A beautiful, sprawling property belonging to local farming couple John and Jenny van Woerden was once the thriving township of Waitekauri.

The farming couple are fascinated by the history of the land they own, which was once the old mining town from 1876 and home to about 5000 people.

The Waitekauri Battery and surrounding township in 1896. Photo / Waihi Arts Centre and Museum
The Waitekauri Battery and surrounding township in 1896. Photo / Waihi Arts Centre and Museum

The 400 hectare property is vast, rolling and crisscrossed with streams and gullies. The van Woerdens have owned it since 1978.

The township took up about 30 hectares of this land. A community was created to house the miners who flocked to the area. It contained everything a township could want — two hotels, school, pub, volunteer fire brigade, post office, three churches, racecourse and clubs, plumber, tailor, chemist, baker, sadler, a newspaper (The Golden Age) and the battery (with one of the largest water wheels in the country to power the mine).

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The water wheel which powered the mine at the old Waitekauri township. Photo / Supplied
The water wheel which powered the mine at the old Waitekauri township. Photo / Supplied

Flat areas can still be seen where houses once dotted the landscape. Remains of the battery concrete foundations can be seen. Bottles and domestic glassware and crockery have been unearthed in recent years from the hotel and house sites.

Trees planted by the Waitekauri Public School school children are still there.

It is thought the pioneers worked in mostly primitive conditions to make a living mining. Mining ceased in 1905 and the township was gone by World War I.

John bought the land when he was just 21 years old when it was a sheep and beef farm.

All he ever wanted to do was be a farmer. The couple converted the farm to dairy and forestry.

One of the planted out areas on the van Woerden farmland.
One of the planted out areas on the van Woerden farmland.

John has been praised for being ahead of the game when it comes to farming sustainably. Since John took over the farm, he has been retiring land that is not ideal for farming and diversifying land to plant forestry blocks.

"We are trying to do the best with the land and to provide a good environment for the birds and insects," Jenny says. "John has worked out what's not worth farming. Anywhere where it was steep and where there are a lot of waterways, we have planted out.

"This way we have the opportunity to improve water quality, if we can plant to slow the water, silt levels will drop."

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The pair have reinforced borders beside the roads by planting native trees and flax.

They have done most of the work themselves over the years.

"It is gardening on a grand scale," Jenny says.