scientists.

The second important event in 1949 were the ironsand smelting trials held at Onekaka, using the techniques discovered by the Norwegians. These tests, together with further work done by Mr W. R. B. Martin, proved that iron could be produced out of the sand at a price well below what is paid for British and Australian products.

It was 1955 when this proof was finally given. Early in 1956, a syndicate was formed with the purpose of developing the ironsand resources of Taharoa. Negotiations were started with the owners of the ironsand, the Ngati Mahuta.

As followers of the Maori King, the people of Taharoa decided it would be fitting for them to employ the King's own solicitor. Mr B. D. O'Shea, of Ngaruawahia, was therefore given this weighty brief.

At the Maori Land Court sitting of 15 May 1957, there was general agreement to cede the land for mining purposes under the Mining Act 1976. Before this could be done however, the Court would have to be satisfied that this met with the wishes of the majority of owners. With some 80 separate Maori titles involved, it would be hard to reach a common decision. It was therefore decided to try and constitute one title for the ironsand area. Mr M. V. Bell, recently retired Maori Land Court Commissioner, was engaged to bring the titles up to date.

What will happen when this is finished? To begin with, the successful syndicate will have to put down more bores to find out how much ironsand there is and what its composition is. Then, no doubt, there will be sample shipments to furnaces abroad. Finally, a decision will be made as to the smelting process to be used and the way the whole industry is to be organized. Nobody can tell yet what form it will take. But it is clear that the end-result will transform Taharoa. It will provide the people with some money in royalties, but more important, it will bring them modern amenities, steady jobs, and incidentally—the removal of the ever encroaching dunes will protect the fertile farmlands of Taharoa.

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Taipua Te Uira has run the Lake Taharoa for more than twenty years. (Barbara Baigent Photograph.)

sea is a ready source of food—fish, such as shark, the fishing for which is done by the men only on moonlight nights—and schnapper—at any time while the tide is flowing—as fishing is done from the rocks or the shore, and not from boats. Diving for crayfish and sea-eggs is a special task for the men only, while picking cockles and other shellfish is the tedious task of the women who are sometimes joined by the young folk.

Quite often during school holidays in the summer, families camp together on the beach, staying there for a week or two weeks as farm tasks will allow. At these times, the children excel themselves, in fishing, in swimming, in galloping their horses over the sand dunes, in exploring caves and in playing games, and for them it is a time of respite from the daily home chores that are allotted to them by their parents.

The many streams running from the Lake flow into the sea not far from the camping ground, and on moonless night, the men, women and children, with improvised shaded kerosene lamps, take part in spearing for eels. What food supplies are yielded from the sea and the streams are cooked and eaten as a welcome change of diet by the campers, and that which cannot be eaten fresh is preserved—by salting and drying in the sun—for later use.

When the holidays are over, the families return to their homes, and the children to school. The School Teacher and his wife, if they are Europeans, are thus the only Europeans in the settlement, and they often regard Taharoa as the “God forsaken place.” Nevertheless, they are accepted by the people and looked upon with respect. Both are welcomed, if they are so inclined, as members of the football and basketball teams, and also both are welcomed at all the communal gatherings. Then parents have a close interest in the school, and there is a school committee which organises the raising of funds by card evenings at the school, for the end of the year picnics for the school children, for sports or for concert visits to other schools such as Kawhia, and Kinohaku. Unfortunately, very few of the pupils move on to higher education, the attitudes of the parents being not to allow their children to leave them, and also that there is plenty of work to be done at home on the farms. Nevertheless, some do leave the district to work on European farms for wages, to work as labourers in the Railways Department, as carpenters with building firms, and at present two are at the University. More often than not, they return for Christmas with their families.

The question arises, “Do these families ever venture out of their isolation?” They must, or how else could they have acquired the innovation of modern up-to-date housing; the shearing sheds, and the water pumps and piping for water from underground springs and wells to their meeting houses and private homes? They know when

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A section of the Te Maika track used for a hundred years and worn down to more than the height of a mountain rider. (Barbora Baigent photograph)



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they must have their wool ready for the New Zealand or overseas sales, and the men attend the sheep and stock sales either to sell or to buy; and this means travelling away from home. The men attend to the farm needs, while the women attend to the family and household needs, and for the women, stocktaking is an important task. Isolation has its restrictions, and thus flour and sugar are bought by the bag, and also other cooking ingredients for home baking are procured at the same time. Travelling in Winter is difficult and sometimes dangerous, and one must have enough supplies for the family to last the whole of winter. For these purposes, the women travel to Kawhia, Otorohanga, Te Awamutu or Te Kuiti.

Most families attend the annual Coronation Celebrations of the Maori King at Turangawaewae Pa in October, and on these occasions, they learn of new policies of the New Zealand Government affecting the Maori people; they renew old acquaintances, and take part in the activities of old Maori institutions concerning their culture, their arts and crafts, at which the Maori King is the figurehead. The families also attend the Maori Land Court sittings in Kawhia; especially when there are applications of interest to them such as that of application for a Prospecting Licence over their ancestral lands—the sand dunes.

There are no problem families in Taharoa and seldom any problems that cannot be generally discussed and solved by the people themselves. Time for them is regulated by the seasons of the year, by the phases of the moon and by the sun and the stars. They are the descendants of ancestors who have lived in the environment of economic resourcefulness. Their circumstances have favoured them, as is evident from the obvious contentment of the families, in their free relationships, and in their high standard of living.


The winner of the men's title at the 20th annual Maori national golf championships in Rotorua was J. Chapman (Titirangi).

The women's title went to Mrs R. L. Sage (Hamilton).

Semi final and finals resulted as follows: Men's Championship, Semi finals—J. Chapman (Titirangi) beat D. Morison (Springfield, titleholder). 1 up; J. Doherty (Springfield) beat E. Gray (Otaki) 2 and 1. Final—Chapman beat Doherty, 1 up.

Women's Championship, Semi final—Mrs R. I., Sage (Hamilton) beat Mrs P. August (Napier) 2 and 1: Mrs D. Wilkie (Wanganui) beat Mrs T. Lawrence (Springfield) 4 and 2. Final—Mrs Sage beat Mrs Wilkie, 2 and 1.