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Maori and mining at Te Aroha

Before the existence of gold was confirmed at Te Aroha, the Ngati Rahiri reserves were finally delineated. For long there had been rumours of gold, but prospecting was not permitted until 1880. Once Hone Werahiko found what might be a payable goldfield on Maori land, one could not be proclaimed until an agreement was reached with the landowners. To prevent confusion, and to be fair to Ngati Rahiri, it was decided to create a separate mining district. Members of Ngati Rahiri were divided over the terms of an agreement, with some (possibly prompted by Pakeha) demanding a bonus of £1,000. Rangatira who had received income from the Thames field ignored this demand and agreed to open their land in the expectation of receiving a steady supply of money from mining plus timber cutting rights and residence and business site licenses. Mokena Hou was especially supportive of prospecting and opening his land, and had a township, known as Morgantown, surveyed (his daughter Ema, wife of George Lipsey, owned the adjacent Lipseytown). The agreement specified all the fees to be paid, and permitted Maori to withdraw their land from the goldfield. Right up to opening day, demands were made for a bonus, but the opening went smoothly, with Mokena and another rangatira participating in the ceremony and many Maori marking out claims. Maori from many hapu were shareholders in all parts of the goldfield, and some actively worked their claims, usually guided by an experienced Pakeha miner. Encouraged by the Te Aroha rush, some Maori prospected elsewhere. Revenue from the new field soon declined as it faded, prompting complaints and officials requiring all those working on Maori land to hold a miner’s right. Although most Ngati Rahiri did not benefit, the Mokena family most certainly did, and treated the revenue they received as their own personal income.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Maori and mining at Te Aroha. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 28), Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart