Historic site: Ngati Toa Domain

"Histories are a kind of distilled newspapers."

- Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero Worship.

Image of rugby club house at Ngati Toa Domain, 2007.
Rugby clubhouse at Ngati Toa Domain, 2007.
Photo by Russell Murray.

Early Maori association with the Domain

The domain area is linked to the great Polynesian explorer Kupe who sailed into the Porirua harbour in his canoe Matahorua (Matawhaorua). The Punga o Matahorua (Kupe’s anchor) was moved from Komanga/Green Point to a location near the domain. The stone was damaged by men stationed at Paremata Barracks and is now held at Te Papa Tongarewa

Archaeologists have established that there was a settlement of moa-hunting people here at least as early as 1450 AD. It was known that they lived on forest birds, including seven different species of moa, and on the abundant fish available here. The Domain is associated with important activities, such as traditional shellfish and fish harvesting and processing, fortified settlement and burials. The name of the domain is derived from the iwi Ngati Toa, however the traditional name of this area is Paremata.

The Domain is associated with a number of hapu and iwi, including Ngati Ira, Ngati Tama and Ngati Toa. Specific ancestors of note who lived here are Tamairangi (see Komanga/Green Point), Te Kaeaea and Nohorua, the latter being a well known tohunga and chief of Ngati Toa. Led by the chiefs Te Rauparaha, Te Pehi Kupe and Te Rangihaeata, Ngati Toa arrived in the area from Kawhia in the early 1820s and soon became the dominant local tribe.

Paremata Point became a whaling station and ferry crossing

Image of Joseph Thoms Jnr.
Joseph Thoms Jnr.
Born 4 March 1842 at Te Awaiti; died 11 June 1909 at 67.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.1.46.

From the early years of the nineteenth century Europeans - whalers, sealers and traders - were also here. The most notable was the entrepreneurial Joseph Thoms (also known as Geordie Bolts). Thoms married Te Ua Torikiriki, a formidable whaler in her own right and daughter of the Ngati Toa tohunga [chief] Nohorua.

Thoms established his whaling station in 1835 next to Nohorua’s pa at Paremata Point. The station closed in 1851 as the number of whales declined, but the inn which Thoms also set up lasted for several more years. With a mixture of Pakeha and Ngati Toa whalers, Thoms used up to seven six-oared row boats to chase the slow Right whales that migrated through the Cook Strait and past Porirua every year.

Deep Water Point, the north-west gap between Whitireia Peninsula and Paremata, was the first ferry crossing at Porirua, remaining until the British Army built the Paekakariki Hill road in the late 1840s.

For an account of a young man who stayed at Thom's Whaling Station see the unpublished diary of Edward Jollie at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.

Disputes between Maori and settlers over land

Image of Te Rangihaeata. Image of Governor Grey. Image of Te Rauparaha.
Te Rangihaeata (left), Governor Grey (middle), Te Rauparaha (right).
Images of Te Rauaparaha and Te Rangihaeata are from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.
Image of Governor Grey is from the Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.1.27

In May 1843 the disputes over the New Zealand Company's doubtful land purchases from Ngati Toa came to a head at the Wairau River, and with the deaths of both colonists and Ngati Toa, notably Te Rongo, wife of Te Rangihaeata, both sides armed themselves for war. Te Rangihaeata moved to a new pa, first at Plimmerton, then Motu-Karaka, and finally Matai-taua at Pauatahanui.

On 8 April 1846, 220 men of the British Army under Major Last were sent to Porirua. After lying for a week off Mana Island because of the weather, they landed at Paremata Point to establish a military base. It might be said that the first New Zealand warship operated from Paremata Point. The Colonial Records of Revenue and Expenditure in 1846 list the purchase of a gunboat for Porirua Harbour for 100 pounds 17 shillings and 6 pence.

In 1846, after several skirmishes between Pakeha settlers and some local Maori, Governor Grey established a small army base here, and stone barracks were built at Paremata Point. The end of the hostilities, together with poor construction and damage from the 1848 earthquake meant the barracks were little used. Their military use ended in 1852 with the cessation of hostilities in the Wellington region and after another earthquake in 1855 the barracks were abandoned.

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has many read-online publications on the Land Wars, including Louis E.Ward's "Early Wellington" which discusses the campaigns in the Porirua area.

Paremata became farmland

James Walker farmed this area from 1875 using the barracks as stables and a hayshed. Some of the area came to be known as Dolly Varden, named after his rowing skiff, with which Walker won nearly every race he competed in. It was Walker who in 1907 arranged for the first rugby field to be marked out near his house. Walker is reputed to have taken the old tavern building in Plimmerton for use as a house in 1909 when they moved from the Domain.

Paremata Point becomes a recreation reserve and US Marines camp

The construction of a railway bridge at Paremata in 1885 brought the first beach-side residents, a development which was accelerated when the road bridge was built in 1936. In 1938 the land which now forms the Domain was brought from the Walker family by the Crown and Hutt County (at the time the administrative body for this area). It was declared a reserve for public recreation purposes.

Image of Military camp at Ngati Toa Domain, Mana.
Military camp at Ngati Toa Domain, Mana.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref B.9.27.

In 1942 the United States Marine Corps established a military camp at Paremata Point alongside the site of the old barracks almost a century after they had been abandoned. The camp was one of several around Wellington and it accommodated 482 men.

The camp included prefabricated wooden buildings used for cookhouses, messes and stores while the sleeping quarters comprised tents on timber decks and concrete gun pads. The latter were later covered with turf when the Paremata Rugby Club established rugby fields on the Domain. The first personnel arrived in June 1942 and departed two years later in mid 1944. After the marines left the camp was used by the New Zealand Artillery.

Ngati Toa Domain after the war

After the end of the war the Ministry of Works used the camp during roading construction. There are no visible remains of those camps evident today, although there are likely to be substantial archaeological remains buried under the playing fields. Development of the area for recreation purposes was put on hold during World War II.

Following the war, Ngati Toa Domain has provided facilities for a wide range of sports and other recreational activities. In 1967 the Ngati Toa Hall was built. This is used as an indoor sports venue as well as for social functions. There are also other clubhouses on the domain including tennis and netball courts, squash facilities, a dog obedience club as well as the rugby fields. Other buildings on the Domain include the Kapi-Mana Playcentre (at the northern end) and a new multi-purpose hall.

Mana Marina is adjacent to the Domain and in 1970 the Governor General, Sir Charles Fergusson opened the Mana Cruising Club buildings in the domain. Associated with this complex are the Kapi-Mana ATC and the Sea Scouts.

Continue to Paremata Barracks or return to Paremata, Papakowhai and Mana.