Story: King Country places

Page 4. Benneydale

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Benneydale

Township 35 kilometres south-east of Te Kūiti. Coal was discovered there in 1931. In 1940 the government purchased the coal mine and built Benneydale township. The mine closed after a major fire in 1962. Another part of the coal seam nearby was worked between 1978 and 1998 but on a much smaller scale.

Prophetic movement

The 19th-century Māori prophetic movement Pao Mīere was based at Tīroa, near Benneydale. The movement developed in response to the early-1880s opening of Te Rohe Pōtae (the King Country) to Pākehā, which followers did not support. In 1887 Te Rā Karepe and Rangawhenua supervised the construction of a cross-shaped house called Te Miringa Te Kakara. The house burned down in 1983 but the Rereahu hapū were considering rebuilding it in the early 2000s.

In the early 2000s Benneydale still had a primary school, dairy, petrol station, police station and pub – but empty houses and shops stood out.

Benneydale is one of the few localities in the King Country with an English name. It combines the surnames of Charlie Benney, the under-secretary for mines in 1940, and Tom Dale, the mine superintendent.

Mangapēhi

Rural locality 6 kilometres west of Benneydale on State Highway 30. Mangapēhi was a busy mill township until the late 1960s, when the last of the mills closed. Nothing was left of the township in the early 2000s.

Pureora Forest Park

Protected forest park of 78,000 hectares, administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC) atop the Rangitoto and Hauhungaroa ranges on the King Country’s eastern border. A small village containing a DOC office and visitor accommodation is located in the middle section of the park, 21 kilometres north-east of Benneydale. Mt Pureora (1,165 metres) is the highest peak in the park.

Māpiu

Rural settlement on State Highway 4, 42 kilometres south of Te Kūiti. The general store was open from 1900 to 1992 and was later turned into a café. Māpiu School serves the district’s farming community.

Blessed waters

Waimiha is said to have been named by Kahupeka, who lived around the late 1400s. She visited looking for her son, Rakamaomao, who was one of the first human inhabitants of the area. Her journey took her to the slopes of Mt Pureora (which she also named). During this time she was ill, and she was blessed in the waters of a small spring with a miha (karakia). She named the stream which flowed down from the spring Waimiha (water of blessing).

Waimiha

Farming settlement 37 kilometres north-east of Taumarunui on the North Island main trunk line. Waimiha is on the western side of the Ōngarue River valley.

Māori lived in permanent and seasonal villages and near waterways. Present-day Waimiha was established after the main trunk railway line reached the area in 1901. The first European farmers arrived in 1909. Those with native bush on their land sold the cutting rights to the sawmillers who followed. Waimiha contained a number of businesses by the 1920s, including general stores, boarding houses, stables, a post office, butchery and picture theatre. Milling in the area peaked in the 1940s.

The post office closed in 1988. Residents could no longer withdraw money in Waimiha, and this had a negative impact on other businesses. The last shop closed in 1991. In the 1990s forestry company Carter Holt Harvey bought farms in the district and replaced livestock with pine trees. Changes like this meant there were fewer families with children in the district and Waimiha School closed.

Ōngarue

Rural settlement on the west bank of the Ōngarue River, 24 kilometres north of Taumarunui. Before Europeans settled in the area, the main Māori settlement was Katiaho, near present-day Ōngarue. In the 2000s Te Rongoroa marae was an important part of the Ōngarue community.

Ōngarue was founded after the main trunk railway line reached the area in 1901 and was the end of the line until 1903. As in nearby Waimiha, farmers and sawmillers settled the surrounding district. Ōngarue School opened in 1902.

Sawmilling firm Ellis and Burnand, one of the largest in New Zealand, took over a mill at Ōngarue in 1912 and became the main employer. Returned servicemen developed new farms after the first and second world wars. Farming and sawmilling supported a small but busy township.

The mill closed in 1966, followed by the post office. By then, the general store was the only shop still open – and it closed in 2003. Ōngarue School remained open.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'King Country places - Benneydale', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/king-country-places/page-4 (accessed 21 October 2019)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 13 Dec 2011, updated 30 Mar 2015