Object #1009400 from MS-Papers-0032-0130
From: Hawke's Bay. McLean and J D Ormond, Superintendents - Public Works. Lands and Survey Office. Crown Lands Office, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0130 (43 digitised items). No Item Description
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11th January 1864
Henry Sewell Esquire,
I have for several years felt a great interest in the overland route from Napier to Auckland, especially the portion lying between the ... hitherto used Maori track from Opepe on Kaingaroa plain to Napier. I have been struck with the conviction that no permanent road could be made on that line, the natural surface of the country presenting highly objectionable obstacles; and looking to the future, when peace shall have been permanently established, and the Bay of Plenty be the site of thriving settlements, I have always had an opinion that a practicable dray road, avoiding the two great difficulties, the river Mohaka and the central range of mountains, would somewhere be found, which when completed, would be of the greatest possible importance to the East Coast, especially to Napier.
Impressed with this belief, I devoted considerable trouble to the examination of the country, and having discovered an easy practicable route, entirely avoiding the ascent of the main range, and also the fording of the Mohaka, and all the other creeks and rivers, presenting moreover through its entire length between Napier and the Taupo plain no engineering difficulty whatever, I have felt it to be my duty to acquaint His Excellency the
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Governor with the existence thereof.
I have therefore taken the liberty of sending you this communication, in the hope that you may deem it of sufficient importance to lay before the Colonial Secretary for presentation to His Excellency.
I will, as briefly as possible, state the principal features respectively, of the present route and the one I propose.
Starting from Napier by the present Maori track, there is 6 miles of soft beach to traverse to the entrance of the Petani Valley. This valley is then followed, crossing the river about thirty times, until the Kaiwaka creek is reached - this creek is then ascended for two miles, in which there are about twenty crossings. The road then traverses a very rough broken range of hills as far as Rongomaipapa whence is a descent to the low valley at the foot of the great maunga haruru range. This brings you to the Pohue bush. The road now ascends for four miles to the Titi-o-kura saddle on the summit of the range from whence there is a very bad descent to the river Mohaka - the crossing of which is very dangerous - On the north side of the river the track traverses an exceedingly broken and hilly country the whole way to Kaingaroa plain - abounding in steep and unnecessary ascents and descents, crossing the Waitara, a branch of the Mohaka in three dangerous places. At the South East end of the Kaingaroa plain the road is boggy and impassable in wet seasons and indeed
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it is only in fine weather that the four rivers are safe to cross. The Mohaka in particular is often flooded for days together so that all communication is stopped.
The route I propose presents no difficulties whatever It is perfectly passable at all seasons. There are no rivers to ford or swamps to avoid. The ascent is gradual throughout its whole length from Napier to Taupo no ranges have to be crossed and from the sandy nature of the soil, very little metalling will be necessary. Starting from Napier by the new road to Puketapu, I follow the East bank of the Tutae-kuri to the Hakuai - a side cutting will here be necessary for one mile - this will bring the road to the Manga - one junction still keeping the East bank of the latter river - there is an excellent spot one mile above the mouth for a bridge the river here being narrow and sluggish and the banks on both sides of even height - a single arch of 60 feet span will be sufficient. The road there follows the low range of hills separating the waters of the pekapeka and Manga - hou-hou from the waters of the Manga - one and Manga - papa - as far as the Patoka gorge (the source of the Manga-hou-hou) - a side cutting of one mile will here be necessary, and a small bridge at the head of the gorgel Timber is abundant. The road, on emerging from the gorge, crosses the Mania-roa flat to the low saddle at Oru - thence a side cutting of three miles
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will be necessary on the North side of the watershed of the Tutaekuri, Kiwi, Kiwi and Inanga-taiki creeks. This will bring the road to the lowest part of the Puketitiri forest. The bush will here be cut through for four miles - a dead level, as far as the Aniwaniwa flats - slight side cuttings are here necessary to the Mohaka three miles distant. This portion will be a decline of one in twenty. The Mohaka is reached at the mouth of the Mohaka creek - where a small bridge will be necessary and a larger one for the main river which is here only eighty five feet wide. A bridge of about 100 feet span can easily be thrown across the river - the land on both sides being a flat terrace. The water is very deep on the East side and the current moderate. Timber in abundance can be obtained at the Puke titiri forest, and (as I have stated) the road is a descent from the bush to the river. After having crossed Para - wera - nui flats to the mouth of the Ripia valley, where the heavy portion of the work may be said to commence. This valley is the key to the Taupo plains, being open and unbroken through its entire length of from thirty to forty miles, and with the exception of a belt of Tawai forest, in the lower portion of the valley, which belt is about ten miles wide, a very little labour would make an excellent dray road throughout. At the entrance of the valley, the side cuttings
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will be heavy; the hills being so exceedingly steep; the west side of the valley will be kept the whole length. At a distance of three miles from the Mohaka, the Makiekie creek joins the Ripia, a bridge will here be
necessary and for the next fifteen miles, will lie entirely through the Tawai forest and winding round all the spurs a chain or so above flood mark. This portion will of course be very circuitous, owing to the great length of the spurs, which are deeply interlocked, though perfectly free from precipices. As soon as the belt of forest is passed through, which occurs at the base of a spur called "Te Matai", the valley is grassy and open to its source at Marua nui - occasionally side cuttings in the Pumice stone cliffs will be necessary but these are few and far between - a few small creeks must be bridged - and stone is plentiful in the valley. In the upper portion of the valley - there is a singular rent and the solid stone/formation where the rivers flow underground and travellers cross on a natural arch of rock called "Te ara mahutahuta": on arriving at Marua nui hill, the road no longer requires forming but a straight course across the plain for three miles, brings you to Pahautea bush where the present track is regained.
