Sunday, 31 May 2020


From immigrant heritage to The Lost Spring

“We are all immigrants to New Zealand.” The recent tragedy in Christchurch reminded us how we all got here and we love to share our stories. Local identity, Alan Hopping, visionary creator and proprietor of The Lost Spring in Whitianga, says he’s not really interested in his family history, but his mother, Beth, certainly is. Alan’s sister, Gaylene, is delving into their history and Beth is following her discoveries.

Alan’s great-grandparents on his mother’s side were all early settlers in New Zealand. His great-grandfather, Hippolite Hubert, left London, England, in 1862, aboard the immigrant ship Gertrude. He arrived in Auckland in 1863, aged 24. At age 27, Hippolite married Ann Rippon, who also had migrated with her family in 1856. The couple lived in one of the fencible cottages in Howick (now part of the Howick Historic Village), but there is no evidence of Hippolite being a military man. The Huberts moved around Northland, the Coromandel and Ngaruawahia, wherever Hippolite could find work. Beth thinks he was a goldminer and later a gum digger. “Hippolite and Ann had six children and Alan’s grandfather, John, was the eldest,” says Beth. “Certainly they knew some hard times.” 

On the other side of the family, Beth’s grandfather, Herbert Cooper, arrived in New Zealand with his parents in 1862. The Cooper family lived in Thames and later at Waihou. The family of Beth’s grandmother, Elizabeth Driver, arrived in 1864. Elizabeth was born in Auckland, six months after the family arrived, so Beth’s great-grandmother, Sophie Driver, was expecting when they embarked from England. “How difficult that must have been, and how brave my great-grandmother was,” Beth says.

Sophie and her husband, Henry Driver, settled their family in Thames, where Henry was an ironmonger and a miner.

Beth’s father, John Hubert, had also been a miner in Northland, but by the time Beth was born her father was already retired from working in the mines. The family lived at Waihou and times were still tough. “I remember my father selling cigarettes at our gate, on the Waihou sale days,” Beth says.   Beth and her husband, Fred Hopping, also worked hard, farming at Hikutaia and later took on, in Beth’s words, “Twenty-three unfenced, overgrown acres at Ardmore. We were pioneers on that land.” By contrast, their last farm at Karaka was on town supply. “So easy, a lovely place,” says Beth.

When he was old enough, Alan took over the farm at Karaka.  The family had a holiday home in Whitianga and in 1980 Alan bought the Buffalo Beach Holiday Park. It was there that the search for “the lost spring” grew into the biggest challenge of Alan’s life. The development of the famous mineral spa took 24 years.   

Beth and Fred moved to Whitianga permanently in 1993 and Beth, now 93, likes to help out where she can. “Alan inherited his work ethic and his sheer determination from his forebears,” Beth says.  The Lost Spring is now a major tourist attraction for overseas visitors, a tribute to those courageous, hardworking immigrants. Maybe some of Alan’s tourist visitors might eventually decide to make their home here in Whitianga too. 

Pictured: Alan and Beth Hopping at The Lost Spring in Whitianga.


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