Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 23, June 1979
One of the most popular picnic areas at the north end of the Tauranga Harbour is Athenree. The whole beach is safe for small children. There is plenty of parking and picnic space. A chain wide grass verge round the entire shoreline on the north side of the Athenree Point allows maximum use of beaches, mudflats and tidewater.
One of the best features of Athenree is its camping ground. Users should feel grateful to Mr D.A. Nichol, who owned the land for many years, planted the splendid shade trees and shrubberies of natives and opened the camping ground. It is now owned by the Tauranga County Council and leased to Mr& Mrs Maurice Roycroft. Families camping there appreciate the quietness, shade and safe beach.
Until recent years the land on the north side of the road into Athenree village was owned by the Rolleston family. More Maori land extends for several miles up that shore, and in the past many Maori families had their homes there. At one time there was a church house on a headland north of the present settlement but it was burnt down many years ago.
Mr H. Harley was a resident of Athenree who was first brought there in a basket as a baby 60 years ago. He remembered many of the stories of Athenree told to him by his father and grandfather.
The first non-Maori in Athenree was probably a Negro called Toppin, or "Darkie the Negro". He built a large house of corrugated iron which was called Tinpot Castle, on the site where Mrs S.J. Goodyear lived for 30 years.
Tinpot Castle was a trading post and boarding house. Here Captain and Mrs Hugh Stewart - who settled at Athenree, two and a half miles inland in 1878 and built their wellknown home which gave its name to the whole district, stayed while they and their servants built temporary accommodation on their own land.
Mr Charles Harley bought Tinpot Castle in the early eighties, pulling down the original iron building and building on the site an eight-roomed house, which he called "Harbour View".
He acquired 1000 acres of land in the Katikati district. It stretched to the skyline past Waihi Beach and to the skyline behind Athenree, on land once owned by Capamagians. As well there was more land near Katikati. At Athenree he owned all the point which was not Maori land. His holding extended inland up the point for about a mile. All this land has been sold over the years except for 30 acres on Steeles Road now being farmed by Mr R. Harley, a great-grandson of Charles.
The Harley family has in its possession a Bay of Plenty Times dated August 28, 1883. In it is an advertisement: "Notice is hereby given that 5 head of cattle, strawberry colour, have been running on my farm for four years. Brands RW. Owners are requested to remove same and pay expenses. Charles Harley. August 22, 1883, Katikati."
At Harbour View, or Tinpot Castle, were cattleyards and a blacks-smith's forge. A well dug by Mr Charles Harley still provides water for the present owner if necessary.
About 1889 Mr Charles Harley moved to Waihi where he owned a business and property. His sons, Harry and Fred, lived at Athenree, which at this time was always called Bowentown Ford. Both men have been dead for many years.
At the time that Waihi was a thriving mining town, around the turn of the century. Athenree was the base for several commercial fishermen. They sent their fish to Waihi for sale. Names which Mr H. Harley recalled are those of Godfrey, Carlson, Archie Scott and a Mr Munro. They shared a smokehouse at the end of the point where Mr and Mrs Middleton used to live.
The tip of the Athenree point was bought from the Harleys by Mr Martin Scott, who sold it to Mr J.G. Browne. This property recently changed hands again.
Mr H. Harley remembered when there were two harbour board sheds built beside the channel at Athenree. Scows brought grain, implements and supplies which were unloaded into the sheds. Horsedrawn wagons came out at low tide and took away the cargoes. The machinery for the Waihi Beach mine was landed here, and also some of the machinery for the Waihi mining companies.
None know the north end of the Tauranga Harbour better than the Harleys. They can still bring in good catches of fish while others say there is hardly a fish in the harbour. They know the shorelines and the shellfish and all the seafoods.
Three houses belonging to members of the Harley family are on the Rolleston subdivision. That of Mr G. Harley is on the site where his grandfather, Mr H. Harley Snr, lived for many years in an old house with shell floor surrounded by his treasures.
The Browne family have been cropping at Athenree for more than 30 years. Mr M.G. Browne is a large scale vegetable grower who returned to cropping at Athenree after service in World War II.
It is easy to walk across the channel in front of Athenree at low tide. On the other side there are tracks which wind through the lupin covered sandhills to the ocean beach.
Athenree remains a peaceful place of great charm. Cottage owners choose to travel to Athenree from many parts of the North Island. They find, in its unspoilt and uncommercialised peace - their ideal holiday spot.