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  • Keith Newman

Tiromoana terrain: Tough land to tame

In 1909, a 1500 acre (607 ha) section of Tuki Tuki Station, once home to at least one significant fortified Maori village, was surveyed out between the hills of Clifton Station and the Maraetotara River, extending back to the Tukituki valley.

It was a harsh and difficult section of land to farm with several changes over the next two decades as different parties either leased or owned it.

Sam Charlton farmed the area from 1910 and built the homestead known as Tiromoana (Sea view); the entrance road is named after him. He on-sold to the Yules (great grandparents of a future mayor of Hastings). Among the others who tried to tame the property was a Mr Ruddock.

The Tiromoana Homestead

By the 1920s the property was in the hands of John Gatenby. He and neighbouring property owner Colonel Neilson of Summerlee Station both used the Clifton Station woolshed until a new structure was completed in Charlton Rd in 1935. The following year Gatenby sold 1536 acres (622ha) to Englishman Basil Shaw and his wife Alison.

The land was mostly hills with about 230 acres in flat, easier country where Shaw ran Romney Marsh sheep and Aberdeen Angus cattle, with shelter provided by pine and kanuka trees. He only farmed the property for a short time before being called up for military service in the Royal Navy during World War II. His ship was sunk off Java during the evacuation of Singapore and he was reported missing. His widow Alison was, according to Angus Gordon, “an extremely cultured woman” and a good friend of his parents. She lived in the homestead creating an enormous garden which in later years became “quite a showpiece”.

Basil’s son William (Bill) Shaw doesn’t believe his father intended to stay long. “He had said that if he came back from the war he would move us on. It was very awkward, dry and difficult land. It’s no wonder the previous owners didn’t last long.” With bulldozers, aerial spraying and fertiliser Bill, with help from neighbours and friends began to make a go of it “but it was still pretty hard going”. The property was run by the Guardian Trust with Frank Pulford, a former Clifton Station manager, looking after it from 1955 until Bill took over in 1962. Pulford remained on for 30-years until he retired in 1986. Shaw says their arrangement was unusual. “I wanted to make a few changes toward the end but Pulford wanted to stay on as he liked the area, so we swapped roles. I started out working for him but now he was working for me. He was a wonderful man…he could do anything and everything. He was reliable, honest and always working.” Vying for viability Angus Gordon says the Shaw family, specifically Bill and farm manager Frank Pulford, developed an extensive water system to cover nearly 1000 acres of the back country, pumping water from the river to tanks on the strategic hill then allowing gravity feeding to troughs. “They put on fertiliser, subdivided the property, bulldozed a major track down a formidable spur to the river making it a far more viable and easily accessible farm.” The carrying capacity of the farm had increased sufficiently in the late 1950s to enable 400-500 cattle to be run instead of the 100 it had supported previously. Tiromoana won the Weddell Cup and Blecher Special prize in the chiller beef competition for the best lightweight beast on hooks in the Hawke’s Bay District in 1955. The wool clip also improved from the 2000 Romney ewes and over 1000 hoggets.

As well as farming the property there were always horses around, including those owned by Bill Shaw’s older sisters Catherine and Rosemary.

Horses in front of the Tiromoana Homestead

An aerial view Bill took an strong interest in flying and once he got his licence at Hastings Aerodrome at Bridge Pa, he found himself especially attracted to their Tigermoth. When the club’s plane was written off in an accident, he saw similar models offered on the market for a reasonable price and purchased his own in 1969.

Bill Shaw with his Tigermoth in the hanger

His first plane was a 1940 Tigermoth and later a second more comfortable New Zealand-made model. He built a hangar and landing strip behind his Tiromoana homestead and spent as much time in the air as his commitments on the farm would allow, often taking a passenger with him.

“It was magic,” he says getting up above the clouds or heading across to the other side of Cape Kidnappers where he would often land on the beach, have a swim in the sea and go diving for paua. He made many friends, including about five other Tigermoth owners in Hawke’s Bay who would often fly together. “I had a few close calls and pranged it a couple of times but never got hurt. They were one of the safest by design and nature with the passenger sitting up front.” The Old Woolshed by the road at the entrance to his Tiromoana property was a popular venue for many years, hosting social functions, dances, weddings and parties.

Bill Shaw had taken out an insurance arrangement with Lloyd’s of London to cover his farm in an arrangement where he would gain a premium pay-out in a good year or have to forfeit part of his assets in a bad year. In the 1980s, he says, a perfect storm hit Lloyds, including pollution claims and freak storms, taking it to the brink of bankruptcy, so they called in their pledges. “We were lucky to be able to keep the house and surrounding land,” says Shaw.

From the mid-1980s Angus Gordon leased back 1000 acres of the back country until 1992 when the majority was sold to Freddie and Barbara Rosenlew from Finland; two thirds of it was put into forestry and the rest leased for grazing.

Bill Shaw kept the homestead block of 160 acres where he continues to live with his wife Heather, whom he married in 1997. In 2003, they sold about 70 acres of the hill block to Charles Gordon, Angus’ youngest brother. “It’s a good thing the remaining assets are now worth more than the farm was previously, although I’m a little sad to think of the damage the forestry operation has done after all the hard work we put in to make the farm work.”

Shaw has remained on the Te Awanga property all his life. “It’s a nice combination of land types and coastal; handy to all the towns and the climate is rather special. You can head into town and go through fog and rain and back here the sun is shining all day.”

Sources: Personal interviews with Bill and Heather Shaw Archaeological Survey of Te Awanga / Parkhill Area, 2004, p2 Angus Gordon, Shadow of the Cape, A Gordon, Clifton, 2004, p.118 Farms and Stations of New Zealand, G.A. Tait and Allison, Cranwell Publishing, Auckland, 1961 Photographs: Bill and Heather Shaw

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