A virgin country such as ours in the l9th Century had to rely on its natural resources. Our district was no exception to this rule for we hear of tales of the vast Kauri timber industry, flax, kauri gum, a little gold and traces of coal. I believe a quartz seam was worked sometime in the l890’s and taken to Thames for processing, but assayed at only l0/- per ton.
A flax mill was in operation in the l89O’s on the Shuker property under the Surrey Redoubt, by Mr. Hastie Dean. An interesting point here is that the mill boiler was fired with coal from a nearby coal seam, and was later used to fire the boilers of traction engines hauling road metal.
The Kauri gum industry also provided what we would term today overseas funds. No doubt this vast “no-man’s land” provided a free for all for the gum diggers of the early days. Later on the Gum Digger worked on the owners property on a royalty basis and at one time a gum shop was in evidence on the Kaiaua road, stocking the modest wants of the diggers. This industry gradually petered out and by the middle 1920’s was practically nonexistent, except for “ bled gum “ which commanded a good price. The method of harvesting was to climb a Kauri tree with spiked boots and rope, make a small scarf in the bark and insert a catcher or small piece of galvanized flat iron. Over a period the tree would bleed into the catcher and the harvest would be collected at a later date. This method of gum collection was frowned upon by the forest authorities as the damage to trees was extensive.
These industries provided the livelihood for many of our forefathers and some small fortunes were made, especially by merchant dealing in these commodities. It is said that the City of Auckland was built on the prosperity of the Thames Goldfields.
The true prosperity of the district and country was to come later when grass was planted and the meat, wool and dairy industries started to function. After all if one owns a Kauri tree and sells it for timber the transaction is complete. On the other hand that cow you own will have a calf next year and the ewe we hope will have twins. We are building up and not destroying.