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Originally written in 2007.

Taken from: Harlow, D., J. Low and S. Bickler. 2007. Cultural Heritage Investigation. Unpublished report to URS New Zealand Ltd. Prepared for Papakura District Plan Review – Rural Section. Papakura District Council.


Papakura District is comprised of a varied landscape including harbour and estuarine margins, lowlands and the foothills of the Hunua Ranges. In pre-European times this landscape would have been even more varied with swamps and bush adding to the available resources of the waterways and forests.


Maori Settlement

The Papakura/Drury area and surrounds were an important access area for travellers in pre-European times and later in the early settler and military periods. With Manukau Harbour to the west and the Hunua Ranges to the southeast, it was an area highly utilised as a link between Tamaki Makaurau / the Auckland Isthmus and the Waikato. The Manukau Harbour shores were the entrance to the inland route to Wairoa (Clevedon) and the Hauraki Gulf. ’Te Akitai, Ngai Tai, Ngati Tamaoho and Ngati Pou are iwi who formed part of a wider confederation known as Te Waiohua and have associations with the area’ (Lawlor 1994:2).

The Hunua Ranges may be considered a tribal ’buffer zone’ with the bulk of the ranges being the ancestral lands of Ngati Paoa - Ngati Whanaunga (Murdoch n.d:57).The ancestral domain of Ngai Tai included the northern part of the Hunuas and ran westward via the Wairoa Valley to the Mangawheau Stream and on across the high country known as ’Te Hunua’ to Mataiwaka south of Papakura (Murdoch 1993:2, 3). The name Te Hunua traditionally applies to the hill country between the Hunua Falls and Papakura.

The Slippery Creek or Opaheke catchment area, whose waters flow into the Manukau Harbour at Opaheke at the southern extremity of Hingaia, was a strategic location. It was occupied by a number of tribal groups who ’could trace their ancestry back to the earliest occupants of the land, and in particular the crew of the Tainui’ (Murdoch 1990:1). The District has a complex Maori history which involves a number of tribal groups whose mana whenua today is based on the pattern which had emerged by the late eighteenth century. Documentation of the early land sales provides information on those tribes who had, or purported to have, mana whenua across the District (see below).

The locations of Maori settlement, as throughout the Auckland region, were concentrated along the harbour shores and navigable waterways, on arable land, and on the slopes of the Drury-Papakura Hills (Tatton and Clough, nd). The hinterland was not intensively or extensively used but there would have been at least seasonal occupation in the general area (Murdoch, 1990). Where resources were abundant or a location was strategic, the area was protected by a fortified pa. Wetland areas in the lowlands of the west of Papakura are unlikely to have attracted settlement, however resources abundant in these areas would have been utilised (Tatton and Clough, nd). Wetland areas may have been used to hide tools and artefacts in times of threat however most of the lowlands have long since been drained for farming purposes.

Ararimu Track

The Ararimu track passing through Papakura linked the two important areas of Tamaki Makaurau and Waikato by skirting the Papakura Swamp and passing through the Hunua hills to the headwaters of the Mangatawhiri Creek which provided one of the main waka routes both to the Waikato and the Hauraki Gulf [Figure 2]. The track was guarded particularly by the pa site at old Maketu, 4 kilometres east of Drury, a Ngati Pou settlement dating from the 1700s. In the 1840s it was ’occupied by the Te Akitai (Ngati Tamaoho) under their chief Te Tihi’ [presumably Ihaka Takanini]. At much the same time a new pa at Maketu had been built, through which the track passed, and was occupied by Ngati Pou (Clarke 1983:261-266). [Maketu is just outside the Papakura District Boundary in Franklin District].

Major pa sites. Pukekiwiriki Pa

The Ngati Tamaoho main occupational sites appear to have been on the western slopes of the Drury Hills and the shores of the Manukau Harbour. Their main settlements and cultivations were close to their pa, two of which were near the mouth of Slippery Creek while two others were in the Pukekiwiriki or Red Hill area, about 4 kilometres east of Papakura (Murdoch 1990:1). One of these was the well known pa, Pukekiwiriki, a misspelling of Pukeokoiwiriki being a more recent name for the same pa known previously as Paritaiuru, an ancient place connected to the great chieftainess, Marama, of the Tainui canoe (Simmons 1987:79) [Figure 2].

