Topic: Katikati in 1874 by Ellen McCormack

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Katikati events in 1874. Compiled by Katikati Historian Ellen McCormack (2012).

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From An Ulster Plantation by Arthur J. Gray:

George Vesey Stewart sailed by the Mongol, the first steamship to visit New Zealand direct, and reached Dunedin in January 1874 after a passage of forty-nine days.

During the next three months he travelled  the length and breadth of the colony.

Otago, Canterbury, Nelson, Hokianga, were all explored in vain.

None of the land offered to him appeared to fulfil the three requirements he had firmly fixed in his mind: 

  1. Land of first class quality, which could be easily cleared.
  2. Easy access to a town.
  3. Proximity to the goldfields that would provide a market.

He expressed his disappointment in characteristically emphatic terms: “I would deserve to be branded as a scoundrel and hooted from society,” he said of Hokianga “if by my representations I induced my countrymen to exchange their happy cheerful homes for such a place of banishment and servitude”.

At last on a sunny April day, he came to Tauranga and fell in love with that delightful spot immediately.

Taking up quarters in the township, he inspected all the Government lands in the neighbourhood. The survey office putting at his disposal a young man named Sam Middlebrook, who was later to become one of his best-known settlers.

One morning they rode out of Tauranga towards the northern end of the harbour, and in the late afternoon, after twenty miles of hard riding through trackless swamps and hills, they reached the Aongatete River. This was the southern end of the Katikati block, part of the area confiscated from the Maori's after the New Zealand Wars in the Bay of Plenty.

As George Vesey Stewart looked across the rolling stretches of fern country watered by six rivers, with forested mountains on his left and glimpses of the blue sea on his right, he knew that his search was over.

After a careful inspection of three days he returned to Auckland and made an official application for 10,000 acres at Katikati block.

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