Story: Waikato places

Page 13 – Morrinsville

Morrinsville

Town 32 km north-east of Hamilton, with a 2006 population of 6,603. Auckland entrepreneurs Thomas and Samuel Morrin bought around 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) and in 1874 established an estate called ‘Lockerbie’, planning the town of Morrinsville to house their workers. Lockerbie passed to the government in the 1890s, and land around Morrinsville was subdivided for closer settlement.

A buzz about Beeville 

One of New Zealand’s oldest anarchist communes, Beeville, began near Morrinsville in the late 1920s or early 1930s and lasted until 1973. Its members espoused eastern religious ideas, vegetarianism, resistance to military service and sexual freedom long before the hippie communes of the 1970s. 

Morrinsville became important because it was a junction for roads and railway lines. The main highway linked Morrinsville with the Coromandel Peninsula, while other roads led to farming settlements such as Mangateparu, Tauhei, Tāhuna and Hoe-o-Tainui. A railway line from Hamilton opened in 1884. More lines were completed north-east to Te Aroha in 1886 (extended to Thames in 1898 and Waihī in 1905) and south-east to Rotorua in 1894.

As dairying developed, the district became one of the most intensively farmed in the Waikato. Morrinsville grew into a prosperous farming town, with large saleyards, farm machinery outlets, agricultural services and engineering firms.

Piako and Waitoa rivers

Rivers rising in hill country south-west of Matamata. They converge near the Kopuatai Peat Dome, and below this point they are tidal. Both were traditional transport routes and sources of food for Māori. From the 1870s, until roads and railways provided other options, goods for Morrinsville and nearby settlements were brought up the Piako River, which was navigable by steamers to Kerepēhi, and by canoe or rowboat further upstream.

At this time wetlands covered a huge area from the Firth of Thames to present-day Te Aroha, Waitoa, Waihou, Morrinsville and Matamata. They were progressively drained to create roads, railways and farmland. Drainage works and planting of willows along riverbanks placed strain on waterways and devastating floods occurred at intervals from the early 20th century. Major flood-protection works were carried out along the Piako, Waitoa and Waihou rivers from the 1950s.

Kopuatai Peat Dome

New Zealand’s largest restiad peat bog (bog dominated by rushes of the Restionaceae family), about 35 km north-east of Morrinsville. It includes both peatland and mineralised wetland, and covers 10,201 hectares. A fortuitous survivor of swamp drainage works, Kopuatai is managed by the Department of Conservation.

Vegetation includes the greater jointed rush, clubmoss, and remnant kahikatea forest. There are 54 species of birds (notably the threatened Australasian bittern, banded rail, marsh crake and North Island fernbird), black mudfish and longfin eels.

Rukumoana marae

Marae between the towns of Morrinsville and Kiwitahi. It is the site of a Kīngitanga parliament house, built between 1915 and 1917. The house fell into disuse from the 1920s, but was restored in the 1980s.

Tatuanui

Settlement 6 km north-east of Morrinsville. It is home to the Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company, formed in 1916. Unlike other Waikato dairy companies, Tatua was not absorbed by the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company in the 1920s. In the early 2000s it exported dairy products to Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

Waitoa

Settlement 12 km north-east of Morrinsville. In the 19th century, before swampland was drained, flax milling developed around Waitoa. This continued into the early 20th century. Later, dairy farming became profitable. The Thames Valley Dairy Company opened a cheese factory at Waitoa in 1916. In 1920, the year it amalgamated with the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, the company was building a dried milk factory there. When completed it was said to be the largest in the world. Later, it diversified into condensed milk, baby food and cheese products. A workers’ settlement developed to service it and other local industries. In 2009 Fonterra owned the dairy factory.

Waihou

Dairy farming service centre, 16 km north-east of Morrinsville. In 1879 Waihou, then a railway construction settlement, was surveyed. After the brief gold rush at Te Aroha in 1880, some prospectors bought land in the area to try their luck at farming.

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick. 'Waikato places - Morrinsville', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/waikato-places/page-13