Topic: 1954: A Year of Beginnings

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1954 was a year of beginnings for Kawerau. A year of building a mill for people to work in and a year of establishing a community for people to live in.

View over Kawerau from Monika Lanham ReserveOn 31 March 1954, the Governor General by Order in Council established the Borough of Kawerau, excising 1330 acres from the Territory of Whakatane County. The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum celebrated this 60 year anniversary with the exhibition, 1954 - A Year Of Beginnings. Further details of the contents of the exhibition can be seen below. 

Click on the images on the right to learn more about each photograph.







Early Fenton Street ResidentsEarly Kawerau People

People were essential for creating the new community of Kawerau. This part of the exhibition looks at some of the movers and shakers of 1954 plus celebrates those early residents beginning their lives in this new town. At this stage, there were two distinct populations - young families and single men, with Kawerau having the highest disproportionate male to female ratio in New Zealand.




1964Maureen Authors emerges from her pole top home to be crowned the winner of the polesitting competition..

1964 saw the town celebrate 10 years of existence with many fun activities undertaken by local residents. At this point in time, Kawerau had grown considerably with Council now established and many new community facilities (schools, shops, churches, etc.) available for the growing population with approximately 5,800 people resident.     




19741974 Polynesian Festival

1974 was a time of continued growth and development with approximately 7,700 people now living in Kawerau. The population began to change as families dominated the community and these changes led to more schools and areas set aside for housing.     

1984Cast of the Gypsy Rose

1984 saw Kawerau's population peak with 8,500 people now resident. Growth had continued with developments like the opening of Tarawera Mall and investment in industry like the boiler rebuild project at Tasman. Events of significance included the Hepatitis B vaccination project and the beginning of a downturn with reduced manning announced for the Mill. 


1994Islington St, 1994

By 1994, the population had dropped to approximately 8,000 people. 80% of the community owned their own homes as industry divested housing stock and significantly reduced employee numbers. 



2004View of Kawerau looking east from Monika Lanham Reserve

Although the population continued to decline and the community demographics changed with high youth and elderly populations, 2004 was a positive year with investment in local infrastructure and many community groups celebrating 50 years of existence.


2014Street Legal Festival March 2014

Who knows what 2014 will bring? Its started well with the Street Legal Art Festival, the $60 million investment in SCA tissue and plans to redevelop our pool changing rooms. We’re looking forward to what the next 60 years will bring for our town. 


The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum curated the exhibition 1954: A Year of Beginnings which ran from March - July 2014.