TRANSPORT IN AHUROA

The following is an in-depth and very interesting piece by the late Bruce Jenkins.
It clearly illustrates the way of life in Ahuroa in earlier times and its independence
from outside towns or cities and just how much it has changed since those days.
(See intro from 'Roading In Ahuroa').


Horse Or Bullock Drawn Vehicles

The Coach Service Between Devonport & Warkworth

Early Vehicles In The Valley

The Advent of the Ahuroa School Bus

The Cream Lorry

Truck Collides With School Bus - Boy Loses Pants

Cartage & Stock Movement

Diesel Engines Spell the End Of Ahuroa Station

The Steady Loss Of The Local General Carriers

Store Closes Ending Local Delivery Service

The Original School Bus/Delivery Van Retires

A Record Of Carriers Of The District

 

The standard of a road determines the uses to which it can be put and equally the standard of a road will reflect, over time, the demands made of it. It is on this basis that the roads in the district evolved from narrow muddy tracks through the bush and scrub one hundred and fifty years ago into what are now basically two carriage width metalled all weather roads, parts of which are in the process of being upgraded to sealed surfaces. This transition reflects the continuing evolvement of the traffic using then, from the walking settler carrying his goods on his back in the earliest days, through the era of horse or bullock drawn wheeled traffic requiring formed, albeit clay, roads to the modern motor vehicle and its need for all weather metalled or sealed roads.

Except for the walking traveller the traffic using the roads essentially serve one of two purposes, the carriage of passengers or the carrying of goods – the car or the truck. There are, of course, compromises serving one primary purpose but with a limited ability to serve another.

Horse Or Bullock Drawn Vehicles:

After the early walking settler the horse or bullock drawn vehicles comprised the next era in transport, principally wheeled but including the sledge. Other than the latter, which remained in common use on farms until displaced by the “Fergy” tractor in the 1950s, I have had no experience in the day to day practical use of these vehicles. They were well on their way to redundancy by the time of my first memories of them. Nonetheless because they are important to the story of transport in the valley, representing the next fifty years in the history of its development, I will attempt some description of them.

With the exception of the odd compromise they fell fairly neatly into one or other of the two categories of passenger or goods vehicles. They were further categorised into single horse or team drawn and, if wheeled, into two or four wheeled vehicles. A wheeled vehicle when drawn by a single horse was pulled with the horse between shafts, as in the modern trotting sulky, and would usually, but not always, be a two wheeler. A team drawn vehicle would usually be a four wheeler pulled by two or more horses using a centre “pole” supplemented by a system of harness which included “swingle-trees” attached to the front axle and, in the case of more than two the lead horses were similarly attached to the pole as well. “Traces” usually of leather but also of chain connected the swingle-trees behind to the horse collars at the front, against which they pulled. The front axle was pivoted to enable it to follow the horses in a turn. Wooden block brakes usually applied to the rear wheels were used to stop the vehicle over-running the horses on downhill gradients. On the lighter single horse vehicles a breach strap against which the horse could be held by the reins was used for the same purpose. The wheels on all vehicles would be iron shod for extra strength and reduced wear.

Passenger transport varied from the one horse, two wheeled, one passenger “sulky” to the four to six horse, four wheeled, eight to ten passenger “stage coach”. In between - those in more common use seemed to be the single horse, two wheeled, two passenger “gig”, the one or two horse, two or four wheeled, two or four passenger “buggy” and the two or more horse, six plus passenger “wagonette”. With the possible except of the wagonette they would often be upholstered , sometimes be roofed or have folding hoods. They were usually sprung with spring steel leaves.

Of the load carrying vehicles the humble “sledge” pulled by one or two horses would, because of its simplicity and ability to handle muddy conditions, have been the most common and useful. The “konaki” a variation of the sledge was also used. Pulled by one or two horses it had a high sided tray carried on front runners and at the rear on two solid wooden wheels, one fitted with a wind-on wooden block brake. It was usually bigger than a sledge and not so adaptable but able to carry a good load, more especially in dry conditions. Of the wheeled load carriers only two seemed to have been in common use – the one or two horse or bullock drawn “cart”, some times referred to locally as a “dray”, with a high sided tray used for smaller capacity loads and much used in road construction, and the four wheeled “wagon” used for heavier and more bulky loads, such as logs, timber, wool bales etc., and pulled by teams of four or more horses or by bullocks. <back to top>

The Coach Service Between Devonport & Warkworth:

Mention should be made of the coach service between Devonport and Warkworth which operated for some twenty-seven years, between 1882 and 1909. Travelling by coach and five (horses) over hilly and often treacherous muddy clay roads should have sponsored many tales, tall and true. Yet I can’t even recall hearing the service talked about by the generation who would have used it, or known of its use. Nor do I remember hearing of any wagon services operating on the Great North Road. Yet there must have been wagoners offering alternative services to the scows for the carrying of goods to and from Auckland and places in between. But to the best of my memory my father, for instance, made no mention of either service in respect to himself, his parents or his Moir grandparents.

