The Beginning Of Coal Mining

Coal was discovered in the Hikurangi district in 1865. The Waro Coal mine produced around 1500 tons each day. Miners used horses with carts and tracks to get the coal from one place to another. There were three main mines in Hikurangi Waro, Wilsons and The Great Northern Coal Company.

This photograph of one of the three coal mines at Hikurangi, 16 km north of Whāngārei, was taken between 1907 and 1921.

Hikurangi coal mine', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Jun-2014

About The Mines

By the time they closed down in 1955 the Hikurangi mines had produced 4,500,000 tons of coal. Wilson's mine had around 200 workers there. The Great Northern Mine was the second biggest mine in Hikurangi. It went under the Hikurangi golf course.

The Mines in Hikurangi

Waro means coal in Māori
. The Wilson mine re-opened a shaft first started by Northern Coal in 1913
The Old Northern mine was under what is now the Hikurangi Golf Club
 Phoenix & Dunn's mistake - Dunn's mistake was slightly east of the first Phoenix mine. 
Perrot West-Hikurangi coal company’s Perrot’s west mine was situated 100 yards south of Dunn's mistake and was probably worked at the same time. 
Ruff & Nesbitt’s mine was opposite the school on Valley Road. It was closed in 1929.
Acker’s mine was owned by the Ackers family who came from England in 1923. The three sons died in this mine from deadly gas known as “black damp”.
Smith’s mine was the first mine to produce coal in the Hikurangi coal field in 1890 
Bill Reed’s mine was the first open cast coal mine
 Christie’s mine was on a farm between the Hikurangi Railway Station and Valley Rd.

Working in coal mines

You had to be 15 to work in the Hikurangi coal mines.
There were 50 to 60 people working in one of the Hikurangi coal mines.
Some of the coal mines were owned by Wilson Cement and the Waro Coal Company.
The miners used pick axes, axes, drills, spades, shovels, helmets, lanterns and carts to mine the coal.
The Hikurangi coal mine was around for 59 years. It started in 1896 and closed in 1955.
The miners would make a hole about 6 feet deep and 5 feet long when they were looking for coal.
The Hikurangi coal mine closed because it kept flooding and they couldn’t pump the water out fast enough to stop it filling up again.

Tipping coal into hopper wagons at Waro.. Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-1388-1/2-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


One of the first things that carried wood and coal was a steam train.
The first steam train in Hikurangi was in 1387 piloted by a German.
The train was owned by the government and was bought by the German.
The train was included in a mine accident in 1903 when the train derailed and caused a fire.

Steam locomotive, built by Orenstein & Koppel, Germany (maker's no. 1411).. Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: APG-1389-1/2-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.