Council History

A brief history of Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Coromandel Peninsula.

Where we today see the Coromandel Peninsula as a piece of paradise, decorated with sparkling ribbons of streams, falling from a backbone of rugged mountains fringed by gorgeous beaches, some visitors in the 1800s saw something else.

In their eyes, the real treasue of the Coromandel was one thing - Gold..

Gold Rush

The first official strike of gold was made in June 1867.

That discovery marked the official founding of “The Thames” as the municipality was to become more widely known.

Our archives record the next hundred years as gold boom, dark financial depression and a long uphill climb back to prosperity.

The ‘big bonanza’ was between 1869 and 1871 with the top producer – Caledonian – turning out its gold by the tonne. In 1871 it produced 361,581 ounces – more than 10 tonnes - with a total value of about $1,950,000.

Commissioner James Mackay was a predominant figure in the early years. According to the Mackay’s records, the first sign of the birth of Thames as a town came shortly after his arrival with an advance party of 40 diggers and about 20 others at the mouth of the Kauaeranga River on the paddle steamer Enterprise II on 1 August 1867.

At the time the goldfield opened, the general affairs of the district were under the control of the Auckland Provincial Government. This parent body saw to the construction of mining tramways, main roads and wharf accommodation.

Local matters were the concern of the Highway Boards of Parawai, Kauaeranga, Waiotahi and Tararu.

From 1911 the gold tide continued to ebb slowly but relentlessly toward a point of no return. With World War I putting an acute drain on man-power, mining as a major industry was subsequently phased out.

Law and order were maintained by the Warden and his assistants. The wardens were as much conciliators between disputing miners as judicial functionaries. They had their rough and ready ways of going personally to the disputed ground and ‘having matters out’ on the spot that usually determined pretty quickly and equitably the questions at issue.

Phases of local government

Territorial Authority is the term used for local government entities in New Zealand. Local government has gone through three principal phases with different structures: The provincial era, from 1853 to 1876, the counties and boroughs system from 1876 until 1989, and the current system of regions, cities and districts.

Municipal control developed by degrees. A public meeting was held on December 29, 1871 at the Academy of Music in Grahamstown. A resolution was carried: “That in the opinion of the meeting it is desirable that a Municipal Corporation should be established for the Thames.”

The Thames Municipality Committee was formed and at its first meeting on 4 January 1872 the boundaries of the proposed municipality were drawn up. The suggested name for the district as the ‘Municipality of Thames’ was adopted and ‘Borough of Hauraki’ lapsed for want of a seconder.

In November 1873 ‘The Thames’ was finally gazetted as the ‘Borough of Thames’ with boundaries finally agreed. The first Thames Borough Council was elected on 25 March 1874. Members were: James Renshaw, William Davies, John Butt, John Wilson, Louis Ehrenfried, R. Kennan, Arthur Anthony, John Brown and Dr James Kilgour.

The Council had its first meeting in the Grahamstown Courthouse on 8 April 1874, but it turned out this was a week too early according to a clause in the Municipal Corporations Act 1867. The first official meeting was on 15 April 1874.

William Davies was the sole nominee for Mayor and was elected unanimously.

The current Thames Municipal Buildings officially opened in 1967.

When the provinces were abolished in 1876, 63 counties were established to govern rural areas. There were subdivisions and amalgamations over the next 113 years, with as many as 129 counties existing at once.

Coromandel County was among them, established in 1876. Thames Borough Council was disestablished in 1975 and amalgamated with Coromandel County to form the Thames-Coromandel District. It was the first District council to be formed in New Zealand, and was constituted in 1975.