After being part of a force that defeated Germany and other nations in two World Wars, the New Zealand Government had planned for repatriation of its soldiers that had proudly served this country.
The Discharged Soldier Settlement Act 1915 was a major scheme that placed our brave ex-servicemen on the land.
During World War II in 1943 legislation was passed to avoid inflation of land which took place after the 1914-18 war by pegging land prices at 1942 prices and to put all land sales through a Land Sales Court. This gave the Government the power to take land at a price fixed by the court.
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The Government Lands and Survey Department purchased land for returned soldier settlement, and this occurred in the Mangleton block in Hawke's Bay.
Builder Bill Hoskins and his wife Shirley would build the first house during 1955 on the Mangleton Soldiers Settlement past Kereru.
Bill would take his apprentice Bill Brown with him, and with his wife Shirley travel up a bulldozed road in their two-door V8 car to get to the building site.
A caravan was towed to the site for Bill and Shirley to sleep in during the build, and a small cookhouse was made with a coal range, which also heated up an old water cylinder. For tubs, Shirley would use 10-gallon (38-litre) kerosene tins with the side cut out. An old sink was used to wash dishes.
It was so windy at the top of the range, the caravan they stayed in had to be anchored with wire ropes and posts.
Bill, the apprentice, would sleep in a tent, but the wind blew his tent away and he ended up making a rough lean-to on the end of the cookhouse.
A hand wringer was delivered so Shirley could use during washing clothes – which she described as a "luxury". The bath was an old tin one, which was kept under the outside table they used for meals.
They brought a hen up to kill for a meal, but due to it laying eggs every day, Shirley recalls it being spared. The hen would also suffer the fate of the wind and get blown over the gully and then squawk out to be carried back up.
Bill had to transport all of the materials with great difficulty – rivers in flood and muddy roads made that difficult. All timber was hand-sawn on-site.
Subcontractors who worked on the house were not keen to stay overnight in what they thought was a cold and inhospitable place, so they would finish the job in one day. Shirley's parents thought the same when they visited, and they never went back.
Groceries were purchased in bulk. Young apprentice Bill thought he would like fresh milk instead of powdered milk and decided to sneak down the hill and milk a cow from a nearby herd. Water for use was retrieved from the Ohara stream.
While milking a cow Bill heard a voice say, "Is she giving much today?" It was a nearby fencer. Alarmed, Bill leapt up, the milk went flying and he never tried that again.
Supplies were needed about once a month, but if the area was in flood or there were slips it became a difficult task.
Once, when they desperately needed supplies and the road impassable, Bill had an idea of lowering the car down to the riverside, so they could drive out along the riverbank.
Shirley and Bill the apprentice were assigned to connect No 8 wire to the car and wind the other end progressively tree to tree as it was slowly edged down the bank. Problem was, the wire broke before the car reached the bottom and Bill managed to turn and stop just before the swollen river.
They managed to drive out, but water was up to their feet in the car as they made their way out.
The challenges never worried Shirley too much, because she grew up "as a back-country girl in Hicks Bay".
At the same time as the house was being built, scrub was being cleared for the farm by bulldozers and pushed down gullies. Shirley recalled that if a bulldozer went over the edge down a gully the driver would jump off and go down and drive it back up again.
The house is still in use today on a farm property.
- Michael Fowler (email@example.com) is a contract researcher, commercial business writer of Hawke's Bay history.