Magazine Article – H. R. Russell Founds Waipukurau


H. R. Russell Founds Waipukurau

Henry Russell had a vision.  He wanted to build the perfect town and he chose to build it at Waipukurau.  When he arrived in the early 1850s Waipukurau had a short history.  Part of the Waipukurau Block was bought from Te Hapuku and others in late 1851 and a later purchase brought the area to 279,000 acres.  Settlers quickly applied for grazing licences at ¼d. an acre per year with the right of purchase at 5/- an acre for hilly country and 10/- for the flat.  Henry Russell took up a considerable portion of land within the Block and established his Mt. Herbert station.

In 1856 Russell had an accommodation house erected at Tavistock Place.  The station owners brought in tradesmen and a town began to form.  Kirk, the first smith, arrived in 1858 and the first shop opened in 1861.

But Russell, by the late 1850s, had decided to establish a private, model township at Waipukurau.  In 1860 the town was laid out and provision was made for future amenities.  Waipukurau was to have only one smith, only one building business, only one baker and so on.  Russell also built several cottages and let them on a 99-year lease.

During the early 1860s communication with Napier was improved, and in 1867 a regular coach service began.  The town grew along the lines set down by Russell, and the Russell family took a large part in its administration.  By the middle of the decade it was a hamlet of five or six families.  When Waipukurau’s first church was built, it was sited on a triangular section donated by Russell, who also later gave land for a manse.

Henry Russell died in 1891.  In his time Waipukurau grew to meet his vision.  By 1887 the railway ran to Wellington and Napier, and, by 1912, Waipukurau was a borough.  The town, close to the south bank of the Tukituki River, covers alluvial flats on the site of an earlier Maori village.  Its name means literally “waters of the pukurau”, and pukurau is a kind of fungus apparently once abundant beside the Tukituki River.  Today, on the main Napier-Woodville highway, the town evokes little of these visionary beginnings.

H. R. Russell (in top hat and white waistcoat) shown with visitors at his Mt. Herbert station in 1876.


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  • Henry R Russell

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