Matakohe's Favourite Son.
The small hamlet of Matakohe lies at the heart of Northlands famous giant Kauri Forests of Otamatea and Kaipara. From this timber and farming area came the nations first New Zealand born Prime Minister, Gordon Coates.
He became Prime Minister on the 30th May 1925. Coates won the parliamentary seat of Kaipara on the second ballot on 14 December 1911. He was to represent the seat until his death in 1942 . He was to serve as a portfolio minister on a number of occasions throughout his long career.
Coates the farmer and mounted rifleman became a leader who began to put in place a road, rail and electricity infrastructure that New Zealand has benefited from ever since.
Coates had married Marguerite Coles in 1914, and had five daughters.
He left politics to serve his country in the Great War and departed for France with the infantry’s 19th Reinforcements to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in November 1916, and was later posted as second in command of the 15th (North Auckland) Company of the 1st Battalion of the Auckland Infantry Regiment. During his time at war he won a Military Cross at La Basseville.
Otamatea Mounted Rifles successor was James McCarroll who went on to command the Auckland Mounted Rifles during the Palestine Campaign.
A life sized Kauri wood carving bust and framed photograph of Gordon Coates take pride of place among a photograph collection of Mounted Rifles images on permanent display at the Kauri Museum, Northland.
Joseph (Gordon) Coates was born in 1878 and at just 12 years of age joined the Otamatea Mounted Rifles. He rose in rank to lead the Otamatea men before he joined Parliament in 1912.