Te Aparangi Settlement

However, at the beginning of the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, Pukekiwiriki pa and the neighbouring settlement of Te Aparangi, were under the control of the principal chiefs Ihaka Takanini te Tihi, a great grandson of Kiwi Tamaki, and Mohi te Ahiatengu. The village of Te Aparangi at Red Hill ’was the village of the old chief Ihaka Takaanini and his people of Te Akitai and Te Uri-a-Tapa, hapus of the Ngati-Tamaoho’, located on the Kirikiri Stream (Cowan 1983:1:252). From Te Aparangi Maori supplied Papakura and the developing town of Auckland with vegetables and fruit from their gardens and orchards. At times Ihaka resided there with his people of Te Akitai and Te Uri a Tapa, hapu of Ngati Tamaoho and Mohi with the Whakapaka hapu of Ngati Tamaoho’ (Tonson 1966:68) before being captured near Ring’s Redoubt by British troops and his subsequent removal to Rakino Island (Murdoch, 1988). This historically important kainga has yet to be reidentified archaeologically.

During the Waikato campaign of the New Zealand Wars, in the first half of the 1860s, Maori withdrew to the Hunuas but little is known of the areas occupied either during that period or in pre-European times. Craig notes that in the vicinity of Papakura the only Maori settlements in early European times were at Takanini and Kirikiri. The latter area encompassed Pukekiwiriki (Craig 1982:2,4) [Figure 2].

Tracks and Waterways

On the ’Papakura side’ of the Hingaia peninsula, at Chalky Point, was a canoe landing from where a track led to Waipapa at the head of the Pahurehure Inlet. The track is described as having ’been used for generations by the Maoris until it was several inches deep’ (Craig 1982:70) [Figure 3]. The waterways around Hingaia were frequently used to gain access to Pukekiwiriki and the neighbouring settlement of Te Aparangi as well as the pa at Slippery Creek and the Opaheke settlement.

European Settlement

Historic themes

Research from recent archaeological reports has resulted in the identification of several themes which highlight the history of the district from the days of European settlement – the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s and the subsequent land confiscations and division, the Waikato Immigration Scheme, the timber industry, land clearance and pastoral farming, early communities and kauri gum-digging (Tatton & Clough n.d:4 [2003?]). A further theme listed by the ARC for research and survey is early communities and families (Tatton 2002:45).

Further research for this report has uncovered other themes of historic interest. Brief information based on archival research on historic themes is presented below. This is to

  • highlight the often unrecognised heritage inherent in the District
  • provide a foundation from which further research may be undertaken
  • indicate a general alert layer in some areas where no ground development should occur until further searching, both archival and field survey, is undertaken.

Papakura Block

Missionaries had been travelling through the Papakura and Drury areas from 1834, staying at the Maori village of Opaheke near the mouth of Slippery Creek. The strategic importance of that area was not lost on the Government and the ’ill defined’ ’Papakura’ Block was purchased in 1842 from Te Akitai and Ngai Tai and ’extended from Papatoetoe to just south of present day Papakura’ (Murdoch 1990:1). Travelling through the area in 1846, a Dr Johnson noted that Papakura was an occasional residence of ’Te Akitai and Nga Iwi hapu of Ngati Tamaoho’ who came to plant potatoes and gather fern root (Clarke 1983:273).

Hingaia Purchase

In 1844 Adam Chisholm purchased ’Hingaia’, an area of 2193 acres. In his first letter to the Colonial Secretary, Chisholm forwarded a letter on December 9 regarding his proposed purchase, along with one in Maori which was signed by Whangaroa, Te Rou and Hemi Te Ngohe, described as being of Ngati Whatua. George Clarke, Chief Protector of Aborigines wrote:

’Whangaroa with the other persons herein named are, I believe, the principal

owners of the land applied for. Wiremu Parata also has a claim, and it would not be safe for Mr Chisholm to purchase without his consent’ (Walker n.d.6). William Cole, son of the earliest settler in the area, George Cole, later was to write that Wiremu Parata was ’a good man but not of rank’ (Walker

