Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 27, September 1983

by E.T. Jordan


On the 17th June 1820 Samuel Marsden, in a naval launch, visited the area where Paeroa now is. Just over a month later, on July 21st, accompanied only Maoris, he was the first white man to visit the KatiKati district. In his Journal he describes how he went up the Ohinemuri river (the old Kahakaha track), across the Waihi Plain and over the top of Hikurangi; that high point on your right as you came through the Athenree Gorge. From the top he says that the settlement he was going to visit (quote) "lies about a mile distant below". In historical things we should not guess but it could have been near where Athenree homestead was built.

The name of the settlement was "Tauranga". In the Centennial History of Tauranga at the southern end of the harbour (published in 1938) it says that Marsden visited their Tauranga but he never did. Someone skimming through his Journal saw the name Tauranga and, ignoring the context, has jumped to a wrong conclusion. In such ways history is contorted.


Marsden wrote the name of the chief of this Tauranga as "Aneenee". The editor of his Journal suggests that this should be "Rangianini". Marsden's spelling of Maori looks strange to us but he usually gets the number of syllables right and to suggest five syllables where Marsden wrote three is at once suspect and the editor's interpretations in other cases are clearly wrong. The Ngatitamatera were occupying the district at that time and I feel sure that this chief was Kanini (Marsden having missed the first consonant) - Kanini, who 20 years later as an old man, was paramount chief of the tribe. I will give you evidence to support this a little later.


Because of the Ngapuhi raids, in the 1820s, the Ngatitamatera had to leave Katikati to survive. After that danger was over they returned but finally moved to the Waiomo [Waiomu – E]/Te Puru Thames Coast area in the 1830s to grow potatoes for ships calling there for Kauri timber.


Another chief of this tribe living in this district was Taraia Ngakuti. His pa was on Kauri Point. Across the harbour, on Matakana, lived a hapu of the Waitaha and when they heard that these people were leaving, for the second time, their chief, Whanaki, asked Taraia whether they could crop the pa land after he left. He said "Yes, but you must not build on the pa or live on the pa because it is sacred to my people".

When Taraia left, these people started to crop this land which would be much richer than the sands of Matakana. It must have been a bit of a bind having to row across the harbour and back every time they wanted to look at their kitchen garden and having to work the tides too. After a time they decided that Taraia was so far away that he would never come back so they built on the pa and went to live there.

Not only did they do that but they put up two posts at the entrance to the pa and they named one Taraia and the other Kanini (you see they linked Kanini with this district). Having named these posts, they took pot shots at them boasting "This is what we will do to these Chiefs if they ever dare to come back". By Maori custom this was a gross insult and, of course, Taraia got to hear about it.

Sir John Logan Campbell describes Taraia as "a warrior of dread renown" and custom required that he should avenge the insult so, one night in May 1842, he led a war party up the Kahakaha and just before dawn he attacked his old pa. He himself killed Whanaki with a pakeha tomahawk; two others were killed and seventeen taken prisoner.


The Waitaha people, because of the blood-shed declared the pa "tapu". Some six months later two traders, sailing from Maketu to Auckland, had to put in at the northern entrance of the harbour here because of contrary winds and anchored opposite this pa. From the boat they could see potatoes growing on the pa land. On board they had three Maori passengers of the Arawa tribe - two adults and a lad of twelve. These passengers urged the traders to take the potatoes and sell them in Auckland which they decided to do.

Some Waitaha people on Matakana saw people on the tapu land so they went tearing across the harbour in their canoe. The two pakeha were aboard their boat but the passengers were on shore and when they saw what was happening they went and hid in the scrub. The Waitaha swarmed on to the boat; slashed the sails; stripped the traders naked and then towed the boat, with the two men as prisoners, back to Matakana.

Two days later two other traders, this time from Tauranga, also struck contrary winds and put in at the northern entrance, anchoring at about the same place as the first boat. Soon after they anchored two naked Maoris appeared on the shore and begged to be taken on board and protected as they were afraid of being killed. They said that a lad who had been with them had been captured, killed and eaten. The traders treated them kindly, feeding them, clothing them and promising to take them to Tairua where they would be sure of getting a passage back to Maketu. These Maoris returned this kindness by stealing the boat when the traders were on shore.


I believe that the disaster following Whanaki's attempt to infiltrate into this Ngatitamatera land caused it to remain a no-man's-land for over twenty years until after the battle of Gate Pa. My first reason for thinking this, is that when the Governor sent Dr. Edward Shortland to investigate the Taraia raid, he interviewed chiefs all round the Hauraki Gulf; Karangahake Gorge; the present Tauranga area including Matakana; Maketu and Matamata but he went to no settlement in the Katikati area, I suggest, because there were none. My second is that, in 1864, the Civil Commissioner for the present Tauranga area was ordered to make a return of all Maori settlements in the district, giving the total number of adult males and how many of these had joined the Waikato insurgents. He gave 31 settlements but not one in this district.


The Government used this disaffection by the Maoris as an excuse to grab land and it declared that it would confiscate all land from the northern end of the harbour to a point about halfway between Tauranga and Maketu and back to the ridge of the range.

However, due to the chivalry shown by the Maori at Gate Pa, Governor Grey announced that confiscation would be abandoned and that, instead, only the land between the Wairoa and the Waimapu (the estuary just beyond the city) would be confiscated and that the Government would buy the Katikati and Te Puna blocks.


