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The Gisborne Photo News




Fire destroyed the Morere Hotel on January 2nd of this year and in doing so destroyed a part of Northern Hawkes Bay history. A boarding house was built in 1898 by Mr. John Hall Johnstone (Above circa 1901). Johnstone worked at Okawa Station in Hastings and while droving cattle from Gisborne he camped at Morere and came across the hot springs. He had bedded his cattle down for the night, but when he woke next morning they had disappeared into the bush. He followed their trail which led him to the pools. George Walker and E.B. Bendall are credited with the original discovery of the pools in 1884.

Johnstone left Hastings and moved to Morere to set up the boarding house on a site opposite the present hotel. This burnt down and was replaced, only to be destroyed by a huge flood around 1910. A new site was chosen on higher ground across the river. A liquor licence was given to Morere after Nuhaka and Mahia Maori protested strongly against licences in their districts. An anti-liquor man, Johnstone walked off the property. Up to 48 people could be accommodated at the hotel and in the days of the old buses or service cars as they were known, the hotel was a major stop for morning and afternoon tea on the verandah. The Duke of Gloucester stopped in for lunch in 1934. He emerged looking quite ill due to car sickness according to Mr. Gordon Tait who was one of the 16 or so local school children who waved flags on this important occasion. School for children at Morere was in the old church built around 1896. It is still standing on a different site. Many proprietors have come and gone in the hotel's history, some staying for 6 months, others for years. In 1909 Mr. J.S. Cooper was proprietor and 10 years later Mr. Ben Wilson, Manager of the Tourist Department agreed to a pound for pound subsidy on an amount up to 50 pounds for improvements to the hotel. The Shortt family ran the hotel for some time and during this era the baths were very popular so other attractions developed around the hotel. There was an excellent tennis court with a miniature golf course nearby and eventually a 9 hole golf course was hacked out of the hill behind. Aclay bird trap was available for keen shooters and fishing expeditions could be arranged at a moments notice. Magnificent sunken gardens and a fountain enhanced the beauty of the place. Accommodation ceased in the 1960s when Desmond and Joyce Shepherd took over the running of the hotel. In 1974 Wairoa Council agreed not to object to the conversion of a Premises Licence to a Tavern Licence on the condition an alternative type of motel accommodation was provided in the Hot Springs area. The Tavern had been in the Shepherd family for 32 years with Kelvin and Sue Shepherd the proprietors when the final fire broke out at 2.50pm.


Accommodation House, Morere Hot Springs, 1921



Gary Laskey of Laskey Carpets took this photo as fire broke out.


Smouldering remains on 16/1/94


Roger Bodle happened to be passing by at the time and took this shot.