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Life in Early Poverty Bay

County of Cook — Now Ranks Fifth in Dominion — Trials of Early Administrators

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County of Cook
Now Ranks Fifth in Dominion
Trials of Early Administrators.

Together with other counties, the County of Cook was formed in 1876. Its boundaries at that time extended from Cape Runaway in the north to Paretu Bluff, south of Poverty Bay. The area was estimated to be not less than 2,000,000 acres. At the outset the capital value was held to be only £260,000 but, by 1890, on account of the growth of settlement, the rateable value had increased to £1,720,000. In that year the settlers in the northern portion of the district successfully petitioned for the constitution of a new county, which became known as Waiapu County, extending from Cape Runaway to Anaura. The new county had formed nearly one-half of the original County of Cook. By 1900, the rateable value of Cook County had advanced to £2,581,000. Subsequently Waiapu became subdivided, enabling the formation of the Matakaoa County. Cook County, too, became considerably diminished in area on account of the formation from within it of the counties of Waikohu and Uawa, whilst some southern areas have gone into Wairoa County.

The Cry of Roads and Bridges.

The hiving off of various districts into new counties was all for the best as, originally, the county was so cumbersome that the Council was unable to do justice to all parts with the small income and the small loans at its disposal. Those were the days when the cry of “Roads and Bridges” was to be heard loud and long throughout this portion of the Dominion. Difficult as it was to do much in the way of road-making in the more settled districts the case of the far distant settler was infinitely worse. As showing how hard it was to make real progress it may be mentioned that in 1882—that is in the days when the County remained undivided—it was proposed to raise a loan of £7000. for expenditure on the Patutahi-Wairoa, Waipaoa-Makaraka, Ormond-Makaraka and Makaraka-Town boundary roads. The rateable value of the County was then £40,000, the loan was to be for ten years, and the security was to be two per cent. of the annual rateable value. It was, inter alia, proposed to use limestone from the Patutahi quarry in place or river bed material. Makaraka riding was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal, as was Arai riding, but in the other districts, even the Ormond Riding, the voting was adverse to the suggestion. At Tolaga Bay, for instance, not a single vote was cast in its favor and the feeling was just as strongly hostile further north. It seems that by 1882 much good road work had already been done on the Flats and the Wairoa-Gisborne Road was being proceeded with at the Poverty Bay end.

Good Work By Road Boards.

By 1900 Cook County, as it then was, had 90 miles of metalled roads, 180 miles of formed and drained roads and about 100 miles of half-formed roads and tracks. Scarcity of good metal was, of course, the big problem, the material used costing as much as 16/6 per yard and being inferior at that. As regards bridges, a handicap was the absence of serviceable timber within the settled portion of the county. Timber for that purpose, mostly kauri, had to be imported from Auckland. By 1900 the revenue of the county was £9,200 and the expenditure £10,200, and the indebtedness of the county was £25,000 for loans and £6000 by way of overdraft. What very appreciably helped in the development of the page 196 page 197 county was of course the formation of various road boards—Whataupoko formed in 1882, Poverty Bay (1884), Kaiti (1887), Ngatapa (1893), Taruheru (1897), Aroha (1898), as well as Patutahi (1879)), and Pouawa, which was formed in the 90's. None of the Road Boards are now in existence.

Cook County Council. Back Row: Chas. Gibson, J. E. Benson, E. H. Baker, F. S. Bowen. Middle Row: J. J. Keane (Engineer), G. Witters, J. Tombleson, C. Matthews (Chairman), W. C. MacLaurin. Third Row: M. T. B. Hall, and F. T. Robinson (Clerk). Absent: J. C. N. Thomas, M. L. Holden, W. G. Sherratt.

Cook County Council.
Back Row: Chas. Gibson, J. E. Benson, E. H. Baker, F. S. Bowen.
Middle Row: J. J. Keane (Engineer), G. Witters, J. Tombleson, C. Matthews (Chairman), W. C. MacLaurin.
Third Row: M. T. B. Hall, and F. T. Robinson (Clerk).
Absent: J. C. N. Thomas, M. L. Holden, W. G. Sherratt.

Development of District.

Standing out, as it to-day does, among the main Counties of the Dominion, the County of Cook has been fortunate in that its successive Councils have administered the area under that control in a progressive spirit. Not only has the district been developed into one of the richest pastoral and farming areas of the Dominion by their own enterprise and endeavors, but they have cheerfully accepted a growing burden of public debt to pave the way for further settlement and development.

The First Rate Struck.

The initial proposal to strike a rate was made by the Council six months after coming into office, but it was considered inexpedient to do so, members being in general agreement that it would be to the advantage of the Road Board to make a levy of 5/-. A couple of months later, however, the Council struck a rate of 5 per cent., payable as from April 1, 1877.