The original Katikati was nowhere near the present Katikati town. It was near the northern entrance to the harbour and was quite an important stopping place in the early days and into the 1870s. There was a boarding-house, stables, store and, in the 1870s, a telegraph office. In those days anyone wanting to see the sights of Rotorua had to go to Auckland, take a boat from there to the present Paeroa and then travel on horse or on foot to Katikati. There they probably spent the night and then went down the harbour by canoe to Te Papa (the present Tauranga) and from there on to Rotorua and when they left Rotorua they had to come back through Katikati; there was no other way. Many important overseas visitors passed through Katikati.


Now we will jump to Ireland in 1873. There, a man named Vesey Stewart, a man with big ideas, had had some of those ideas come unstuck and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Wondering what to do, he conceived the idea of creating a settlement in New Zealand where he would rule, rather like a highland chief over his clan.

He obtained 10,000 acres of this district from Government and sent pamphlets to the Orange Lodges of Ulster inviting families to join him. He was not above pulling the long bow, for he told prospective settlers that here, turnips would grow as big as pumpkins and cabbages so big that cattle could shelter under them.

His first party of settlers arrived here in 1875 and it must have been a big shock for them to find, when they got to Tauranga, that the only way they could reach their land, or leave it, was by water and that the whole district was covered in fern and tea-tree.

Thirty-six raupo whares had been built by the Maoris for these people, some on the bank of the Taupiro [Tuapiro – E], some by the Uretara down here and others beside the Aongatete. These whares were home for these people until land could be cleared and houses built on their farms and in some cases this was quite a long time. We know that Jimmy Lockington 2nd was born in one five years after the first group arrived. Gray in his "Ulster Plantation" says that for months there was not a gig in the district, nor even a dray, and all their belongings, everything had to be dragged from the river landings by hand. So progress with houses would not be quick.

Most of these people stayed on in the district and three years later Stewart, having obtained more land, brought out a second group. For years it was a grim struggle to make a living out of the Katikati land and it is doubtful if the settlement would have survived if Waihi had not come into being and provided a market for its produce.


When Vesey Stewart took up this land the Government had said that the township was to be at Kauri Point and streets and sections were surveyed. For the first three years everyone was too busy on their own land to think about a town. There was a store at the foot of the hill you came up to this church, by the river being the only way the supplies could come. Also a sleasy boarding-house about 100 yards further up-stream. The only other business was a fully licensed hotel at the junction of the tracks from Te Aroha and Tauranga.

Smith, who owned land opposite the Te Aroha track (now called Springs Road), reasoned that that would become the road to Auckland and that road junction, together with the pub, was the logical place for the township so he subdivided and offered sections for sale. The Wylies, who owned the store, didn't like this, so young Wylie bought the land on the other side of the river here and sub-divided that.

Government had come to accept that Te Kauri was too out of the way and it approved the Wylie sub-division by buying two sections - one for the Police Station and the Police Station is still there, and the next-door one for the Post Office and the Post Office used it for about 60 years.

The first building on that site was called the Uretare [Uretara? – E] Post Office. In 1881 the name was charged to Waterford. Then it was found that Wellington did not know of a Waterford in this corner of New Zealand and was sending letters addressed to it to Ireland, so the name was changed in 1884 and this time they stole the name of that other town, the name Katikati.


I think the settlers chose their clergy before they left Ireland. At any rate the Rev. John Mark was chosen as Presbyterian minister before they left and I should think that they also chose their Vicar, the Rev. John Crossley.

This church was built in 1884 by John Gray, who was County Engineer for many years When the Bishop of Auckland came to dedicate the church, he and the congregation found it locked. They went to Gray for the key but he refused to hand it over until he was paid for the building so the Bishop and the congregation retired to a private house where the dedication took place.

From 1883 the first Anglican services held in Paeroa were provided by the Rev. E.J. McFarland and, later, the Rev. W. Katterns both travelling through from Katikati and this seems to have continued until 1893. The timber for this church was probably brought into the district but the Presbyterian church was built in 1908 after the Kauri milling started here, and so was built of Katikati Kauri.

There are now both Roman Catholic and Brethren churches here and other denominations worship in halls.


Of the schools - a meeting was held in front of Vesey Stewart's house eight months after the first settlers arrived at which it was decided to build three schools.

No. 1 was opened in 1877 down Kauri Point Road, at the junction of the Kauri Point and Ongare Point roads. No. 2 was opened in 1879 on the opposite side of the road to this church and is still in use as a classroom; a second room being added to it in 1923. This is the building with the high pitched roof nearest the road and the oldest room is on the left. No. 3 opened in 1880 at the corner of Walker's Road East, where you will turn to go to the Bird Gardens. While the building is still there, it is no longer a school.

People grumble, today, about the cost of education but those settlers had to bear all the expense of building their schools at a time when some of them were still living in whares and their land had not started to produce.

There were sixteen families in the area covered by No. 2 School, across the road, and those families not only built the School but, at the same time, a Teacher's house as well. There were only nine families each in the areas served by Nos, I and 3 Schools. You can understand therefore why this School, and probably the other two, was handed over to the Education Board completely unpainted. The Education Board itself had very little money and demanded that the local people pay half the cost of painting the outside; the inside never saw a scrap of paint for 33 years! How drab it must have looked.

When that room was built it had all its windows facing the road so that no ray of sunshine ever entered it. It took the locals six years before they asked the Board for windows on the north side. An inspector was sent, obviously with instructions to find reasons for not putting in those windows, for his report stated that to put in windows in the north wall would create a cross light and would reduce the wall space for maps so he could not recommend installing them. The Committee persisted and, in time, they got those windows installed. The total cost was £7/10/-!