Kauri Bush Days
From the l850’s on, Maori were collecting the surface kauri gum from around the area.
Maori had long used the gum for making torches, lamp black for tattoo pigments and mixed it with sow thistle for chewing. They used to use it for lighting fires in the bush in winter time as it is very inflammable. Mr. Thos Vining always told of a large settlement of Maori living at the true Mangatangi, adjacent to his residence on Kaiaua Road.
Slowly as the kauri gum became more widely recognised, the price rose as did the numbers who came searching for it. Kauri gum was free for all gum diggers in the early days. One gum digger worked on a property on a royalty basis.
There was a gum diggers shop on Kaiaua Road, stocking most wants of the gum digger. There was a little old couple, Mr. & Mrs. Mate Ban who lived in the corner of McLennan’s farm that spent their time digging for the gum and making their living out of it. By the middle l92O’s the gum had petered out but lumps of gum could still be found long after.
Prior to the l900’s, an Auckland firm of saw millers, D Goldie and Sons came into the district and started work cutting kauri on the Poupipi Block (now farmed by J Roulston) About 20-30 men worked this virgin bush. No Rimu or other species were touched. The men all camped by King Fern Gully.
The kauri logs were dammed down the creek and then to a loading bank and onto timber wagons. These were then drawn to Kaiaua by Traction Engine which was alright in the dry weather but of limited use in winter. One trip a day was made. The old road came out of the Poupipi Block between Bonds and Wa1ler’s farms. (Fern Rd.) The logs continued on their journey to Auckland by scow.
After Poupipi Block was cut out the bush gang moved to the Workman property (now Olsen’s farm) where two gangs were at work, a total of 70 men. Mr. Murdock McLennan was the boss and these men worked here for 11 years getting the kauri out.
The method used on this block was to cut the timber off the slopes and ridges then skid them down into the gullies. The gullies were skidded with peeled logs about four abreast, which were greased to help the timber along to the dam in the Mangatangi River. When the dam was ready to trip, people came from miles around to watch. It was such a spectacular sight to see the logs go end over end as they left the dam and down to the booms on Vining Bros property (now Emerald Downs). Here the logs were steam winched about ten chains to a loading bank and then by Traction Engine to Kaiaua.
After six years a tramline was put in and a locomotive pulled about six trucks to the beach at Kaiaua, making three trips a day. About l9l5 this bush was cut out and this was just about the end of the kauri era in Mangatangi.
Bled gum was still being done. One climbed a Kauri tree with spike boots and a rope and made a small scarf in the bark of the tree and inserted a catcher or small piece of galvanised iron. Over a time the tree would bleed into the catcher to be harvested at a later date. The bled gum fetched a good price providing a livelihood for many in those days.
After the exposed gum disappeared the gum spear was used for probing the ground and feeling for gum lumps and then digging it out with their spade. Probing in the swamp required a longer spear. This was a poorer grade of gum but by the turn of the century gum became important for the new floor covering - linoleum - linseed oil, gum and ground cork, varnishes and Wax matches.
Another Kauri shop was situated on the hills near the Finlay farm at Miranda. Anyone could sell their gum for 2/6d to 3/- a pound. It was a profitable sideline.
Mac Ramanui, as a small boy, remembers days spent collecting gum and selling it at the shop. A big lump of kauri gum turned up at Gulland’s Quarry which was in the hands of Mr. Earle Waller. Mr. Ross Hamilton picked up a piece from the swamp at the Mangatangi end of Monument Rd when he came to the area share milking in l980’s. There were still many more pieces of gum picked up over the years as paddocks and low lying areas were worked up.