Te Kinga

Te Kinga & Lake Brunner – West Coast, New Zealand

History Te Kinga Lake Brunner West Coast New Zealand

The little village of Te Kinga, shown here in a 1928 photo, has an interesting history. The West Coast is a unique region, rugged and wild, and has been inhabited by stone-age Maori people for almost a thousand years.  Modern-day visitors to the region will see few traces of the activities of the “olden-days,” and Lake Brunner history.

Te Kinga, Lake Brunner is one of many West Coast villages that lived and died in the same century. Established in the early 1900’s, it nestled on the north-western shores of the lake known to the Maori as Kotuku Moana or “Waters of the White Heron.” The lakes present-day name is in memory of that of the early explorer, Thomas Brunner, first European to set eyes on Lake Brunner, long before the establishment of Te Kinga.

Te Kinga  was a saw-milling village – the majority of the village men either worked in the sawmills, or on the logging gangs engaged in felling trees and delivering them to the mills. My great-grandfather, Joe Abbott, moved to Te Kinga with his wife Emma and family around 1906. He managed a team of horses, hauling logs to one of the sawmills. The first post office opened in 1895.

Click here for a wonderful old poem about Te Kinga and Lake Brunner

Joe Abbott, circa 1920’s. Sharpening the scythe, preparing to cut grass. Joe Abbott and Jim Davidson, circa 1920’s. Standing on the railway tracks above the village of Te Kinga.

As a boy, growing up in the village, fishing and hunting were the key pastimes. Some of the following old scenes of the village give an appreciation of the daily activities of nearly 50 years ago at Te Kinga.

Taken December 15th 1956, my Dad (Leslie Robert Kemp) and I on Sandy the horse, at the “Official Opening” of the Crooked River road bridge into Te Kinga. The ribbon was cut by the oldest resident of Te Kinga, Mrs Emma Beatrice Abbott, my great-grandmother. Once a week George Banks, the butcher, came to town! My great-aunt Violet buys the week’s meat. Uncle Joe’s joke was “What’s got 4 wheels and flies?” and the answer was “Fishers butcher’s cart!
The old Crooked River swing bridge, replaced by the bridge in the photo above. Looking west towards Moana. The original piles on the east side of the river are still visible. In this photo, the river is in full flood. Te Kinga boasted the only rifle range for may miles, and was a popular venue for the local gents. Dick Carter, watched by Harold Feary, adjust the sights on his 303. My grandmother, Gladys Hill, was a crack shot, and had an amazing collection of trophies to her credit. These are, I believe, still in the family’s possession, treasured mementos of Aunty Pam.

The old sawmill house sometimes used for guest accommodation – as it was, nearly derelict many years ago. Under the ownership of the Beardsley family, the house took on a new lease on life, looking great inside and out!
History Te Kinga Lake Brunner West Coast New Zealand
The “Cashmere Bay Hotel” prior to its demise. As a small boy, I can remember standing on the veranda of the Te Kinga Post office, watching the flames destroy the pub. Te Kinga School, around 1955. I was a pupil here, commencing school in 1959. The building then became the Rotomanu School, moved there after the Te Kinga sawmill closed.

Te Kinga, our little town, did not quite die, but it certainly went into an extended coma. The hotel burned down when I was a small boy, and was not replaced. The village fell into ruin after the saw-mills closed, late 1960’s.  The shop closed, and the school. Most of the houses were removed, taken by transporter to Stillwater. My grandmother closed the Post Office in 1975, and moved to Greymouth to live with my mother.

The land  has changed hands, and an enormous amount of work was been done by a real estate developer. The subdivision, along what was once quite a busy street, has services including power, telephone, gas, water and sewer. The weeds and scrub have been banished, all 28 lots cleaned and leveled.

From Stone’s 1938 Directory:

Westland Province & Electoral District: Grey County

A post and telegraph office 26 miles S.E. by rail from Greymouth.

Mails – cleared Greymouth Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 6:40am; arrives here Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 9:30am; cleared here Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 2:00pm, Saturday 3:00pm.

  • Abbott Joseph Henry, mill hand;
  • Beams Stanley, bushman,
  • Becker Wilfred, farmer;
  • Bentley William, engine driver;
  • Burns James, surfaceman;
  • Cashmere Bay Hotel: J.A.Dowell, prop.
  • Davison Robert, surfaceman;
  • Dawson George, bushman;
  • Dickson Ralph, engine driver;
  • Dow James Stuart, bushman;
  • Dowell Jas Avery, (Cashmere Bay Hotel);
  • Egerton John Edward, mill hand;
  • Farrelly Anthony, mill hand;
  • Gibbs John Thomas, sawyer;
  • Gordon John, bushman;

  • Gray William, farmer;
  • Hayes George, mill hand;
  • Hibbs Thomas Royal C., sawyer;
  • Hill Albert Victor, mill hand;
  • Hines James, saw doctor;
  • Kerr James, yardman;
  • Lowe Wiliam, storekeeper;
  • McAllister Archibald Douglas, engine driver;
  • McDermid William, bushman;
  • Manzoni Joseph Martin, bushman;
  • Mayo James, sawmill manager;
  • Potter William Henry, mill hand;
  • Robinson Arthur (J.P.), farm manager;
  • Robinson James, Patrick, farmer;
  • Southam Herbert, yardman;
  • Williams John Thomas, master mariner.

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