Human History



Early Polynesians

Early Polynesians (Moa-hunters) were probably visiting the Pāuatahanui Inlet by about 1200 AD. The forest birds of the area and the fish and shellfish of the inlet would have been attractive to their hunter-gatherer way of life and would have remained so for many centuries. It is very probable that from the earliest times the inlet itself was just one of the many ecological zones made use of by the people of a major settlement at Paremata although there are traces of occupied sites (15th/16th Century) at Motukaraka Point and at Ration Point. Maori tradition records occupation by Ngai Tara at this time followed by Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Ira, who were in turn displaced by the Ngati Toa invasion of the Kapiti/Wellington area in about 1820 led by Te Rauparaha.


The Ngati Toa were well positioned to trade with the whalers who were establishing small shore stations at Kapiti and Mana Islands and at Paremata, Porirua and near Titahi Bay in the early 1830s. Pigs and potatoes were traded for weaponry, blankets and tools and tobacco and other desirable goods. Dressed flax became an important export and it is likely a portion of it came from swamps around the inlet. By the 1830s there were Pakeha flax traders and other men who had married Ngati Toa women living in the Porirua area.




Arrival of the British

British colonization began with the arrival of Captain William Wakefield in 1839 to buy land for the New Zealand Company which was about to send settlers in four ships to Port Nicholson. Pāuatahanui with the land surrounding the inlet was one of the purchases made from Te Rauparaha and a ‘Village of Porirua’ was planned for Motukaraka Point in the series of 100 acre surveyed blocks surrounding Porirua Harbour.


Disputes over the land purchases simmered on while the Treaty of Waitangi was being presented for signature to Ngati Toa chiefs in 1840 and in the next few years there were several conflicts between parties of Ngati Toa and surveyors or would-be farmers and timber millers. Tension between Ngati Toa and Wellington settlers who were expanding into the Hutt Valley led to the stationing of British troops in the area and the forming of settler militia. By this stage the principal opponent of settler expansion both in the Hutt Valley and in the Porirua district was Te Rauparaha’s vigorous and able nephew, Te Rangihaeata. Te Rangihaeata moved from Mana Island to a pa at Motukaraka in 1845.



Publications and References


Brodie, J.W. An early history of Pauatahanui. In HEALY, W.B. (Coordinator) Pauatahanui Inlet - An environmental study. Wellington, DSIR, 1980: 11-34.

Cowan, J., The New Zealand Wars: a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period. Vol. 1: 1845-64.Wellington, Government Printer, 1983 (first published 1922.)

Covers the skirmishes of the First New Zealand War in the area in considerable detail.

Keith, M., They came on the tides. A short history of Porirua and its people. Porirua, Porirua City Council, 1990.

Scattered references to the Pauatahanui area.

Maysmor, B., North Road: Revisiting the map of the road from Johnsonville to Paekakariki drawn by Thomas Henry Fitzgerald in 1849. Porirua, Pataka Museum, 2008.

Many illustrations of the early Pauatahanui Inlet.

Richards, R. Pakehas around Porirua before 1840: Sealers, whalers, flax traders and Pakeha visitors before the arrival of the New Zealand Company settlers at Port Nicholson in 1840. Paremata, Paremata Press, 2002.

Sheehan, M., Pauatahanui & the Inlet. (Porirua Museum History Series no.3.)Porirua, Porirua Museum, 1988.

A short general account.

Wards, I., The Shadow of the land: a study of British policy and racial conflict in New Zealand 1832 – 1852. Wellington, Government Printer, 1968.

Chapter 9 covers the First New Zealand War military operations in the Pauatahanui area.

A comprehensive review of the bibliography of Porirua Harbour is near completion by Porirua City Council. It is hoped that this will be available on line in the near future.





Last Updated: 29/01/2017 2:59pm