As one would expect, immigration from Australia, New Zealand’s nearest neighbour has at times been substantial. The “Australian invasion” during the gold rush of the 1860’s saw thousands cross “the ditch” seeking their fortune. In 1903 net immigration across the Tasman was almost 10,000. New Zealand was prospering at this time, while Australia was suffering the effects of a drought and depression. The migration was helped by the fare being only £2.

In the five years 1901 - 6 the number of Australians in New Zealand increased from 26,991 to 47,256. When New Zealand’s fortunes changed, the migration back to Australia was evident. This, pattern continues to this day, with thousands seeking their fortunes on either side of Tasman. Many of the early immigrants bought skills from their mining, saw milling, farming and meat freezing work background. The closure and hardships of the Australian Coal Mines had a profound impact on these miners who helped to revive militant unionism in New Zealand and to form the ‘Red’ Federation of Labour in 1908. Several notable radicals were Harry E Holland who led the Labour Party for many years, followed by Michael Joseph Savage, who also became Prime Minister. Te Puke has had its share of Australians adding to its unique identity. In 1906 George Muir married Lydia May Hodges from Brisbane, and they settled on No. 4 Road, where they had a leasehold mining property, mining for gold. The Muir family continue to live on this property. Lewis Diprose married Marian McKenzie from South Australia, in 1912 and the family has been involved with the district ever since. The area did not always have the ‘comforts of home;’ but the pioneers forged a life for their families, although it was often difficult and very lonely.

Many other Australians who have since settled in the Te Puke district have followed these women.The perennial interchange of peoples has now created a bond of “cousins” but each has retained their own special character.

Designed and created by: Judy Flatt

Contributed by: Suzanne MacDougall

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