Chisholm then sent a further letter signed by seven chiefs of Ngati Whatua including Wiremu Parata. The extra three were Wiremu Houngohe, Paora and Taniwha (Walker n.d.:6). The boundaries were described as

’Commencing at a bluff point called Maungatahi on the Manukau River, running thence to Waikowhai and the Pukepuke where a post was erected by Isaac [Ihaka Takaanini] and Whangaroa, (native chiefs), running straight from the said post to a place called Whakarau, thence it comes along the plain to Otuwairoa, following the river to Maukitua and Te Totara adjoining Maungatahi where it commences’. (Walker n.d:6)

It is interesting to note that the post was erected by Ihaka Takanini of Te Akitai/Ngati Tamaoho although the sellers were described as of Ngati Whatua. The identities of the signatories have not been confirmed as they have not been sited elsewhere. A survey plan of 1852 (SO 1103) shows Chisholm’s land already subdivided and sold with the Hingaia Road, a paper road, bisecting it.

Early Settlers

Early settlers initially resided in whares, often constructed by local Maori, until more substantial housing could be erected (Craig, 1982). Timber for construction, often heart kauri, was obtained either from local stands of native bush located throughout the Papakura District area or from swampy areas. In areas such as Ardmore where the land was largely covered with native bush, the initial settlers were fellers and millers (Tonson, 1966). In Takanini a variety of mills was constructed, particularly flax mills along the Papakura Stream. Those outsettlers living in the Hunuas were linked to the Great South Road by a cart track and Drury was the early centre for provisions and mail collection.

Tracks and Waterways

One of the early settlements in the Auckland region was the establishment of the village of Drury in 1855. Its location by a navigable waterway illustrates the role that water transport was to play in the area’s development through to the 20th century (Cameron, Hayward, Murdoch 1997:83). Many of the early settlers arrived via waterways as there were few passable roadways. The military used the Pahurehure Inlet for access to Drury, the site of a military camp, Commissariat and Redoubt.

The Maori tracks and portages served as the basis of the early roads. The Great South Road was metalled as far as Papakura by 1855 and was further improved and extended by the military for the movement of troops and their supplies (Horsman 1971:77). The military also created tracks, as did Maori, through the Hunuas during the wars. It has been recorded that ’A military track is still to be seen crossing the Hunua Ranges at Pratt’s Hill’ (Hawkins 1990:5).

The New Zealand Wars

The New Zealand Wars of the 1860s saw an influx of military personnel to the Papakura District with Papakura and Drury becoming military garrisons. The towns served as supply bases and staging posts on the way to the front [Figures 5 & 6]. The Papakura District became a central player in the build up to the Waikato Campaign with improvements to, and the extension of, the Great South Road ensuring that it became the main land transport route to the Waikato. Drury’s location by a navigable waterway provided for the direct movement of supplies by water from Onehunga and allowed speedier access to the Waikato [Figure 8]. Other effects were the establishment of the construction of several military Redoubts including Ring’s (or Kirikiri, R11/956), Campbell’s (R12/120), Drury Redoubt (R12/123), Commissariat Redoubt (R12/756), as well as the headquarters for General Cameron’s 65th Regiment Camp at Drury (R12/755) and Forest Rangers and churches being fortified and used for the protection of settlers during skirmishes (Tonson, 1966).

Waikato Immigration Scheme

European settlement in the Papakura District area had begun during the mid-late 1850s (Tonson, 1966) and increased following the confiscation and subsequent sale of Ihaka Takanini’s lands under the Waikato Immigration Scheme (Clough and Baquie, 2000). A joint project of the Auckland and central governments, its aim was to place military settlers on land confiscated from Māori in the hope of consolidating territorial gains and increasing security. In order to retain land in European hands the government marketed The Waikato Immigration Scheme to South African and British tradesmen and agricultural workers, promising free passage and 5 to 40 acres of land as an incentive (

Approximately 4000 settlers were enticed to the North Island by this proposition, however much of the promised financial incentives such as allowances for house building and employment did not come to fruition (Morris, 1965). In 1865 the land to the east of the present railway was subdivided into 10 acre (c.4 hectare) farming blocks and ¼ acre lots for Scottish settlers from the ship Viola. They disembarked at the Wairoa River (Clevedon) where they overlanded to the swamps of Takanini (Clough & Baquie 6:2000). Emigrants from the Cape settled in Drury.