It would seem that the advent of the railway and the motor vehicle simply overtook it in the minds of those who may have used it in the past. It was no longer important to them twenty- five or thirty years on and therefore was forgotten unless some specific incident recalled it to memory. Whatever – without a basis of reminiscences I can offer no indication of their importance to the local settlers in the valley at that time, only report the existence of one and the suspected existence of the other.

What I can say with some certainty is that the coach service, based on post office mail contracts with an associated passenger and small parcels service plied the Great North Road over Moir’s Hill and never entered the Ahuroa valley as such. It could, of course, have been intercepted by the local settlers either at the eastern foot of the Puhoi/Ahuroa hill or at its intersection with the Woodcock’s Road at Kourawhero where, in both cases, the road begins its ascent or completes its descent over Moir’s Hill.

By way of clarification, it would seem two routes were used by the Great North Road for the ascent of Moir’s Hill from Puhoi. The earliest, possibly to avoid bridging problems further up the Puhoi valley, turned west after leaving the village going up what is now known as Tunnel road and then turned north again to join the southern end of Tolhopf road following it to its intersection with the present Puhoi/Ahuroa road, which it crossed right on the saddle. It then continued in a fairly steep climb up to the top the hill, the road formation of which could still be seen until its recent planting in pines. It would seem that the use of this route was fairly short-lived and was almost certainly not used by the coachline. The route that it took was the later and better-known one which continued to be used until the road connecting Puhoi and Warkworth was completed. This route progressed up the Puhoi valley past its previous diversion, probably on the alignment of the present road, to the foot of the hill where it diverged to the right of the Puhoi/Ahuroa hill road up one or other of the two valleys which led up to the top of Moir’s Hill. Both valleys were apparently used at various times.

The demise of the coachline service in 1909 lead to the establishment of a thrice weekly coach service between Puhoi and the Ahuroa railway station to deliver and collect the mail, small parcels and passengers from the rail. This service, as reported by Father Silk in his “History of Puhoi”, was still in operation in 1923 and probably continued so until replaced by a direct road service, probably Lister’s Royal Mail, on the completion of an all weather highway between Auckland and Warkworth. <back to top>

Early Vehicles In The Valley:

The 1920’s saw the introduction of the motor vehicle into the valley which eighty years later is still causing us problems. Because of the variety and numbers of makes and models developed since the war, my comments in respect to the motor car are confined to the earlier years of motoring in the valley and more particularly to the vehicles owned and used by my family, of which I still have some memory. By way of a general comment, however, the prevalence of a particular make may just have reflected the accessibility to a particular agency rather than a common preference. Thus while Ford may have dominated the outside market I can recall hearing of only two Model T’s, (Beauty Fords) and no Model A’s (Tin Lizzies) in the district. One Model T was owned by a great uncle of mine, Jack Osbourne, an apple orchardist on what is now part of Lothlorien, the other by Harry Poyner, son of the early settler, George. When he died his widow “Granny” Poyner had it put up on blocks where it remained until acquired by (farmer) Jack Langman and (storekeeper) Keith Lester in the late 1940’s. I don’t know what finally happened to it. No doubt Model A’s were about in the district, Johnny Paul I think may have had one, but having had no association with them I have no recollections of them.

The first cars my family had were open tourer Dodges of mid 1920’s vintage, both my father and grandfather owning them. My own association with this car began early in life, on my birth in fact, on the back seat of one somewhere on the Kaukapakapa Hills, well short of the Helensville hospital for which we were headed. I have no recollection of the trip! My grandfather kept his Dodge for the rest of his life but my father updated to an Essex sedan (saloon), in the early 1930’s. It seemed to be about that time that the canvas-roofed, side-curtained, open tourer gave way to the fully enclosed wind-up windowed sedan and the crank handle to the self-starter.

