PUKETAHA 1905 – 2016
Puke: hill; taha: side
Situated approximately 12kms north east of Hamilton City surrounded by Gordonton, Eureka and Newstead, Puketaha was the Hillside Subdivision of the 98,000 Woodlands Estate originally owned by the Loan and Mercantile Agency.
In 1902 Woodlands Estate began to sell off plots of land and in 1905 Hillside, mostly a partly drained deep peat swamp (27 metres above sea level), was opened for closer settlement. Those men brave enough to take up sections were presented with a wasteland of flax and Titree with some Kahikatea bush, but mainly a wilderness of rushes. A few big dewatering drains provided outlets for drains yet to be dug. There were no roads, no school and no meeting places for the settlers.
The early settlers included the following families – James Taylor (1902), Norman Taylor (1905), FR Seddon (1903), John Wells Chapman (1904), Edwin Thomas (1907), Denby Sainsbury (1907), Joseph & Albert Chapman (1909), Hannibal Rickard (1912), Matthew Findlay (1914), Norman Speedy (1914), WH Worster (1917). Descendants of the Taylor and Findlay family continue to farm in Puketaha.
These larger blocks were then further subdivided pre-WW2 with the Seddon property sold to the NZ Government in 1947 under the Land Acquisition Act for the rehabilitation of returned servicemen for £14 per acre. The first ex-servicemen moved into the district in the early 50’s and subdivision into ‘ballot farms’ continued into the late ‘70s.
The district was prone to flooding and the drainage systems, installed by hand in the early part of the 20th century, continue to be a vital asset to this low-lying farming area. Removing stumps and ironstone was a way of life to enable pasture to be established.
The school was opened in 1916, the War Memorial Hall in 1954. The district made their own entertainment with clubs and groups including the RSA, Croquet, Tennis, Scouts and Cubs, Amusement Club, Indoor Bowls, CWI and Table Tennis all but the Indoor Bowls now long gone.
The Hall was extended in 1977 and the school roll has grown from 20 children in 1916 to around 300 in 2016. In 1954 30 householders were rated by the County Council; 1991 144 and 2016 321 and rising. (¹)
(¹) Puketaha School and District Jubilee books 1966, 1991, 2016