Letter 23

Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 9 Aug 1847

New Plymouth
August 9th 1847


In accordance with your request I beg to furnish you with the following statement and genuine detail of the different surveys, made by me at this settlement, in surveying the boundaries of the block of land for which you are in treaty with the Ngamotu tribe and in forming reserves for them.

Having been instructed to lay out a block of land as a reserve for natives at Moturoa, I found it necessary before I could do so to recut several of the old lines formerly made there, finding those in the fern ground to be completely grown over, and in the forest although easily seen quite impassable from the thick undergrowth which had sprung up since they had been cut (a period of 5 years). I had however less difficulty in finding the original lines from having been previously employed in the survey of this part of the settlement by the New Zealand Company.

After some difficulty owing to the natives being desirous of having included in their reserve a pah and large cultivation near the beach situated on some land claimed for the estate of the late Mr. Richard Barrett as well as a section adjoining of Mr. Shaw’s, which you succeeded in arranging, I was enabled to lay out a block of 200 acres abutting on the sea shore and another further inland of 250 acres. The first being chiefly fern land and the other forest: both a fair average of the land in that part and with which I believe the natives, especially those employed with me, appear to be perfectly satisfied.

I next commenced recutting an old line for the purpose of making a reserve for the natives of the Waiwakaiho [Waiwhakaiho] but some difficulty occurring in the selection, you therefore instructed me to commence the survey of the large block intended to be purchased, out of which those reserves were to have been made. I then commenced surveying the Waiwakaiho River at the point where the Company’s survey had terminated and proceeded up that River to where the Mangore [Mangorei] flows into it, where I found the natives along with me assisting in the necessary cutting were unwilling to proceed further, their right beyond that being disputed by the Puketapu tribe. On being induced to proceed, I soon found that the above mentioned tribe were determined to oppose the survey of the River in that direction, a party of them coming up and compelling us to return back as far as the Mangore, where they offered no opposition to our staying.

On returning and seeing you on the subject, I was directed to survey the Mangore River as far as the right of the Ngamotu tribe was acknowledged and the land was found available. On commencing this survey I found that the Puketapus had encamped on their side of the River and kept cutting a line on that side as far as I proceeded with the survey, a distance nearly 6 miles.

I found this River extremely troublesome owing to its extraordinary windings, the precipitous nature of its banks and the thick underwood, so that I could not make more than half the progress I had previously been making on the Waiwhakaiho where in some places we could go up the bed of the River itself.

Wet weather having set in and receiving a message from you to return, I did so, when you determined on taking the Waiwhakaiho and the Mangore River as the boundary on that side and the Sugar Loaf line, which was evident must cut the Mangore as the other, and endeavor to conclude the purchase at once, in order that some land might be immediately available for the settlers, and leave the completion of the survey for more favorable weather.

I found during my absence that Mr Carrington had surveyed the Waiwhakaiho reserve of 460 acres and also laid out a section of 50 acres distinct from the general reserve-

Mapping, copying and reducing plans now occupied my time till the weather set in more favorable, when I commenced the Sugar Loaf line and cut as far as the Mangore River, surveying down the River towards the part where I had left off and a short distance up when it divides &, becoming shallower, might be surveyed up its bed easily.

On mapping this work I found that a considerable bend must be made from its former direction so as to render it impossible, without completing its survey of ascertaining with anything like accuracy the number of acres included in the block, but at a rough calculation I should say there must be 10,000 acres.

The land is in its general character excellent. The Forest contains timber trees of large size principally Red and White Pine, is well watered, small streams running in all directions. It is however in some parts very undulating, much cut up by ravines and hollows. In proceeding along the Sugar Loaf line it is of this character as far as the Company had surveyed, after which a remarkable improvement takes place, the land becoming more level until you arrive at the Mangore River.

A good Road may be found into the interior in continuation of one from the Town, a native path which I discovered when cutting the Sugar Loaf line and traced down to where it joins the above Road, indicating the direction which it ought to take, until it reaches the line when it might be carried on as far as the Mangore. This path I have sketched on the map which accompanies this statement.

I have mentioned the subject of Roads because as you are aware the Roads shewn on the Company’s map boundary, the sections on this part at least are quite impracticable and in some instances unfit even for a footpath.

In conclusion, I beg to observe that the progress that has thus been made in the internal survey of the large block by having native reserves laid out and lines opened in various directions must facilitate the subdivision of the land, wherever it is found necessary, and render the further surveying that may be required less tedious and expensive-

I remain Sir
Your most Obedient Servant
Edwin Harris

MS letter to Donald McLean. Written in New Plymouth, NZ, 9 Aug 1847. Turnbull. MS-Papers-0032-0123.


I had however less difficulty in finding the original lines from having been previously employed
Edwin discloses that his 1841-42 survey work for the NZ Company included the present Ngāmotu Block. He succeeded in laying out 550 acres for native reserves near its western boundary.

I next commenced recutting an old line for the purpose of making a reserve
Edwin moved to the eastern boundary of the Ngāmotu Block, intending to lay out another native reserve. Instead he was instructed by McLean to survey the Waiwhakaiho boundary of the block and moved up the river to where it joins with the Mangorei Stream (a location still known as the Meeting of the Waters). Here his Ngāti Te Whiti survey team had rights only on the western bank of the Mangorei and Edwin agreed to cut his line according to their wishes, advancing six miles along the stream. Neighbouring Puketapu people cut a line on their side of the Mangorei.

I found this River extremely troublesome
The Mangorei Stream winds south west towards the mountain through lahars and ravines. Winter conditions and McLean’s instructions from Grey to settle quickly with potential sellers of land meant that Edwin was unable to complete the cutting of the line that would intersect with the Sugar Loaf line on the western boundary of the block.

when I commenced the Sugar Loaf line and cut as far as the Mangore River
Moving south from the Sugar Loaves at Moturoa, Edwin crossed the Huatoki, Te Henui and Mangorei Streams to tie off his lines. The interrupted Mangorei survey meant that he could not make a precise calculation for the acreage of the block. His estimate of 1000 acres is close to the eventual count of 9770 acres.

The land is in its general character excellent
The Grey Block included districts now known as Mangorei, Hurworth, Hurdon and Westown. Red Pine is rimu, White Pine is kahikatea.

A good Road may be found into the interior
There is a “Native path” annotated on the map Edwin produced for McLean in 1847. It is a dotted line intersected by the Sugar Loaf (Paritutu) line and joins up with Frankley Road / Tukapa Street. See New Plymouth settlement map – Land purchase by Mr. McLean, place names, native reserves – scale 40 chains:1 inch – Original, compilation (Archives NZ). Our thanks to Robert Crookbain for this reference. (Email to Michele Leggott, 14-17 Oct 2023)