“When several enthusiastic owners of historic boats decided to centre their activities on the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers near Paeroa in the mid-1970s they chose a site steeped in the history of the district.
In 1977 the owners of these vessels which were built up to 80-90 years previously and gave service around the coastal and inland waterways of the northern New Zealand, settled on the site of the old Te Puke Wharf as their headquarters. This was the focal point of the shipping industry from the early days of the district, when the only access to Paeroa and Ohinemuri goldfields was by water, that was until 1895 when the railway connected the district to the North Island Main Trunk Line at Hamilton.”
An article on the history of the park was written by Graham Watton for the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal in September 2011. Click here to read the full article.
“Long before Europeans came to these shores the Waihou River was used extensively by Maoris who paddled their canoes for long distances. The first white men to enter the estuary were Captain Cook and his crew in 1769 his ship being the forerunner of timber ships and whalers. Then Missionaries came and after them the first white settlers established their isolated homes, the river being their one link with civilization.
Steady progress and prosperity during the first 75 years of European Settlement in Thames Valley District was in a large measure due to water transport via the Waihou River. This navigable highway during that period carried enormous traffic economically, feeding settlers and towns from the Firth of Thames to Matamata.”
An article on water transport in the Thames Valley was written by J. W. Silcock for the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal in September 2011. Click here to read the full article.
Captain James Cook
Captain Cook explored the Waihou River in November 1769.
He anchored the Endeavour at Kopu and found the inlet to what he called a “fine, broad river”. His expedition up the Waihou took him as far as Netherton.
The resting place of the P.S. Kopu
The Kopu was built in 1897 by John Young for R. Gibbons, but was purchased by The Northern Steamship Company while building. She was built as a towing launch.
She was raised in 1980 from her shallow grave and moved a few yards to where she lays today in the Historical Maritime Park.
The picnic area
The history of the picnic area has very close ties to the gold mining ventures of this country.
Martha Mining Company (Waihi) owned this site on a miner’s rights lease, until purchasing the freehold title in 1946. They had their own hardstand wharf and gantry, which was used to unload the heavy equipment and cargo from the ships and barges at Puke.
The Historical Maritime Park Inc. purchased the land in 1980 because of it’s history. Land adjacent to the museum was leased by the Northern Steam Ship Company.
The Historical Maritime Park Society Incorporated
The organisation was formed by a group of people lead by Mr Alan Brimblecombe in the late 1970s in Paeroa, with the idea of salvaging the Paddle Tug “Kopu”. The land was originally covered in gorse and rubbish, and the group’s base was the old Ministry of Works workshop and slipway.
Within two years the organisation had a good number of members and in 1976 was registered as a society, as the Historical Maritime Park Society Incorporated. Part of the Thorp Grant was donated to the society in 1980, and the unwanted Public Works building (ex. Waitekauri Post Office and telegraph office 1897 – 1912) was given to the society for an office and museum, which was opened in 1980.