History of Pauatahanui

"'History' is a Greek word which means, literally, just 'investigation.'"

- Arnold Toynbee.


Pauatahanui until 1845


Image of Sunrise at Pauatahanui by Keith Calder.
Sunrise at Pauatahanui.
Photo by Keith Calder, 2009.

The Landscape of Pauatahanui

The Pauatahanui inlet is defined as the eastern arm of the Porirua harbour. Over millions of years of erosion, seismic activity and glaciation have shaped the topography to its present form: a shallow inlet surrounded by a gently rolling landscape not far above sea level.

The topography of the Pauatahanui area has been considerably modified by seismic activity along the Ohariu Fault. The area has also been modified by movement along other faults (namely Wellington, Takapu, Moonshine and Pukerua). The 1855 earthquake which lifted the Wellington/Hutt Valley region was recorded by Pauatahanui settlers. They reported considerable movement and numerous dead fish in the inlet after the earthquake.

Sediments, which have been washed into the inlet over the last thousand years, have raised the inlet floor almost two metres. In the late 19th Century the rate of sedimentation accelerated due to erosion following felling of native forest for timber. Housing development around the inlet has also significantly increased the degree of sedimentation since 1970.

Maori Settlement in the Pauatahanui Area

When the first Maori settlers arrived at Pauatahanui they encountered dense bush that had changed little in the previous 10,000 years. Species present included rimu, rata, tawa, hinau, totara, matai, miro and kahikatea. The name Pauatahanui means "big shellfish" reflecting the importance the region's rich supply of seafood played in the communities that lived in the area over time.
According to traditional histories Pauatahanui was occupied by several tribes from the 1600s on. Two Ngati Ira pa existed; one at Motukaraka and the other at Te Ewe O Whanake now known as Ration Point. With the arrival of Ngati Toa in the 1820s the Ngati Ira iwi was forced to move to the Wairarapa.

Conflict between Ngati Toa and the government

Image of Te Rangihaeata.
Te Rangihaeata.
The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64).
James Cowan.
In 1839 the New Zealand Company made a series of purchases of Ngati Toa land, including Pauatahanui. While the New Zealand Company's claim to Porirua harbour and the land that surrounded it was not acknowledged by Ngati Toa, especially Te Rangihaeata, the Company went ahead with their plans to open up the region for Company settlers. Their intention was to establish a village at Motukaraka, surrounded by 100 acre sections.
After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the New Zealand Company gained the support of the colonial government in New Zealand and hostility between the Government and Te Rangihaeata intensified.
In 1845 Te Rangihaeata, with a small group of Ngati Toa followers moved from his pa on Mana Island moved to Motukaraka where he built a temporary pa and moored his war canoes. The site proved unsatisfactory as it was within range of naval bombardment and was shelled by a British longboat commanded by Midshipman McKillop.
Te Rangihaeata moved to Pauatahanui where he built a fighting pa, named Matai-taua on the site of what is now the Pauatahanui Burial Ground. No fighting took place here, as Te Rangihaeata was heavily outnumbered and was forced to retreat up the Horokiri Valley to make his last stand at a site which is now known as Battle Hill.

Military encampments at Pauatahanui

Pauatahanui has seen two rounds of military activity. First in the 1840s after the battles with Te Rangihaeata, British troops were stationed in the area. One hundred years later, US Marines were stationed at a camp at Motukaraka Point during World War II.

British troops stationed in Pauatahanui after the Land Wars

After Te Rangihaeata withdrew to the Horowhenua, British troops were stationed at Matai-taua Pa. This site proved unsuitable and the troops moved across to the adjacent hill, which is the site of the present Pauatahanui School. Soldiers' barracks and officers' quarters were erected during 1847 and the site became known as Barrack Hill.

In 1846 Fort Strode was established at Motukaraka. It was named after Sub-Inspector Cheltham Strode who commanded the local armed police unit.

