In pioneer times, good use was made of the native timber, which was once so readily available. As well as its importance for providing houses, barns, halls and churches, smaller household items were often crafted at home from rather than purchased. The skills needed for working with wood are not lost, although now it is thought of more as a hobby, and if native timber is involved, it is likely to be recycled.
An interesting item found in the museum archives is an example. It is a plaque carved in 1979 by the late Mr A. Mabbett and on the reverse side he has written its story.
“This piece of kauri is cut from a pile 12 x 12 that was one of many my father in 1906 helped Tom Blomfield point and fit with iron cap and ring on top end. These piles were driven into the mud under the Briscoe building on the corner of Customs and Gore Sts Auckland. The building was demolished in 1987 and I bought three of the best piles for $90.
“Two cut out average, one was a beautiful golden kauri. I made this board up in the shape more or less of the Kourawhero Stream (Red Crayfish) marking in the bridges, past and present and things of note on the banks. On this board I hope to get as many of the old Kourawhero school pupils as possible.”
The name Kourawhero translates as ‘red crayfish’. Early settlers reported visits from Maori who came to gather eels and the small fresh water crayfish. Mr Mabbett had made a study of the routes taken by Barton’s coach (1882-1909 ) as it brought passengers over Moir’s Hill, from Puhoi, and down the steep slopes into Kourawhero and some of the footnotes on the plaque relate to those long ago days. There are 10 bridges mentioned and a few such as Old Log Bridge, Sailor Bridge and Shark Oil Bridge would not be familiar to modern travellers. Better known is Graveyard Bridge, on the Kaipara Flats Road, where it is said a bushman by the name of Lyndsay was killed and buried where he fell. When a new bridge was built the palings around the grave were removed and a plaque erected to mark the spot.
Mr Mabbett also notes other graves near bridges on the Kourawhero stream. These must date from a time when access to cemeteries was too difficult to contemplate. In the 1890s, it is mentioned that crops of oats, barley and wheat were grown in the area. The plaque is a fascinating relic, proving the enduring qualities of kauri timber. True to his word, Mr Mabbett collected the names of many former pupils of Kourawhero School (1924-1936 ) and so it is also a piece of school history.