Unfortunately, the Essex had the bad habit of breaking back axles, usually at the most inconvenient time and places so, in 1936, my father replaced it with the latest Vauxhall, from memory a 6/14 (six cylinder, fourteen horsepower) model. It was quite an elegant four door saloon, dark chocolate in colour with the Vauxhall trademarks of chrome flutes along each side of the bonnet and the flying figure on the radiator cap. It had wire spoked wheels and the spare wheel recessed into the front mudguard to provide for a carrier, the forerunner of the boot, at the rear. It had a synchromesh gearbox and, from memory, a 12 volt electrical system. The interior was of dark brown or maroon leather with bucket front seats and the rear bench seat dividable by a pull-down arm rest. I distinctly remember a blind for the back window which could be operated by the driver to protect him from the dazzle of following headlights!. The dashboard was in walnut veneer and it had a retractable “sunshine” roof which leaked in the wet hence, no doubt, the reason for it being called a “sunshine roof”. All in all it was, from memory, a pleasant car to ride in and drive. It was replaced at the end of the war by a Chevrolet “Fleetmaster”.

Another vehicle we owned at this time was a canvas-roofed, side-curtained, split windscreened 1928 model 15 cwt. Chevrolet truck with an “oogah oogah” horn. My father purchased it from George Poyner (Jnr.) who, so the story goes, drove it through the end of its shed on bringing it home and there left it. I am not going to vouch for that story but it is possible that George who drove and controlled big teams of bullocks found that the Chev. didn’t respond to “Whoa there!” Whatever – I remember this vehicle in particular and with some affection because I learned to drive on it, “crash box” and all, spending not a little time just sitting in it practising “double-declutching”. Should the self-starter not be working it was fitted with a crank-handle, the procedure in the use of which was to retard the spark (most important), and advance the hand throttle setting (not too far) on the steering wheel quadrant and then, when swinging the crank-handle hope to goodness that the gear lever, which you had forgotten to check, was in neutral. It could be just a little embarrassing if it wasn’t! I recollect my father, when he started in reverse and attempted to push over the shed into which he had just unloaded a load of hay, much to our delight. He, of course, was not amused and we had to help straighten up the shed later. It was used to carry gear to and from another farm we then owned, hay to the haysheds, cream to the cream-stand, pigs to the roadside loading pen, skim-milk from a neighbour who didn’t have a piggery and numerous other small farm jobs. It became surplus to our needs when we bought a 1936 three ton Chevrolet truck from Reg Hooper, carrier of Glorit. We sold it to Bob Walton of Warkworth where it was quite often to be seen trundling along the streets of that town.

In the mid-1930’s as the roads were being metalled more and different vehicles appeared in the district. Although I was too young and my memory not good enough to say who drove what with any certainty, owners with whom I seem to associate the following makes in the late 1930’s and the 1940’s were - Andrew and Bill Davie-Martin: Chevrolet, Chris Berger: Plymouth, Ray Blade: Ford V8, Edge Smith: Austin sedan, Carl Wilson: Chevrolet 30 cwt. truck, Joe Tolhopf: Rugby light truck, Viv Jenkins: Dodge light truck. I don’t recall any English Hillmans or Morris 8’s in the valley up until the end of the war and only one (Baby) Austin 7 owned by Ernie Woodcock. <back to top>

The Advent of the Ahuroa School Bus:

The advent of the school bus late in 1936 or early 1937 was a major mile-stone in the story of transport in the district. Prior to that we either (most) walked, (a few) rode or (one family) took correspondence. The only children not to get some benefit were the Woodcock girls, but they came down by train each day anyway. The bus made two runs to the school, one from the foot of the Puhoi/Ahuroa hill, which meant that Joey Tolhopf could coast down on his bike each morning to catch the bus but had to push the (damned) thing back up to the very top each afternoon. Originally, the second run was down the main road to the western junction of the Komokoriki road to pick up the Davie-Martin, Nelson and Poyner children before picking up the rest of us on the way back. Later when the Komokoriki road was metalled the run was extended to make the round trip over the hill, much to the satisfaction of the children on that road.