Some of the settlers under the Waikato Immigration Scheme were housed in the military barracks at Onehunga or, when all else failed, under canvas in camps near to their final destinations or in the numerous redoubts which were a legacy of the wars (Horsman 1971:121). Certainly the Papakura District had several of these which could have been put to good use.

Agriculture and Milling

Most settlers arrived with the intention of undertaking agricultural or pastoral endeavours. This was especially true in the Alfriston area (Tonson, 1966). Stock and cultivars replaced cleared stands of bush and scrub. Crops recorded include wheat, oats, and barley as well as a limited attempt at tobacco growing in Ardmore (Tonson, 1966). The production of wheat likely led to the erection of several flour mills throughout the district however the majority of these remain unrecorded.

Coles flour mill (CHI:658, ARC) is the single mill, the location of which is definitively known in Papakura. However Tonson (1966) notes a water-driven flour and flax mill at Takanini which is possibly that of John de Carteret. Baquie suggests that this flax mill, dating to the 1870s, was likely to have been located at the junction of Alfriston and Porchester Roads and has recorded the site as R11/2078. Baquie notes that there was a flax mill on the corner of Phillip and Mill Roads and Wedding Place, R11/2076, and that flax mills were said to have operated along the banks of the Papakura Stream using water wheel power to drive them (Clough and Baquie 2000:10,11). Tonson (1966) notes a further flax mill, as yet unidentified, at Ardmore.

Coal and Clay Industries

Following the Rev A.G. Purcha’s discovery of coal at Drury in 1858, the site was visited by Dr. von Hochstetter who found the clay suitable for brick making and recommended to the Provincial Council that brickworks be established in conjunction with the coal mines (PDHS ’Coalfield notes’ FD3).

An alternative record states that ’the coal in the Drury Hills was found by a Captain James Ninnis from Onehunga. He was responsible for the opening and early mining of the coal.’ A horse tramway was built from Slippery Creek for about 3 1/2 miles and was opened in May 1862. The railway-cum-horse-tram was one of the first to be built in New Zealand. The two industries quickly became established, however coal mining was short lived due to the discovery of the higher bearing coalfields at Huntly (Appleby, n.d. – PDHS notes).

The coal mines were situated on land between the Drury Hotel and the Hunua Ranges [Figure 5]. Henry Chamberlain bought the land which included the Drury coalfields in 1866 (Platt 1971:232) and it later came into the ownership of the Mawhinney Brothers of Drury (PDHS ’Coalfield notes’ FD3). The exact location of the first brickworks is not known and it became uneconomic by about 1910. However the clay pit remained open and later a large building with a 70 foot high chimney was erected on property belonging to the Mawhinney Family and the pottery industry thrived. Known as the Drury Pottery and Fireclay Works, it operated until about the 1930s [?possibly 40s] when an Auckland firm purchased the company and closed it down (Auckland Waikato Journal April 1984:19).

When the construction of the main trunk railway was nearing Drury, around 1896, it was decided to turn the old horse tramway into a railway suitable for steam trains. The Mineral Railway was born with the steam train taking the coal to Drury. It also marked the end of local water transport commercially and the demise of the port of Drury (PDHS ’Coalfield notes’ FD3).

Basalt Quarrying and Stone Masonry

In the vicinity of the potteries a further industry was born. Four basalt quarries were cut in the vicinity of Elizabeth Place. The two larger quarries were linked by a road or tramway which in turn probably linked with the pottery works railway (R12/673 and 675). The stone masonry industry was established by the Dalmatian gumdiggers from the Takanini gumfields who were skilled at working with stone. ’Hard stone’ was used to cut kerb stones, destined to line the gutters and tram lines of Auckland. Irish and Welsh stone masons soon joined the Dalmatians in this industry. Many miles of roads were edged with these blocks and many thousands were carried on ’The Mineral Railway’. This occurred before the main trunk railway went through to Wellington in 1908. It is believed that the Mineral Railway ceased functioning around 1910 (PDHS File:FD3).

