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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


VAILE, Edward Earle


Pioneer of the pumice country.

A new biography of Vaile, Edward Earle appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Edward Earle Vaile was born at Hampstead, London, on 3 March 1869, the son of Samuel Vaile, founder of the Auckland land agency of Samuel Vaile and Sons, and grandson of George Vaile, an architect, who arrived in Auckland in 1843 with his family of seven children. His paternal grandmother was interested in the Maori people and established a school for Maori girls at Rangiaowhia on the Waikato River. His mother's education had been continued in France; it was after her father, Edward Earle, that young Vaile was named. The lad attended the Auckland College and Grammar School, as it was then called, and though in 1885 he topped the list of candidates in the Senior Civil Service Examination, passed the Matriculation Examination, and was offered a job in the Civil Service, his father secured for him a position in the South British Insurance Co. – at £2 1s. 8d. a month. A year later he was taken into his father's firm, just in time to experience the financial crisis general in the eighties, precipitated in the Vaile firm's case by the defalcations of a partner. After some years the business was restored to prosperity, and in 1902 the father was bought out and a brother taken into the partnership.

In 1907 Vaile purchased an area of approximately 53,000 acres of pumice country fronting the Waikato River, north of Taupo. The story of this estate, which Vaile named Broadlands, and of its development, which he undertook personally, is the subject of his book Pioneering the Pumice and the basis of his reputation. Vaile and his neighbour, W. G. Butcher, also published an important paper – Breaking-in of Light Pumice Lands – in the September 1920 issue of the New Zealand Journal of Agriculture. Vaile opened up his country with roads and bridges: the roads over the pumice were in large part made by the traffic itself, but as an amateur engineer he made some fine timber bridges of which he was very proud. He produced some good pastures, and grew some fine root crops with specimens of which he took many prizes at leading North Island agricultural shows. Edward Vaile was indeed a pioneer, but it is necessary to recall that he concentrated his efforts chiefly on the better land. Much of the rest was left in a state of nature, and Vaile later attained wealth by the sale of 30,000 acres for forestry. He maintained his stock generally in good health, mainly by using limonite (which usually contained enough adventitious cobalt) on the advice of his friend B. C. Aston, chemist to the Department of Agriculture.

On his retirement in 1936, Vaile gave much time to political pamphleteering – he had been a strenuous advocate of a Rotorua-Taupo railway in earlier years – and to philanthropic works. He endowed both the Auckland Institute and Museum, and the Auckland Grammar School with valuable property, and donated books to several libraries. He was awarded the honour of O.B.E. in 1953, and died, unmarried, in Auckland on 11 January 1956.

by Leonard John Wild, C.B.E., M.A., B.SC.(HON.), D.SC., formerly Pro-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand, Otaki.

  • New Zealand Herald, 12 Jan 1956 (Obit).


Leonard John Wild, C.B.E., M.A., B.SC.(HON.), D.SC., formerly Pro-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand, Otaki.