The school bus was operated by the local storekeepers of the time, first by Hay & Rogers and later by Jim Goodhew, Keith Lester and others. Primarily intended as a school bus it also served the equally important function of delivering the mail, paper, bread, meat, groceries and any other goods needed by the local settlers. It was built on a Ford truck chassis on which the rear of the cab had been cut away, the roof extended back over the deck and the sides built up to about half-way and from there up to the roof enclosed in heavy wire mesh. Talk about monkeys in a cage! In wet weather the mesh sides were covered by roll-down canvas awnings. A drop-down tailboard and roll-down awning, allowing easy access into the back of the bus, completed the set-up. Wooden slat seats were arranged down each side of the deck leaving ample space in the middle for the large bins for bread, meat and groceries and the occasional forty-four gallon drum of petrol, hence the need for easy access from the rear. We, however, entered the bus through the off-side cab door and climbed up some steps to the deck via a gap in the partition protecting the driver. It was a totally practical vehicle and served its purpose well. <back to top>

The Cream Lorry:

The next major step in the development of the district’s transport was the advent of the cream lorry. Prior to the railway coming to Ahuroa the only means the settlers had of exporting any small productive surplus was through the ports of Puhoi or Warkworth. Home churned salted butter, for instance, was put down in casks, taken to Puhoi and transported to the Auckland market by cutter or scow. The advent of the home separator, enabling the quick and easy separation of cream from fresh milk, associated with the coming of the railway and the establishment of the dairy factory at Helensville opened up the way for the settlers to expand their dairying activities, and most did, by making available an accessible and assured outlet, albeit not price, for their product. Cream would be carted in cans to the station either individually or by arrangements between settlers for railing to Helensville several times a week. In the mid-1930’s I vaguely recall a lorry, the one I think later owned by C.A. (Carl) Wilson of Wilson road, a 30 cwt. Chevrolet, carting cream cans to the station.

The completion of all-weather roading connecting the dairy farms in the valley to Helensville, probably about 1937, enabled the start of cream collection from the farm gate, or rather from the roadside cream-stand, directly to the dairy factory by lorry. The difference between farm gate and cream-stand was not insignificant since the Hawkens, Parkers, Wilsons and those dairying up the Komokoriki and Ahuroa Valley roads still had to sledge their cream to stands at the ends of their respective roads. I don’t know just when the cream run was extended to Puhoi but it would not have been before the Puhoi/Ahuroa hill was metalled. <back to top>

Truck Collides With School Bus - Boy Loses Pants:

The first carrier to undertake the cream run was Harry Flynn who although not an Ahuroa local was, if memory serves correctly, related to the Becher family, settlers up the eastern end of the valley. Jack, the head of that family, as well as being a farmer, was the local roadman for many years. I don’t remember anything about the truck Harry drove but both he and his truck were involved in the first and possibly the only collision involving the school bus, on Sanderson’s corner. No one was seriously hurt although one boy lost his pants, ripped off on a broken seat slat as we all ended up in a heap on the floor at the front of the bus. The bus carried the scars of the encounter in the form of a large hole on its right side for a few days and the cream lorry probably lost a few cans of cream. Harry apparently didn’t renew his contract with the dairy company but returned to the district later, this time operating a timber truck, carting logs out of the Furniss bush in the late 1940’s.

The run was next undertaken by Henry Fletcher a farmer/carrier of Kourawhero. He operated a Reo on the run throughout the war years, driven by Ted Cossill, who was based at Puhoi. He also provided a general carrying service for the district mainly carting bagged superphosphate fertiliser from the station to the farmers’ sheds. There were 12 bags to the ton in those days, each weighing 186lbs. or in today’s terms 86 kgs! Every bag had to be manhandled out of the wagon or the goods-shed onto the truck and then off again into farmers’ sheds. Ted, a noted axeman, was also known for working long hours, often well into the night to empty a wagon on which his client might otherwise be charged demurrage. No driving time regulations in those days. He later bought one of Henry Fletcher’s trucks and goods service licence and operated on his own behalf in Puhoi and Ahuroa.