Timber Industry

An increasing number of European settlers requiring construction material, and the timber trade in general, saw the erection of several sawmills throughout the District including the Mill Road sawmill, Alfriston (R11/2059), the Marx sawmill, Takanini (R11/2062), with the last known timber mill erected around 1900 at Philip Road, Alfriston (Tonson, 1966). Craig (1982) notes the Hays Creek Dam, presumably associated with timber felling in the Hunua area, yet this site remains unrecorded. It is unclear which of the sawmills in the Papakura District utilised water to power mill wheels, and it is expected that early sawmills would have been of the pit saw type. Certainly pit sawing was undertaken in the Hunuas. Provisions for the timber workers in the Hunua Bush were to be had at the Travellers’ Rest, the most famous hostelry in the district, located on the Wairoa Road and a landmark until it was demolished in the 1880s (Craig 1982;63).

The painting (A jam in the lava cleft, Hay’s Creek, Papakura Alfred Sharpe 1878 from Blackley, Roger. 1992. The Art of Alfred Sharpe. Auckland City Art Gallery in association with David Bateman Ltd, Auckland) … shows evidence that kauri were milled in the vicinity of Hays Creek and the creek was used for floating the logs to a mill downstream. Log jams were a common problem in the narrow gorges and clefts of some driving creeks (Diamond and Hayward 1991:32).

Kauri Gum – The Papakura Diggings

Following clearance of forested land for pastoral or agricultural purposes, land where Kauri previously stood was dug for gum (Craig, 1982). It was easy to harvest kauri gum by surface collection but as demand increased from mid 19th century onwards, subterranean deposits from long-departed kauri forests were exploited by means of long spears and spades. Initially, gumfields were located relatively close to the Auckland market, around Papakura and Riverhead (Smith 2001:241). The gum spears used by diggers in Papakura are believed to have been made at Wilson’s blacksmith forge at Papakura (Tonson, 1966).

The location of the Papakura diggings, generally referred to as "The Flats" is approximately at the Military Camp site in the vicinity of Walters Road, Takanini. The northern boundary was Alfriston, to the east Ardmore extending as far as Clevedon, and the Manukau Harbour to the west. In 1890, the economy was low and over a thousand men, many being Maori, came to the Papakura gumfields in the hope of making a living, some were Austrian or Dalmatian. A semi-permanent camp was established, named the "Willow Camp", so called because of an isolated willow tree which grew there and was ’a well-known landmark in early times’. The camp was situated just off the [?]eastern side of Porchester Road near the training track (Mack in Clarke 1985:37-46). The location has also been recorded as in Valley Road which is now the right-angled road formed from Popes Road and Porchester Road (Clough & Baquie 2000:7). A further camp was located at the Glenora Park racetrack. The Papakura Flat was the site of a buried kauri forest and, as it was gradually cleared of gum and tree trunks, the land was converted to farmland. Gum was also dug at Hunua.

Bloodstock and Racing Industries

The bloodstock and racing industries were an early part of the historic character of Takanini. The first track was built by Mr Walters during the 1860s. Named the Glenora Park racetrack, the first meet was held there in 1872 (Tonson, 1966 and Craig, 1982). The grandstand lodged many of the gumdiggers operating in the Takanini area and, when the stand was burned down in 1899, they received the blame. The site was where the Walsh Brothers flew the first powered aircraft Manurewa in 1910 (Tonson, 1966). Glenora Park became the race track which was later owned by the Takanini Training Track Ltd which onsold to the Auckland Racing Club in the 1920s (Clough & Baquie 2000:7). The facility has recently been moved but a number of trainers remain in the district.


The potted histories above indicate historic themes which may be researched further. They also suggest areas where heritage may endure. Research, survey and assessment of areas highlighted in the themes should be undertaken and prioritised as outlined in the Survey and Assessment Priorities Section. The areas which stand out as having received little research or surveying are ’the hills’ areas of Papakura, Red Hill and Drury.


See Papakura References.