Town has long been cross­roads

Matamata Chronicle - - Welcome To Matamata - By JOAN STAN­LEY

Mata­mata means head­land. This was the name of a new pa es­tab­lished in 1830 by Te Wa­haroa, the fa­mous Ngati Haua chief, on a ridge of high ground pro­ject­ing into the swampy valley of the Waitoa River near Dun­lop Rd, a few kilo­me­tres north­west of present day Wa­haroa.

Over the cen­turies many trav­ellers have passed through the Mata­mata dis­trict and some of them have re­mained and set­tled here.

In pre-Euro­pean times Maori war­riors pad­dled up the Wai­hou River in ca­noes with trad­ing or war par­ties, walked over the Kaimai and Ma­maku Ranges and crossed the Mata­mata Plains en route to the Waikato, Ro­torua, Thames, Taupo or Tau­ranga.

Flax traders, mis­sion­ar­ies, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, trav­ellers and ex­plor­ers passed through the Mata­mata Plains on their jour­neys and many left records of their vis­its.

Among them were Wil­liam Colenso, Fer­di­nand Hochstet­ter, Bishop Pom­pal­lier, Bishop Sel­wyn and John Kin­der.

In 1833 four mis­sion­ar­ies came up the Wai­hou and walked to the Mata­mata Pa to preach the first Chris­tian ser­mon here.

Two years later, at Te Wa­haroa’s in­vi­ta­tion, the Rev Al­fred Brown and his wife Char­lotte ar­rived to set up a mis­sion sta­tion.

How­ever it was not long be­fore they had to leave be­cause of tribal war­fare.

Tara­pip­ipi, the son of Te Wa­haroa, was bap­tised as Wiremu Tami­hana in 1839. He set up a Chris­tian pa nearby.

Tami­hana later be­came known as The King­maker and also as a peace­maker.

In 1865, af­ter the Land Wars, Josiah Clifton Firth, an Auck­land flour miller and en­tre­pre­neur, ne­go­ti­ated with Tami­hana for the lease of 22,600 hectares of land in­clud­ing the fu­ture site of the town of Mata­mata. He adopted the name of Mata­mata for his large es­tate which he later pur­chased.

He hoped to grow wheat for his Auck­land flour mill but the cli­mate proved un­suit­able and he had to turn to cat­tle, sheep and hor­ti­cul­tural prod­ucts.

In 1885 the Thames Valley and Ro­torua Rail­way Com­pany, of which Firth was a pro­moter, con­structed a rail­way from Mor­rinsville across the plains to Mata­mata.

The selec­tion of the site of a small rail­way sta­tion in the mid­dle of the plain be­gan the de­vel­op­ment of the fu­ture town of Mata­mata from a nu­cleus of a few houses scat­tered around the sta­tion and the rail­way line. In 1887 the Mata­mata Es­tate was taken over by the Loan and Mer­can­tile Com­pany and then by the Bank of New Zealand.

In 1904 it was sub­di­vided into 118 farms which were of­fered by bal­lot to farm­ing ap­pli­cants.

The town­ship of Mata­mata, which was still a tiny set­tle­ment, was sur­veyed into town sec­tions with pro­vi­sion for wide streets and a recre­ational area at the cen­tral do­main.

The sur­vey­ors en­closed the new set­tle­ment on two sides with a 40-me­tre wide plan­ta­tion re­serve which over the years has de­vel­oped into the Mata­mata Cen­ten­nial Drive, now a botan­i­cal park with a wide va­ri­ety of trees.

Since 1885 Mata­mata has grown from a small scat­ter­ing of houses around a rail­way sta­tion to a ru­ral ser­vic­ing town which pro­vides for the com­mer­cial, med­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional, re­li­gious, in­dus­trial and recre­ational needs of the res­i­dents of both the town and its ru­ral hin­ter­land.

In do­ing so it has de­vel­oped its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter.

Josiah Firth

Wiremu Tami­hana

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