A letter from N.H.Pike 1968
11 June 1968
My son Howard called at Poronui recently, you were absent but he had a good talk with your manager. Howard was very keen to see Poronui again after an absence of about 25 years or so. Your manager mentioned you would be interested in the early history of the property, so I am passing on to you what I know of the property.
My name is N.H.Pike of Whangarei, and it is a pleasure to give you the following information. Owing to my age of 75 years it is unlikely I will get out your way again and I guess there is no one alive today that knows so much about your land as I do insofar as to its history.
The property was first known to me in 1918 when it was owned and occupied by a Mr Houldt or Hoult? who came out from England. He spent large sums of money bushfelling, fencing and stock at that time but I believe drink was his problem and the farming was not a success. I believe the property was on the market for years but passed to a Mr Kirkham who was a butcher by trade and stock dealer until he in turn sold the property to Mr Victor Macky an accountant in the city of Auckland. Mr Macky formed a limited company, Poronui Station Ltd and farmed Poronui with managers with little success, as the property became infested with rabbits making it useless for grazing stock.
I became interested in the property about 1936, while I was living in Auckland with my family. Our doctor was treating my wife who became very weak with asthma, he advising me that unless I took her to an altitude of 2000ft she would die, so we went to Poronui with my family of five where we lived for 7 years and became acquainted with the property and the surrounding land.
We later leased the whole of Lochinvar, and at one time had a total of some 55,000 acres, wild and woolly as it was at that time. The rabbit problem was our first job, this took me about 4 years to clean up, and in that time I was able to get a Cambridge firm interested in trapping rabbits who took the carcasses to Cambridge for preparation for the market.
Later we employed men poisoning rabbits and many thousands of skins were forwarded to Dunedin for sale. With the passing of the rabbit, the deer increased as the grass became plentiful, so we then applied our minds to reducing the deer pest resulting in thousands of deer skins being forwarded to market, in addition we encouraged shooters to pay a small fee to shoot on our property with the result we were then able to partially stock the property, cattle and sheep doing very well indeed.
By this time my wife regained her former health, learned to enjoy life again, taking an interest in riding horseback and visiting many parts of the property. As my children were growing up fast my wife asked me to get nearer some town, so we purchased Glengarrie Station (5000 acres) near Napier where we lived for a further five years before going to Whangarei in about 1950.
Before leaving Poronui we opened up the bush by tracks to many parts, put post-splitting gangs in and forwarded many thousands of posts to Napier district where we disposed of red beech to an unsatisfied market. One year on Poronui we lost a large number of sheep in a severe snow storm which lay on the land for some six weeks, the cattle seemed to survive better than the sheep. But in later years we had more hay available for stock. We also trapped many wild horses which we ran in off the plains, many of these horses were later sold at Cambridge where we landed them by truck – some were sold as high as 25 pounds each and some became show horses and children’s ponies. I saw one in Auckland show with my brand on it.
We sold our debenture over assets of Poronui Station Limited back to Mr Macky and then lived at Glengarrie, learning later Mr Macky sold Poronui to Mr Dobson who later sold it to Maori Trust who we understood sold to you.
From what we hear you are now farming the property, carrying large numbers of sheep and cattle. My son Howard who called to see Poronui has a farm of his own (500 acres) at Hikurangi where he now milks some 100 cows and runs other stock. He was most interested in the improvements that have taken place recently.
In our day the putting on of manure was almost un-thought of owing to cost. We had crops of turnip and oats in those days all grown without manure but the problem of the deer at night was a big problem for us. I suppose they could smell the crops and visited them mostly at night time.
Had it not been for my growing children and the need to be nearer young people it is possible we would have stayed. I liked the large area of land and could have made a success of farming having become used to the climate myself. The main thing was to have ample winter feed and hay for stock, we always grew our own vegetables and almost lived on venison the year round, gooseberries and fruit seemed to grow most bountifully, and we were for the most part a happy family almost living off the land.
Since coming north I have lost my wife (1955) but I feel pleased that the going to Poronui gave her 20 years longer life than would have been the case had we stayed in Auckland. My family of 3 girls and 2 sons have married (most of them) and are nicely situated today. I enjoy good health and am stlll active, so I have much to be thankful for as a result of going to spend some years at Poronui.
Prior to going there I was in the real estate business with offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Gisborne. It was a nasty job to tackle the skinning rabbits but in time I got used to it, I remember one morning having to collect 1900 rabbits and skinning them with the aid of others, what a job it was! I also remember my son and I shooting 17 deer in one spot and the job we had skinning them at that time, large healthy animals they were, it seemed a great pity to lose such lovely meat. I tried at one time to get Grand Hotel at Rotorua and Masonic Hotel at Napier to take a supply of deer meat but they advised me the chef was not allowed to cut joints – that it had to be done by a butcher (union rules) so nothing came of my suggestions at that time, and the carcasses had to lie where they were shot, the wild pigs ate them eventually.
If I ever get down that way again, I will call and have a chat with you as I’m sure it would be most interesting to see the change that has taken place since we lived there.
If you ever get down the Mohaka river, where there is a waterfall in the stream (the Taharua?) just before falling into the Mohaka, you might find an indication of oil ?
One thing that has always stuck in my mind is the remembrance of the old scripture story of Jacob serving seven years for Rachel, somehow I felt I served seven years too at Poronui, some good must have resulted in my outlook in life, I learned patience, not to be too proud to skin a rabbit, not to be too proud to confer with my fellows, poor as they may be, and be more humane and humble. That is one lesson I learned while at Poronui.
Naturally I wish you every success in the farming of your newly acquired property, the only advice I can give you is to keep your barns full of winter feed, I have seen some nasty storms out there, and as long as you have made provision for winter feed for stock you will have nothing to fear.
N. H. Pike
11 June 1968