Sometime about the end of the war the Kaipara Co-operative Dairy Co. Ltd. bought that part of Smith and Davies’ transport operation based in Helensville, probably largely involved in cream carrying contracts and used this to expand the collection of cream from all its suppliers. The Puhoi/Ahuroa run was served for a long time by just two drivers – Denny Honey ex Makarau and Bob Wenzlick of Puhoi, with occasional help from Gussie Berger and Jimmy Tolhopf. In the early 1960’s the cream run was overtaken by the collection of whole milk with its associated milk tankers resulting in, amongst other things, the demise of the farm piggery. Incidentally, the carrying firm of Smith and Davies probably started life carting cream from the Tauhoa area to the rail at Kaipara Flats. <back to top>

Cartage & Stock Movement:

For the cartage of pigs most farms had small roadside holding pens and loading ramps, the pigs often driven from their sties to the pen, an art in itself requiring great patience, anticipation and a long stick. These pens and ramps were sited on a convenient roadside bank, requiring the truck picking them up to back across the road for loading, thereby effectively blocking the traffic in the process. That this could be done says something for the amount and speed of the traffic and the goodwill of the drivers using the road, mostly neighbours who would probably have stopped for a gossip anyway. The pigs, when loaded, would be carted to the rail, usually Kaipara Flats to meet up with those coming from other districts, on single deck trucks equipped with stock sides. I can’t recall with any certainty now who carted them but seem to recall Reg Hooper of Glorit and Smith and Davies of Kaipara Flats being involved.

Until the advent of the bigger trucks and cattle and double-decker sheep crates in the early 1950’s local stock movement, pigs excepted, was almost exclusively by droving. We drove our fat stock and culls to either Ahuroa or Woodcocks stations for railing to the works. Occasionally we drove stock to or from the saleyards at Kaipara Flats. On a number of occasions I have driven mobs of sheep home over the hill from there or Woodcocks assisted only by a couple of dogs, indicating how little traffic one was likely to encounter and the better standard of roadside fencing in those days. Stock coming from farther afield would be railed to Ahuroa and then driven home.

The transport of goods over the years has continually changed, sometimes influencing and sometimes responding to the circumstances of the times. Several factors have influenced these changes since the metalling of the roads made possible the realisation of the full potential of the motor vehicle as road transport, probably first used in the valley to cart the metal that metalled our roads. While I was too young to recollect much of this, who did it and how it was done, I do recall seeing that the tips of these early trucks were wound up by hand, the driver getting out of his cab and using a crank-handle for the purpose of winding it up. He then climbed back into his cab, tripping the tailboard for trailing as the truck moved forward.

Because of the interruption of the war the development of motorised transport over this early stage (1936 – 46) was essentially static after the initial impetus given by the school bus and the cream lorry. At war’s end, however, a considerable tonnage of tea-tree firewood was exported from the valley, its sale helping to defray the costs of developing land for farming. It was hauled from the bush to the station in truck loads of six foot (1.8m.) lengths, each length being loaded individually onto and off the trucks and into the wagons for railing to Auckland wood and coal merchants. It was fairly short-lived, probably not more than ten years, finishing in the mid-1950’s. Over this same period the last big stand of native timber in the district was worked out, also leaving the valley by road.

Throughout this period and indeed up to the mid-1980’s our metalled roads were subject to axle load restrictions, limiting the weight which could legally be carried, especially over the wet winter months. These were imposed by the county council and were aimed at minimising the damage to our notoriously weak clay sub-soils which could, and did, collapse under heavy loading. These restrictions were abolished in the mid-1980’s and now a load which can be legally carried on a state highway can also be carried on a rural road. So far our metalled roads have withstood the challenge reasonably well, thank goodness!

Another influence operating over the period was the rigid application of road transport licensing, under which a carrier needed a “goods service” license for each truck operated, the new issue or transfer of which was assessed against the criteria of “in the public interest” as to need, suitability and means. Since the mid-1980’s, in deference to the new economic god of competition, road transport licensing, while still required, has become a sinecure, no longer obligated to such testing. Its original object was to protect the status quo, particularly in relation to the small carrier, against undue or unwarranted competition. Such protection as this afforded, and it may not have been much because it was based on contestability not rationality, no longer applies. <back to top>

Diesel Engines Spell the End Of Ahuroa Station:

The development of the diesel engine after the war, with its ability to power much bigger trucks more economically was a major development, increasing their load capacity immediately from 3 – 4 tons to 6 – 7 tons. Associated with its natural advantage of not having to double-handle goods in transit between dispatch and delivery made road transport much more competitive to the rail.

As a result the railways were afforded regulatory protection under which the carriage of goods by road for more than forty miles in competition with it was prohibited. Local carriers were effectively confined to carting to or from the rail, even when the area in which they were licensed to carry extended well beyond this.

Two coinciding factors associated with the heavier loads the diesel truck was able to carry with the use of trailers, that of the advent of stock crates for carrying livestock and that of the development of aerial topdressing, which caused a demand for bulk fertiliser, created a demand for the conveniences of road transport. These were being able to carry livestock direct from the farm to the freezing works and bulk fertiliser direct from the works to the farm airstrip.

