Puketui. Smith Family
In 1957 the Smith family purchased from Mr. Ted Waller, a block of land comprising 956 acres (388 Hectare) of hill country on Kaiaua Road which rose from 300 ft. to 800 ft. above sea level. The land, which was mainly covered in scrub, with some bush gullies and only 3 paddocks in grass. The land was not ring fenced, and the road was not tar-sealed.
A year later we moved into the only building on the property, an old cottage built from native timber from the property, adding a room or two to accommodate our five children. Angus, Laura, Ian, Constance and Peter.
During the next 10 years, a woolshed and other out buildings were erected and further additions made to the house. A second house was built a mile along the road, about l5 years ago.
Health reasons were responsible for bringing us from a wet, low lying, dairy farm 30 miles away, to Mangatangi. Eighteen months after moving, Constance had a successful heart operation at Green Lane Hospital, (her second), and we cannot speak too highly of the dedicated team of doctors who performed the operation which had been impossible before the introduction of the heart-lung machine.
One of the big advantages of living on Kaiaua Road was the school bus driven by Norm and Georgie Fredericksen and always on time.
The area we had left had no bus and we took turns in transporting children to school with near neighbours, some of whom were also returned servicemen, a close-knit community. The bigger pupils at the school usually rode bicycles.
Sometimes when the Mangatangi River was in flood, access to the house on the other side of the river was not possible and one or two of the West children used to stop with us overnight. The two older members of our family later attended the Maramarua District High School, but when closure was imminent they went on to other schools, boarding out and coming home in the weekends, as did the younger ones later on, thus avoiding travelling a long distance daily.
The farm, which we called Puketui, slowly came into pasture, scrub being cut by hand, burned and sown (no tractor at that stage), but later bulldozers and more recently one with a roller have been used to crush the tea tree. Puketui was the name of a place in the Coromandel ranges, just out of reach during the wild-horse hunting days 60 years ago.
Ewe numbers increased, Hereford cattle likewise. Aerial topdressing was in its infancy and the first time a plane landed on the strip, no one wanted to go to school. Every morning the house cow had to be bought in to a small shed, put in a bail, leg roped and milked. It was a wonderful saving of time when a bottled-milk delivery started in the district.
As in pioneering days of the 19th century, a lot of work was done by the older children, the beginning of many years of hard slogging by all the family. 0ur garden was started by removing a huge blackberry bush in front of the house and replacing it with trees and shrubs.
We planted an orchard behind the house and a wood lot by the duck pond, mainly pines and gums and ornamental trees in the home paddock.
Calf Club Day found all children keen to take along animals and pets, and flowers to be arranged in the class rooms, a busy day. One of our boys received a certificate for the most illegal pet, a black rabbit.
There were wild pigs in the bush so many exciting pig hunts took place. One wet afternoon when the bus was on its return trip with the windows fogged up, one of the pupils called out to Angus, “There goes your old man chasing the goat"!, but the so called goat was a wild sow running for its life with dogs and father in hot pursuit!
Eels were plentiful in the creeks, some quite large, great fun for the boys to catch them. Geckos were often found in the scrub, mainly green and some yellow. One which was bought home was called Anthony Armstrong-Jones, (Princess Margaret’s husband)
When the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited New Zealand, Ian wrote to the Duke inviting him to come eeling at Mangatangi, but he declined. Likewise Laura wrote a letter to the Queen, but eels were not mentioned. She was let off the hook! The replies to these letters were, of course, shown to teachers and classmates.
The end of the working day usually found us too tired to take much part in social activities in the hall, but our children all went to Church, Sunday school and pony club in the weekends. The river was a relaxing place to be during the hot summer holidays and the beach at Kaiaua not far away.
During the difficult times of hospitals, etc., there was always wonderful support from neighbours and Church families.
Nearly 40 years have passed. Stock work has been speeded up with the aid of farm bikes, bulls have replaced most of the sheep, and there are no wild pigs left. Over 10,000 pine trees have been planted during the last few years.
It is 12 years since we moved to Waharau, north of Kaiaua. Puketui is now being farmed by Peter and Wendy who have three children, Rebecca, Scott and Samuel. The other members of our family have moved away from Mangatangi, all living in the North Island.
Harold & Merle Smith