By the time the immigration ships like the Ganges started to arrive, (it sailed into Auckland on the 14th February 1865 with over 400 passengers), Alexandra Redoubt and Cameron Town had been built. The land wars
were over, during which some big military boats had been used on the river (including one that had boiling water circulating the hand rail around the deck so it couldn’t be boarded from the river).
It’s hard to think about transport before motor vehicles, but the use of a horse if you owned
one or had feed to feed it, could be ridden, pull a sledge or wagon and in Tuakau’s case the
Waikato River was flowing right past. The town plans were drawn up to be by the river with
the added security of Alexandra Redoubt handy. Interesting to think about the early settlers and boats, nobody brought one with them and you couldn’t buy an aluminium boat and outboard at the store – did the Maoris manufacture and sell dug out canoes to the settlers?
The main trunk line was first planned to come to Tuakau landing and follow the river south;
by the time the train came through Tuakau, closer to Harrisville to Mercer in 1875 (10 years
after the Ganges arrived). With goods coming in boats over the bar to the wharf at Port
Waikato and no road to Tuakau – stopped by the swamps around Te Kohanga, as was the
train stopped at Mercer where you had to get a boat to Ngaruawahia because of the Wangamarino swamps. At this time several commercial boats were working on the river between Port Waikato and Hamilton with
landings at the likes of Tuakau, Mercer and Huntly.
With the coming of the railway in those days gave great access to the Auckland markets for produce, Percy Lapwood, a very early Tuakau carrier, wrote of pigs that had been brought by river from Aka Aka and Otaua to the Tuakau landing then transported to the Tuakau railway to go to Auckland and the same with flax and
tins of whitebait and it was not uncommon to pass a horse and sledge or even someone pushing a wheelbarrow between the river and the railway.