While the railways would eventually succumb to these advantages it didn’t do so without determined resistance both politically and otherwise. Its answer to the bulk fertiliser problem for instance was to put in unloading gantries at selected stations. Kaipara Flats was one, Wellsford the next. Under the forty mile restriction farmers had no choice but to use one of these or unload their fertiliser by hand at a more convenient station. It didn’t of course solve the matter of double handling and farmers still ran the risk of demurrage charges should the fertiliser arrive when weather precluded access to the airstrips. In respect to bulk fertiliser Ahuroa escaped most of these difficulties being close if a bit over the forty mile limit. We simply ignored it and with the connivance of the local carriers we had it carted directly from the works some years before those at Kaipara Flats, for instance, were able to.

Eventually, whether as a result of political pressure or because of the impending cost of replacing the rolling stock needed to maintain the railway’s monopoly, or both, this protection was relaxed first in respect to the carrying of livestock and then for all other goods in, from memory, the mid 1960’s. This initiated a rapid expansion and development in rural road transport, on which it is presently based, and a corresponding decline in the use of the rail, as the public lost interest in it as a carrier of general goods. And the Ahuroa railway station once so very important to the settlers in the valley simply disappeared, redundant to both their and the railway’s needs. Such is the march of progress. <back to top>

The Steady Loss Of The Local General Carriers:

Over the years there has been a steady loss of small local general carriers, to the bigger more aggressive, centralised but less personalised operators. Kaipara Flats, for instance, which for a long time never had less than two locally based general carriers no longer has any. One illustration of the influences at work has been the monopoly afforded the bigger operators in the cartage of livestock to the only export meat company operating in the north. One has only to note the number of livestock rigs on the main highways, the largest proportion of whom will be engaged in carting to the works, to appreciate the importance of this work to the general carrier.

A change in the manner of allocating this work a few years ago caused the small carriers to lose the share of this business previously undertaken by them to larger operators and effectively precluded them from regaining it. For the small carrier, who had had to adjust to the loss of bulk fertiliser haulage resulting from a declining aerial topdressing industry this further loss meant, for some, abandoning their livestock carrying completely and for others, more dependant on it, their demise as carriers. Two carriers who serviced this district were so affected, Berger’s Transport who gave up the carrying of livestock and Hood Bros. who went out of business.

Only three carriers have been domiciled in Ahuroa since the war. The first was Rupert Berger, who bought Ted Cossill’s Puhoi based general goods carrying business, (ex Henry Fletcher), and operated a local service before selling it to Bill Poyner who continued it, expanding into livestock carrying before selling out to Warkworth Transport. Currently the only locally based carrier is Hawken Contracting, (Neil, Lilian and Laurence), whose business resulted from the requirement introduced in 1990 for farmers operating trucks, even if only for their own use, to hold a “goods service” license. This enabled them to offer general carrying services in direct competition with the established carriers. The Hawkens took up the challenge and based on a local need for carrying livestock and general goods later accentuated by the withdrawal of services by Hood Bros. and Bergers’ Transport, now operate two trucks and a trailer.

In addition to this service only two other general carriers now regularly service the district; Neville Bros. of Dairy Flat and Transcon of Wellsford (ex Warkworth Transport), both almost exclusively engaged in livestock cartage from the district to the works. Fonterra milk tankers service the remaining half-dozen dairy farms in the valley and contractors’ trucks and transporters, often ancillary to their contracting businesses provide an on request service. Apart from lime spreaders, a few farmers’ trucks and trades vehicles much of the heavy transport traffic using the district’s roads is of the multi-axled truck and trailer type, such as the milk tanker, livestock, bulk and timber haulage rigs. One development resulting from this is the increasing use of the private “ute” in response to the difficulty of getting small loads, including small livestock, transported locally by the operators of big trucks. They are simply not made for small loads. <back to top>

Store Closes Ending Local Delivery Service:

With the closure of the general store in the mid 1970s went the local delivery service for mail, papers, groceries, bread etc. that it once provided. The mail service was replaced by a six day a week rural mail delivery based on the Warkworth post office. For the delivery of basic household supplies, however, there wasn’t and still isn’t a service available to local residents so, not only must they leave the district to obtain these, they must also be able to carry them themselves. This makes having private transport available essential, be it car, ute or s.u.v. It is simply no longer possible to live in the district without access to such transport, unlike earlier days when residents could and did survive quite well without it. As a consequence there is a lot more local use of the district’s roads. <back to top>

