Tuwharetoa Timber Incorporations
Maori timber incorporations in the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribal area in the centre of the North Island, have in recent years not only enabled the Maori owners to gain full value from their timber and lands, but have been investing surplus monies in modern buildings to provide another valued source of income.
First to do so was Proprietors Puketapu 3A Block Inc., which erected a concrete two-storey office block in the centre of Taumarunui. Besides the incorporation's own offices and board room, the block houses several government departments in modern office suites, and produces a regular income from rentals.
In 1967 a second incorporation erected a two-storey office block in the new Turangi township, which is also revenue producing, being fully occupied by tenants.
Most recent was the action of Hauhungaroa 2C Block Inc., which spent $100,000 on a two-storey showroom and office block, also at Taumarunui. As investments, all three are proving profitable for their owners.
The Hauhungaroa building, named ‘Te Maunga House’, has added interest from the Maori viewpoint, in that the construction was done by the firm of Johnson Bros.
The three young Maori brothers and their staff have earned an enviable reputation for efficiency and were also the builders of the Taumarunui Borough Council's modern chambers.
In many other cases and other areas, once the bush has been felled, the land has reverted to scrub and cutover bush and is almost totally non-productive.
Under the wise guidance of management committees over the years, the incorporations have used a percentage of the royalties from timber sales to develop the cleared land into rich pasture and to stock it.
The ‘father’ of Maori timber incorporations is Taumarunui Maori leader and scholar Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones, O.B.E., and they are based to some degree on land incorporations which have operated successfully on the East Coast.
Dr Jones was employed at one time by the Department of Maori and Island Affairs at the time it was known as the Native Department, and was appointed to pioneer Maori land development under the auspices of the Department. The then Minister for Maori Affairs, Sir Apirana Ngata, invited him to visit the East Coast to see how the incorporations were operating. During his month there Dr Jones was greatly impressed by the system and stored the knowledge away for further use. Dr Jones had interests in forests in the Lake Taupo area and when State Highway 41 was pushed through to the lake in the early post World War II years—until then the road had gone only to the Waituhi trig—there was access to work on the development of the timber resources.
When the first move was made towards the establishment of the first incorporation, Proprietors Puketapu 3A Block Inc., Dr Jones met with a lot of departmental opposition. At a meeting of owners at Waihi pa, attended by the then Minister, Mr Skinner, and his officers, both Maori Affairs and Forest Service, a motion was finally carried by the people. Mr Skinner generously wished Dr Jones luck in the new venture but the departmental officers ‘threw up their hands in despair’ and predicted early failure.
The management committee had to work in the face of considerable opposition for three or four years, but then faith in the proposal started to bear fruit and progress was made.
The Government had offered to take over the marketing of the timber at a guarantee of four shillings per 100 feet royalty for the whole area. Some incorporations today are receiving about $2.50 per 100 feet.
Puketapu at one time operated its own sawmills and joinery factories, but sold these a few years ago to the Fletcher organization
for $2 million—a far cry from the days when 4s. per 100 feet was offered.
Proprietors Puketapu 3A Block Inc. controls 16,000 acres, of which 4,000 acres is in grass and the rest is in virgin and worked-over bush. More development is constantly being planned. The highly successful farming operations are being carried out under the supervision of Mr P. Hura, O.B.E. Puketapu bush still has approximately six or seven more years of cutting at the present rate.
Proprietors Hauhungaroa 2C Block Inc. originally had 8,000 acres, which was half in top quality bush. Unlike Puketapu, which has had to overcome difficult topography, the Hauhungaroa 2C bush has been on fairly easy contoured land. This incorporation later bought out 4,000 acres of the adjoining Waihaha 3D2 block from the Maori owners and also administers the 6,000 acre Whakarawa block under trust. The incorporation was formed in 1947 with Mr Robert Keepa as its chairman, a position he has held since.
The management committee recognized early the need to replace the dwindling timber and so started land development on behalf of the 200 or more shareholders. In the first 13 years there were 70 million feet of timber taken from the block and today Mr W. Porteous is carrying out logging operations on behalf of the incorporation at a rate of about six million log feet a year. There is an estimated seven years of cutting left at the present rate. The bush roading has been useful for farm access, and since farm development started in 1958, 4,500 acres have been developed.
Further development is following the bush working. A programme of re-afforestation has been undertaken and 50 acres is already planted in radiata pine and Douglas fir.
According to Mr Keepa, with 300 acres of bush being cut each year, the plan is to plant 100 acres in trees and 200 acres in grass. The new farmland is being broken in by contractors while four permanent stockmen and three general hands are engaged to care for the 9,000 ewes, 3,000 dry sheep, 500 cows and the quantity of run cattle that is currently being carried on the property.
Logging operations are still being carried out by yet another incorporation, Hauhungaroa 1C. Of a total of 10,000 acres, there are still three or four years of cutting left. There are 3,000 acres under grass. As the timber royalties on the block were not as substantial as those of Puketapu or the 2C block, the Department of Maori and Island Affairs has been carrying out the development on behalf of the owners.
Oraukura 3 Block Inc. has had a close alliance of management with Hauhungaroa 1C and Puketapu blocks and is turning out to be a valuable block of land. In the early days, this area, which adjoins Puketapu, had some sheep farming carried out and the only flax mill in the area was located here. There are about 3,000 acres in the block of which 1,500 acres is either in grass or ready for sowing down. The Department of Maori and Island Affairs is also developing this block.
The Hautu Incorporation at one time owned a block of land which the owners withheld from sale when the Crown bought the land for the Tongariro prison farms. The area held back was around the trout spawning grounds for Lake Taupo. In order to protect the spawning grounds the Crown exchanged a block of bush which is now being worked.
So from small beginnings have grown large financial interests and the future is being protected for Maori land owners by incorporation.