Mr John Clark. One of Poverty Bay's most successful pastoralists.

Mr John Clark. One of Poverty Bay's most successful pastoralists.

Vast Improvements Tackled

The condition of the roads and footpaths, such as they were in those days—merely bullock tracks in a quagmire of mud—is best described by a minute appearing in the Council books: “The Council to take sieps compelling the horses and traps to keep off the footpaths, as at present the drains are so completely blocked at the upper end of the township for drays by keeping one wheel in the drain, that the footpaths are only passable by going knee-deep in mud and water.” This state of affairs no doubt induced the Council to enter into negotiations for a loan of £6000 for the metalling of the main road from Read's Quay to the Roseland Hotel, Makaraka, and the offer of the money by the Bank of New Zealand was accepted, the interest rate in those days being as heavy as now, 7 per cent. The first extensive roading programme was initiated in 1887, when a loan of £7000 was raised at 6 per cent. and with which the metalling of the Waerenga-a-hika back road was carried out, besides formation work on other roads. Most amusing opposition to this loan proposal was raised by one Councillor when the scheme was mooted, for he objected to borrowing money because it entailed paying interest! On this loan a special rate of 1¼ per cent. was levied on.

Rapid Progress.

In the intervening period up to 1894 the County continued to progress rapidly under capable administration and economical expenditure of loan moneys in the construction of roads and bridges throughout the district. The formation of the Waimata road was undertaken in the following years at a cost of nearly £7000, and the improved facilities for transport proved a great boon to settlers of that district. The public debt by this time was steadily increasing and at the end of 1896 stood at £25,568. One of the largest road works was undertaken in 1897, viz, the formation work to Kiore, on which £12,000 was expended, while the Waikohu road construction was initiated in the same year at a cost of £2978. Five years later the public debt had increased to £32,000. In succeeding page 198 page 199 years the formation was also commenced of the Patutahi quarry, the Mangatu, Wharekopae and Mangamaia roads, while loans aggregating £3000 were expended in the construction of a bridge at Tolaga Bay, the extensive loan works making the public debt at the end of 1905 £45,315. The bridges already erected & structures required caused the council to raise a series of loans for bridging work at Tolaga, Wharekopae & Motu. Owing to damage by floods and general dilapidation, a county loan of £6000 was raised in 1907 for the rebuilding of the structures, which was undertaken during the succeeding years. Thence onwards, the district began to show remarkable development, owing to the extensive loans raised for bridges and roads to link up hitherto comparatively isolated districts (whose communications and transport facilities were shut off for some months in the year) resulting in a material benefit to the settlers, the district and the town. The Waikohu road was further extended and the formation of the road to Mangamaia and Tahora was opened up with the aid of comparatively small loans. One of the outstanding events of that year was the purchase of the site of the present Council offices, on which a number of old houses then stood, ac a cost of £2188, and, in the following year, the present buildings, costing about £2000 were erected. The Waihuka and Ngatapa districts were opened up by roading and bridges in the following year, prominent among which was the Patutahi drainage scheme for the draining of the flats, which was undertaken first in 1910. The public debt by this time had vastly increased and now stood at £89,523.

A County Highway in the 80's.

A County Highway in the 80's.

Expenditure Mounts Up.

A big roading programme was undertaken in the Whataupoko riding in 1911, when a loan of £9300 was raised for these works, and by the following year over £5000 had been expended, while, in the same year, nearly £5000 was spent on the reconstruction of the Gisborne, Tolaga and Waimata bridges, which had fallen into a state of dilapidation. In 1913 when the foundation of Riverside Rd. was started, a loan of £1600 was raised and the Council was obliged to raise an additional 10 per cent. to complete the work, which was the first case on record which the statutory 10 per cent. additional loan to a was was required to be raised by the County. The re-building of the Cook Hospital was also undertaken in that year, the County having to subscribe £12,000 as its share.

The Late Mr. J. W. Johnson, First Chairman of Cook County

The Late Mr. J. W. Johnson, First Chairman of Cook County

The loan ependiture in the various ridings continued unabated from 1914, the Tolaga, Waimata and Maraetaha bridges, and the Arai Valley road formation being undertaken, with the result that, at the end of 1915, the public debt stood at £112,759. In the following five years the rate of expenditure diminished slightly, the only work undertaken, apart from the re-building of the Waimata and Tolaga bridges, being the formation of the Lower Hangaroa Road at a cost of £1500, the Te Arai Valley Road and the construction of Lavenham bridge, near Patutahi.

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Bitumen Spraying on a Cook County Road Under Re-Construction.

Bitumen Spraying on a Cook County Road Under Re-Construction.

page 201

Work on East Coast.

