Topic: The Traders in Tauranga

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Traders in flax were active in the Bay of Plenty during the 1830s. Some were transient; others married local women and settled permanently.

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James Farrow and Phillip Tapsell

James Farrow, the first permanent trader in the Bay of Plenty, first came to Tauranga in 1829 to obtain flax fibre for Australian merchants in exchange for muskets and gunpowder.  

He acquired half an acre of land at the western end of the Otumoetai Pa from the chiefs Tupaea, Tangimoana and Te Omanu on 10 January 1838. This was the earliest authenticated land purchase in the Bay for which a Crown Grant was later issued.

In late 1830, soon after Phillip Tapsell arrived at Maketu as flax trader for Te Arawa, Farrow became his Tauranga agent. Tapsell, probably the best known of the flax traders, married Hine-i-turama of Te Arawa. War between Ngaiterangi and Te Arawa made conditions dangerous for him, but he survived, trading arms for flax in the 1830s, and as that trade declined turning to boat building. His reminiscences were published by James Cowan under the title 'A Trader in Cannibal Land'. 

Farrow and his brother Daniel dealt mainly with the chief Te Waharoa of Matamata, whose tribe cut and scraped the flax. Although the trade was intermittent, it involved large quantities of flax fibre. It is known that loads of up to 70 tons were carried over the Kaimai range by the Wairere track for shipment from the Te Puna river mouth to Sydney merchant, Richard Jones. 

By the late 1830s, when Farrow settled at Otumoetai, the flax export trade had declined, being largely replaced by that in pigs, salted pork, potatoes, maize and wheat. These locally produced commodities, transported in the cutters and schooners of traders such as Farrow and Faulkner, were sold to ships visiting New Zealand, especially whalers in the Bay of Islands. From 1840, the growing town of Auckland provided an expanding market for Maori produce. Tauranga Maori soon prospered sufficiently to buy their own sailing vessels, one of which, the schooner "George", was skippered by James Farrow. 

Farrow left Otumoetai before the Waikato land war spread to Tauranga in 1864. He retired to Auckland, where he died in 1880 at the age of 80.  Although he had a Maori wife, there are no known descendants.

John Lees Faulkner. John Lees Faulkner

The trader who made the most lasting impression on this area was, without doubt, John Lees Faulkner.  Faulkner was in the Bay of Islands in the 1830s, but settled near the Otumoetai Pa with his wife, Ruawahine, about 1839. Faulkner built many small trading ships. Some of these were skippered by himself or his son-in-law Daniel Sellars, others were sold to local Maori. He also owned a four horse threshing machine which was used for 20 years by local Maori.

The twelve children by his first wife were well educated, and although many of the family remain in this area, their descendants have spread all over New Zealand. The close links between Maori and Pakeha forged by their marriage survived the land wars of the 1860s. After Ruawahine's death in 1855 Faulkner remarried, this time to an English woman, Elizabeth Humphreys. They had one child, who was to start the invaluable ferry service between Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. Eric Faulkner, a grandson of John by his second wife, became Mayor of Tauranga in 1977.

John Faulkner died in 1882, "universally respected" and "without a single enemy". He is buried with Ruawahine in Tauranga's Mission Cemetery.


Faulkner House, Tauranga.
Faulkner house
The house built by John Lees Faulkner about 1844,
as it appeared in 1936 when it was owned by the Procter family.





This page was archived at Perma CC in January 2017:

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The Traders in Tauranga


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The Traders in Tauranga by anita is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License