Topic: Waiotapu

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Tourism, Flax, Oil, Forestry and Farming, Waiotapu (20 miles south of Rotorua)has done all.

By 1887 this "New Wonderland ' had been discovered by the European population and they had started following the Government Road even as it was being surveyed between Rotorua and Taupo. "An enterprising local, Aporo Apiata, has placed a toll-gate and is charging 5/- for entry to the wonders and 3/- for a guide." However, by 1890 visitors were praising the accomodation provided by the same Aporo Apiata and his wife.

By 1888 Mr Frank Scott of Rotorua had erected summer quarters (canvas) and was hoping to abolish the toll-gate. It was argued that the valley should be bought by the Government in which case the tolls would be abolished, a comfortable hotel established and the healing qualities of the various waters made known far and wide. 

It was said that the delays in finishing of the new roads held back the region as (in 1890) it was seen as 'an excellent site for a flax mill, good water for power and carriage, with a luxurient crop all in fine condition for cutting.'  Arthur Coates set up a mill , firstly at the headwaters of the Whirinaki River. From late spring to autumn the cutting was done by Indian workers, the loading onto the wagons drawn by horses to the green mill by Maori workers, fed into the strippers, washed, carted out to the drying paddocks where it was turned by Maori women 'paddockers' then carted back to the scutch house to be combed and the resultant fibres pressed into bales before being carted out of the district. The workers then returned home to the Pa for the winter months.

In 1891 there was a fever of excitement at the discovery of rich springs of oil and numerous minerals of interest at the base of Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain).  

 In 1904 Mr De Beere , licencee of the Waiotapu Hotel advised that Mr Butcher's mill was burned down accidently supposedly by a bearing overheating.

The native bush was being destroyed at a excessive rate even during the early years of settlement and fortunately this encouraged the introduction of several State Forest Bills. While these did not toally succeed, the Department of Lands and Survey did set up experimental plots of exotic species throughout the country. One of these was at Waiotapu, on the edge of the Kaingaroa Plain and about 22 miles south of Rotorua. These were relatively successful and in 1899 large-scale planting began at Whakarewarewa and in 1901 at Waiotapu.

Another experiment, the first at Waiotapu, was that almost all the forest work  was done by good-conduct prisoners working in gangs under the supervision of the Prison Department warders who were under the direction of forestry officers. The prisoners lived 4 men to a wooden hut which were on skids for easy remeoval from one campsite to another. This arrangement continued until 1920 when the Justice Department had other uses for the manpower. It was about this time that a lookout station was built on Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain) overlooking both Kaingaroa and Waiotapu forests to watch for fire within the plantations.

 Thanks to the Don Stafford Files

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