By this time, the Council and ratepayers began to direct their attention to the condition of the East Coast road, with the result that, in 1917, a loan of £1600, with an additional 10 per cent., was raised for the construction of the Pakarae Road, this being followed next year by the raising of £8000 for the formation of the Tolaga Road, also £4000 for the re-building of the Tolaga and Wigan bridges, whilst extensive road and bridge construction work was also undertaken in connection with the Mahunga drain, the Patutahi-Hangaroa road and the re-construction of bridges in the Gisborne riding.

Following upon an insistent demand from the ratepayers the formation of the Hangaroa-Tiniroto Road was undertaken in 1920, for which purpose a loan of £45,000 was raised, while the stormwater draining of Kaiti was also started, a loan of £4000 being raised for the purpose. The public debt of the County increased to £117,217 at the end of the year. In the next five years loans of £3000 and £1000 were raised in Uawa and on Wharerata, while other riding work on the Hangaroa-Tahora, Totangi and Hangaroa-Tiniroto roads was also undertaken.

The necessity for the reconstruction of the whole of the roads of the County was, later, impressed on the ratepayers by the condition of their highways, with the result that a loan of £153,000 was sanctioned for the re-construction of roads and bridges, of which £29,000 was raised and expended in laying down good surfaced roads, while a further £30,941 was raised in 1926, making a total expenditure to date of £358,590.

Remarkable Road Works Progress.

To-day Cook County has four hundred and fifty miles of roads. Since the inception of the Main Highways Board, and the rapid growth of motor transport, a greatly improved class of road has had to be constructed. With a view to being in line with the best methods of road-making, and road machinery, the County Engineer (Mr. J. J. Keane) was sent on a five-month visit to America, and the advantage gained by his experience is now being reaped by the ratepayers and general travelling public. Only a couple of years ago the ratepayers sanctioned a loan of £153,000, and this, together with substantial subsidies from the Main Highways Board and the Public Works Department, is being spent in bringing to fruition the project of the Cook County Council to make roads suitable for the present day highly improved methods of transport. Under this scheme, which it is hoped to complete in six years, the following permanent improvements have been made, viz.:

Main Highways—Widening and metalling, 21 miles 40 chains; metarling and bitumen, 6 miles 20 chains; total, 27 miles 60 chains.

County Main Roads—Widening and metalling, 18 miles.

County By-roads.—Widening and metalling 15 miles; total on all roads, 60 miles 60 chains.

Extensive Plant in Use.

Machinery is playing a large part in this extensive works programme and the plant owned by the Cook County Council, which now ranks fifth in order of importance in the Dominion, is a comprehensive one, including four motor rollers, eight 3 and 4 ton motor lorries, three Fordson tractors (to two of which are attached Wehr graders), bitumen sprayer and heater, in addition to many smaller machines, together with two motorcars and a motor van for the use of the engineering and bridge building staffs. The quarrying plants number three. That at Patutahi quarry originally was of an 80-yard per day capacity but, under the loan scheme, this was reinforced with a new crusher and engine, which has increased the capacity to twice that amount. The gangs of men on the various classes of works, by experience, are becoming experts and the work being carried out is of a high class.

County Officials.

—Clerks. —
J. Shirley 1877
Capt. Tucker 1878–1880
John Warren 1880–1918
Chas. Perry 1918–1924
F. T. Robinson 1924
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Modernised Highway in the Cook County.

Modernised Highway in the Cook County.

page 203

Roll of Chairmen of the County.

J. Woodbine Johnson 1877–79
Andrew Graham 1879–81
J. Woodbine Johnson 1881–82
W. C. Chambers 1882–84
G. L. Sunderland 1884–86
John Clark 1886–1892
Chas. Gray 1893–1895
Jas. Macfarlane 1896–1901
Capt. W. H. Tucker 1902–1909
H. Kenway 1910–1913
T. Jex-Blake 1914–1915
F. J. Lysnar 1916–1917
G. M. Reynolds 1917–1918
Chas. Matthews 1919–1920
G. M. Reynolds 1921–1924
Chas. Matthews 1925–1927


R. M. Skeet G. J. Winter de Gennes Fraser J J. Keane

Late Mr. John Warren, A Former County Clerk.

Late Mr. John Warren,
A Former County Clerk.

The Late Mr John Maynard. First hotelkeeper in Poverty Bay.

The Late Mr John Maynard.
First hotelkeeper in Poverty Bay.

The Late Mrs Higgins. Wife of late Mr Higgins, schoolmaster at Ormond.

The Late Mrs Higgins.
Wife of late Mr Higgins, schoolmaster at Ormond.

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Jubilee Procession in Gladstone Road, 1927.

Jubilee Procession in Gladstone Road, 1927.