Topic: Original Residents of Hobson, Fitzroy & Fenton Streets, Kawerau

Topic type:

The first houses to be completed in Kawerau were occupied by FMR (Fletcher Merritt Raymond) and Tasman staff.

The area of Hobson Street from and including Fitzroy to Fenton Street, and Fenton Street from Hobson Street to River Road were the first houses in Kawerau to be completed. These houses were occupied by FMR (Fletcher Merritt Raymond, the consortium contracted to construct the new Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill) and Tasman staff. The families were pioneers in many ways as Kawerau greeted them with unsealed roads and no footpaths, no gardens, no permanent shops. Even to get to Whakatane the residents of Kawerau had to use the original Lands & Survey bridge over the Tarawera River at Waterhouse Street, and then use what was referred to as the 'lake road' to reach the main road near the Tasman Mill site. The new bridge built over the river on Bridge Road (now Tamarangi Drive) was constructed later in 1953 which gave residents a more direct link with the main road to Te Teko and Whakatane.

Fenton Street

In October 1953, the first house in Kawerau, situated at 60 Fenton Street, was completed and occupied by Americans Walter Hammer and his wife. Walter was the Construction Project Manager for Fletcher Merritt Raymond. He was a man of strong personality, possessing a real and definite gift in leadership. Walter had the ability to integrate American, Australian, Canadian and English men into a powerful construction team at Kawerau. 

The second house, 58 Fenton Street, was occupied by Charlie Goddard, his wife and daughter. Goddard, also an American, was the Assistant Construction Project Manager.

Mr & Mrs Walter N. McTurk occupied 56 Fenton Street, between Hobson Street and River Road. Mr McTurk was a Field Engineer for Fletcher Merrit Raymond. Mrs McTurk played a part in community affairs, she was secretary of the Kawerau Plunket Society, and also looked after a friends shop for two days a week. Home for the McTurk family in America was a 100 year old house with 19 rooms. The thing Mrs McTurk missed most in Kawerau was a supermarket - in 1955 there were no permanent shops in Kawerau.

The Burrows family lived at 52 Fenton Street and the Stevenson family at 54 Fenton Street.

Jack and Doreen Bourke lived at 50 Fenton Street. Jack was in charge of the Residential Construction Company who was responsible for building a large portion of the early housing in Kawerau. Jack was also one of the founders of the Kawerau Rugby Football Club along with Bill Firmin and Ron Wells.

The McDonald family lived at 48 Fenton Street, while Joe Casio, Fletcher Merritt Raymond engineer, and his family lived at 46 Fenton Street.

Fitzroy Street

W.J. MacEvoy lived at 1 Fitzroy Street and was the Engineering and Construction Manager for Fletcher Merritt Raymond. This site was originally 7 Hobson Street but was changed sometime in the 1960's.

Lane and Marie-Elizabeth Taris, originally from Holland, along with their son John, occupied the house at 4 Fitzroy Street from 1953 until 1957. Lane Taris was a foreman for Fletcher Construction Company, in charge of the cutting of timber for the pre-fabrication of wall sections of the houses which were being built by mass-production methods.

Bruce and Jean John, along with children Mary, Bevan, Peter & David, moved in to 3 Fitzroy Street in 1954. Bruce was one of a few men who came from the Boyer Paper Mill in Tasmania to work for Fletcher Merritt Raymond at the Tasman Mill. Bruce & Jean were involved with the establishment of both Boy Scouts & Girl Guides in Kawerau, while Jean was also involved with St Margaret's Church and the Country Women's Institute. The John family subsequently moved to Vogel Street.

Hal and Pat Horner moved from Tauranga with their children Darryl, Lee and Brett after a day trip to Kawerau resulted in Hal being offered a job with Fletcher Construction Company. The family lived in a caravan at Matata until their house at 8 Fitzroy Street was ready for occupation. Hal transferred to Tasman as the contract with Fletcher's was completed, becoming Maintenance Foreman and subsequently Property Maintenance Supervisor. The family moved from Fitzroy Street to Massey Street in 1960 and then to Whakatane in 1964. Hal was a foundation member of the Kawerau Speedboat Club and developed a reputation as a daring young man in a flying machine.

Other families to live in Fitzroy Street included: the Amphlett family in 12; James and Isabella Riach in 11; Norma and Robert Mancer in 7; the Fletcher Meritt Raymond female administration staff members lived in 6; and the Persson family in 15.

Hobson Street

The Stewart family lived at 4 Hobson Street. Nolan Stewart was the first police constable in Kawerau. He lived at the Te Teko Hotel until the house in Hobson Street, which was then known as No. 2 Road, was completed. This house also served as the police station until later in 1954 when a purpose built station was built in Bledisloe Street. Constable Stewart left Kawerau in 1956.

5 Hobson Street was occupied by Maurice and Freda Higgins and family. They lived for a week at the Plains Hotel Edgecumbe before their house was ready to occupy. Maurice had previously worked at the Boyer Paper Mill in Tasmania and came to New Zealand to work for Fletcher Merritt Raymond on the construction of Tasman Pulp & Paper. At the conclusion of his original 2 year contract with FMR Maurice was then employed by Tasman Pulp & Paper Company.

In 1954 Roy and Pauline Stoneham arrived in New Zealand having emigrated from London, England, they moved into 8 Hobson Street with their daughter Sally and son Paul. Roy was employed by the Tasman Pulp and Paper Company as a Personnel Officer. He soon took an active and leading part in many of the young town's affairs, serving as President or Chairman on a number of organisations. His particular interest was local body affairs and was the first Secretary of the Kawerau Community Association known as K.C.A. Roy also served on the Town's Advisory Committee before Kawerau became a Borough. Elected Mayor of Kawerau in 1965 he served in this capacity for 18 years being awarded an O.B.E. for his services to the local community and wider area in 1977. Pauline also was involved with many community groups being on the committees of the Country Women's Institute and the Riding Club in the early days.

Nolan & Jean Redstone lived at 10 Hobson Street with their two daughters Margaret and Jennifer. Nolan was the Kawerau branch manager for the Bay of Plenty Electric Power Board, and both Nolan and Jean played a very active part in the develpoement of clubs and associations in Kawerau.

Jack and Nan Owen lived at 6 Hobson Street. Andy McPhee the local Traffic Officer lived at 12 Hobson Street. The Brown family occupied 14 Hobson Street, Graham worked for Sandwell & Company and was the first Chairman of the Kawerau School Committee. Mrs Brown was President of Plunket.

The roads in Kawerau were known as numbers before they were officially given names. Hobson Street was Road #2, Fitzroy Street was Road #3 and Fenton Street was Road #30.

Mail would be addressed as:

House 6
Road 3

The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum documented the original residents in an exhibition September 2011 - August 2012.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Original Residents of Hobson, Fitzroy & Fenton Streets, Kawerau by Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License