Thus you will see that by taking this route several material advantages are gained.
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1st. The road is practicable at all seasons and no floods can affect it, all the rivers being bridged.
2nd. The mountain ranges are totally avoided - on the South side of the Mohaka an elegation of about one thousand feet is saved by taking the Puketetere conte - and on the on the north side, instead of crossing all the broken ranges lying between the river and the Taupo plan - the valley of the Ripia is ascended through the entire length and at Maruanui, the source of the Ripia the ground is solid - no swamps occurring as at the south eastern end of the plain, namely the portion between the Rangi-tiki river and the Waitara crossings.
3rd. In consequence of the gentle inclination of the country, the works will be of less magnitude than in any other part of the district and loaded vehicles will be able to take a much heavier weight, than by any other route.
There is abundance of feed for stock by this route - indeed I would wish to impress strongly upon you, that as the Mohaka can only be bridged at the spot I have mentioned that for the driving of stock from the Napier country to the interior, this route will be invaluable, as soon as a bridge is thrown across the river The road being through the valley will greatly facilitate the driving; as the hills will prevent the escape of the animals
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while the abundance of grass and water, will enable longer drives to be made, than by any other route.
I believe that there is scarcely any difference in the respective lengths of the two routes. Both from Pakhautea to Napier, being reckoned at 90 miles.
I would here mention, that in 1859 I had the honor to conduct Mr. Thomas Gill the Pronvincial Engineer of Napier of Napier over the new line, by direction of His Honor the Superintendent. We came to Taupo by the new route - and returned by the ordinary Maori track. Mr. Gill was very favorably impressed with my line, and reported accordingly to the Superintendent.
No survey of the country north of the Mohaka has been made - indeed the Hawkes Bay Province does not extend far north - so that it is beyond their controul. From the Mohaka northward the land is in the possession of the Maories. The Ngatimaru wahine tribe of whom Te Whetu is the present chief claim the Ripia valley but there is only one cultivation and village in the whole length - this is at Pakau tutu at the mouth of the valley. The tribe does not number forty persons.
For private convenience I made a bridle track from the Mangaone junction to Puketitiri, and cut a line through the forest. For this I was subsequently remunerated by the Provincial Government of Hawkes Bay as my road was found to be of great
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The deep importance of this route is being made known has induced me to trouble you with this letter, and I have thought it more advisable to place it in your hands for communication to His Excellency, than to take the liberty of doing so myself, though as you are aware, when we originally came here I had a letter of introduction from Sir John/Pakington to His Excellency, which I had the honor to present at Wellington in March 1853.
You are aware, that I have a considerable knowledge of the native language - if my services would be acceptable to His Excellency I shall esteem it a great honour to be allowed to use my abilities, and knowledge of the country, in endeavouring to promote the welfare of the colony at large.
I beg to apologize for troubling you with so lengthy a communication.
Believe me to remain Dear Sir,
Your very faithful Servant,
J. B. Ellman
Hawke's Bay. McLean and J D Ormond, Superintendents - Public Works. Lands and Survey Office. Crown Lands Office, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0130 (43 digitised items)
Series 7 Official papers, Reference Number Series 7 Official papers (3737 digitised items)
McLean Papers, Reference Number MS-Group-1551 (30238 digitised items)
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