The Original School Bus/Delivery Van Retires:

The school bus continues to be an essential element of the district’s transport, albeit somewhat changed from that previously described as provided by the original bus. Today the service has to provide for both the transport of children to the local primary school and for those going to schools in Warkworth. It most certainly does not deliver mail, papers, groceries etc. This was discontinued with the retirement of the old original bus in the mid 1950s. This was replaced, for a time, by a VW “Kombi”, again operated by the local storekeeper, who also used it to continue the mail, paper and grocery delivery but separate from its school bus duties. In its turn this was replaced by a locally based and driven Education Board bus, a Bedford in its standard red and yellow colours, probably in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

In the meantime from about 1950 on local students started attending the Warkworth District High School. This necessitated their catching the high school bus at Woodcocks. I have not been able to establish how these early students got to Woodcocks, except it would appear that for part of the time at least they were transported by the aforementioned “Kombi”. Eventually the high school bus started coming over the hill, I am unable to say exactly when but probably in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Once in place the local bus provided a feeder service to meet it at the junction of the Ahuroa and Woodcocks roads. In 1995, with Gubb’s providing both buses, the service was rationalised and now one bus does both pick-ups, driven by long serving and ex-resident Morris Sanderson.

Where to next? The one certainty is that, just as in the past, there will be continuing change to provide for changing circumstances. The West Coast road, for instance, will become increasingly important as a link route between the two highways and coasts. Within the valley itself there are signs of change. The milk tanker, for instance, no longer traverses the length of the valley but now services a half dozen dairy farms only, all located towards its western end. The needs of the small holdings will be quite different from those the larger livestock farms they are gradually replacing. The development of forestry, for which there is ample scope, or its non development for economic reasons will probably be the main factor affecting heavy traffic demands in the future. The continuing northward expansion of Auckland and an increasing local population may well sponsor public transport services. This, incidentally, won’t be a first. Tates, an Orewa bus operator, once provided a twice weekly service through the valley, via Puhoi and Kaukapakapa to Auckland and return in, from memory, the 1950s. It was discontinued after a few years, probably through lack of patronage as the convenience and availability of the modern motor car overtook it. <back to top>

A Record Of Carriers Of The District:

The following is an attempt to list, for the record, the carriers who, at various times, serviced the district from about 1936. They are given in rough chronological order but, of course there are overlaps.

Service Base History/Service
Harry Flynn Ahuroa
Cream collection direct to Helensville
Henry Fletcher Puhoi
As above and general goods service
Kaipara Co-op
Dairy Co
Helensville
Cream and limited general goods.
Later whole milk collection by tankers
Cossill Transport Puhoi
General goods service
Smith & Davies Kaipara Flats
General goods including twice weekly service to Auckland via Ahuroa
Kaipara Transport Kaipara Flats Bought Smith & Davies–eventually discontinued Auckland service,
continued general goods, livestock
Rupert Berger Ahuroa
Bought Cossill’s Transport of Puhoi ex Henry Fletcher
– operated local general goods service
Bentley & Hood Kaipara Flats Livestock and general goods service
– Merged with Warkworth Transport
Poyner’s Transport (Bill) Ahuroa Bought Rupert Berger’s license. Extended it to a livestock service before selling to Warkworth Transport
Berger’s Transport Warkworth Strong local associations. Provided (Ron and Merrilyn) a general goods and livestock service
Hooper’s (Alan) Glorit Bobby calf pick-up – later undertaken by Hood Bros.
Hood Bros. (Lewis) Kaipara Flats Bought Kaipara Transport. Continued that service until demise for reasons mentioned previously
Hawken Contracting Ahuroa New business providing livestock and general goods services including bobby calf pick-up.
Neville Bros Dairy Flat
Livestock service to freezing work
Transcon Wellsford ex Warkworth Transport – livestock service as above.

 <back to top>

Photos used in this article were:
Devonport to Warkworth via Kaipara Flats Stage Coach - The Great North Road by H Mabbett.
Kauri Log on Truck - Puhoi Museum
Ahuroa Station, Warkworth Museum
Haymaking behind Ahuroa Station, courtesy of Noel & Toni Sanderson
Ahuroa General Store, Warkworth Museum Newspaper Archives