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The Agar Petition

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Angela Wanhalla
07 December, 2020
Agar Seaweed: it boomed as an industry in the war years because it was vital to pharmaceuticals and had a range of other uses, but when Japan entered the war new sources of "the weed" were needed. New Zealand found a local source of agar from seaweed collected in Northland, Bay of Plenty and the East Coast. Most of the pickers were Māori. This petition from agar collectors in the early 1940s demonstrated the importance of the industry to Māori communities, but also how they were being underpaid for their work. The petitioners wanted proper recognition for their efforts, for without them no industry would have existed.
Here's the original petition, a transcription of it, as well as list of all the signatories. Your family might be one them.

To the Hon. Minister of Marketing

House of Representatives

Parliamentary Bdgs



Hon. Sir,

            We, the undersigned Collectors and supporters of Agar Seaweed of the Bay of Plenty and North Auckland districts respectively do hereby ask for an increase in the price paid by the Internal Marketing Division for our Seaweed, from the current 1/- per lb to a flat rate of 1/6 per lb. In presenting this petition we draw your attention to the following points in favour of an increase. (1) Dominion requirements of Agar for all time can satisfactorily be met by the local product. Therefore the work should be made a payable occupation by the payment of a better price. Many of the Collectors are returned discharged Soldiers both of the last and present wars. (2) The present price of 1/- lb is totally inadequate, as evident from the following figures: (a) After deducting Security Taxes 2/6 in the pound, carriage and freight by road, rail or steameror both, Collectors receive a net payment ranging from 6d to 9d per lb or £56 to £84 per ton. (b) The average production for a man and a wife is about two tons for a season of about five months, a joint income of £112 to £168 for a year. These figures tell their own story. No serious-minded person would consider taking up Agar Collecting as a full time occupation. (3) There are no equipment of any kind, and all work is done by hand necessitating long hours in water. It is therefore, definitely a summer occupation, but in an attempt to do better many carry on during some of the winter months and have consequently suffered impaired health, usually also as at Maketu and Te Kaha workers in addition have to haul their days collections in bags up steep cliff faces, carry same to home depots on their backs for distances of from two to four miles. (4) The greater number of Collectors are not doing the work as a hobby, but as a means of earning a livelihood, hence this Petition. Thanking you Honorable Sir, in anticipation of a speedy and favourable consideration.

            We beg to remain, Yours Faithfully.


MAKETU (signed)

R. Paraire-Pine

Thomas Topill

R. Rangiaho

Pare Rangiaho

R. Tapsell

Te Rohu Tapsell

Mana Ngatipeehi

Ieni Ngatipeehi

Ripeka Watson

Polly Kamatea

Toby Kamatea

Tumbo Tapsell

Ruby Tapsell

Takuira Mita

Pere Takuira

Taatarera Tukaki

Jack Tapsell

Kathleen Corbett

Robert Curtis

E. Curtis

Ruta Curtis

Mona Curtis

Dick Mita

Annie Mita

Mr ? Hohaia

Mr Miha Henry

Peter Tapsell

Wai Ihaka

H.K. Bullock

G. Rolleston

Ngatai Tapsell

R. Wikiriwhi

Hoko Tiki

Mere Hoani

H. Huitahi

W. Hoko

R. Pickering

H. Rapana

Rebecca Witehira

Eme Hohaia

Wiki Tapsell

Hinetatara Tapsell

Ray Pohamahu

Reona Pohamahu

Wiremu Woods

Agnes Hayward

Mere Tiana Hape

Peata Hitching

H.C.J. Martin



Hauraki Tawhai

Mihi Tawhai

Haunui Hati

Mary Hati

Margaret Waiariki

Lizzie Ruha

Pau Pratt

Tom Collier

Ripeka Collier

Ora Collier

Te Atamira Ranapia

Rangi Tawhai

Hine Matioro Paraone

Kainga O te Ware Paraone

Taupe Brown

Pokuru Bristowe

Jack Bristowe

Joe Bristowe

Hine Brown

Tinana Brown

Gazala Brown

Urekore Robb

Ata Koroheke

Mr Koroheke

Dan Koroheke

Mrs H. Green


TE KAHA (signed)

Turewa Puru

Neho Puru

Rua Puru

Ina Puru

Keriana Callaghan

Tu Ata H. Koroheke

R. Stirling

Amiria Stirling

K. Puha

Maggie Puha

Paul Puha

R.I. Grace



L.W. Reka

Waka Hoetana

Maihi Naera

R. Paniora

H. Leef

R. Tuoro

W.M. Naera

T. Paniora

R. Papa

T.M. Ngakuru

B. Poka

M. Hadfield

Mihi Ngakuru

W. Ngakuru

Willie Ngakuru

Polly Ngakuru

Hawe Papa

W.T. Naera

W. Thompson

A. Barnes

J. Paniora

T. Papa

M. Naera

G. Hamilton

T. Naera

R. Edmonds

L. Thompson

P. Harawira

Penehatana Harawira

S. Leef

Sidney Maioha

A.R. Parries

J.R. Ngakuru

F. Smith

Ned Dunn

Hiki Dunn

Miria Dunn

M. Diamond

William Tewhata

H. Dick

P. Toi

Wi Te Haara

Nora Te Haara

M.H. Taurau

Tom Drewit

Ata Panora

Wira Panapa

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