To encourage settlement, the Government concentrated on improving the road from Wellington to Porirua and extending the route northward. On January 1, 1847 work began. During the next three years, assisted by local Maori and settlers, the British military forces constructed a narrow road around the southern shores of the inlet, through Pauatahanui and up the Horokiri Valley to Paekakariki.

During the military occupation supplies were brought by boat into the inlet and were unloaded at a place that became known as Ration Point. The original name of this area is Te Ewe o Whanake meaning the placenta of Whanake. Whanake was a Ngati Ira rangatira who was living at Komanga Rautawhiri Pa with his wife Tamairanga in the early 1800s. It is thought that the area is the burial place of Whanake's placenta and therefore where he was born. For this reason the area is considered tapu. Many chisels and adzes were found in this area when the Death family ploughed the land to grow crops.

In 1847 Lieutenant-Colonel McCleverty completed the purchase of Porirua, Pauatahanui and Horokiri lands from Ngati Toa. The New Zealand Company was now in the position to give legal title to the Company settlers who wished to settle in the region.

By the late 1840s, however, the company was facing major financial difficulties and consequently abandoned the plan of a settlement at Motukaraka. By November 1849, the Porirua-Pauatahanui-Paekakariki section of the road had been completed and the British troops marched back to Wellington in early 1850.

US Marines camp at Motukaraka Point during World War II

Image of American Camp at Motukaraka Point 24 January 1944.
American Camp at Motukaraka Point 24 January 1944.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.3.36.

With the outbreak of war in 1939 several military camps for New Zealand forces were established in the Pauatahanui region. By 1942 the New Zealand troops were fighting in North Africa and the camps had become a temporary home to thousands of United States Marines. Approximately 5,000 personnel from the 10th Marines were stationed at the Plimmerton Military Camp, located at Motukaraka. There were also camps at Judgeford, Moonshine, Paremata and Titahi Bay.

The Marines left the area in 1943 and Pauatahanui returned to its role as a semi-rural village.

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Pauatahanui Village development



The first Pauatahanui hotel

Image of Edward Boulton. Image of Tom Wilson.
Edward Boulton (left); Tom Wilson (right).
Edward Boulton was born 18 June 1818 in Sydney. Died November/December 1897.
The painting of Tom Wilson is by B. Stepney, London 1816.
Images from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref (left) P.1.32.

Edward Boulton and Thomas Wilson established the first inn at Pauatahanui in 1847. Thomas Wilson was a whaler and had operated the Te Korohiwa Station ("Coalheavers") in Titahi Bay before the hotel was established. In 1859 the inn was destroyed by fire and Boulton built a second hotel on the same site. At this time the partnership between Wilson and Boulton was amicably ended.

More hotels opened in Pauatahanui to cater for regular coach services

Image of Pauatahanui Hotel, c1870. George Taylor, publican. Image of Pauatahanui Hotel, c1900. Matthew Moynihan, publican, stands beside his children and John Mulhern, a farmer at Judgeford.
Pauatahanui Hotel.
Left: c1870. George Taylor, publican.
Right: c1900. Matthew Moynihan, publican, stands beside his children and John Mulhern, a farmer at Judgeford.
Photos from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.1d.9.

With the advent of regular coach services by Cobb and Co. in 1865, three other hotels were established. The Horokiwi Hotel (the official spelling is Horokiri, but local usage has favoured Horokiwi) opened in 1865 and was operated by William Blackie. It was here that coaches changed their horses before the steep climb up the Paekakariki Hill. The Pauatahanui Hotel owned by Henry Hillen, opened in 1877. It was designed by architect Thomas Turnbull and its first publican was Henry Hillen. The license expired in 1912. From 1914 until the late 1930s the hotel was used as a private boarding house, run by Harold Tregurtha. The building was demolished c1980.

Directly opposite the Pauatahanui Hotel stood the Empire Hotel which was owned by Samuel and Elizabeth Prosser. The building was designed by Mr Tringham and built by Barry McDowell. Prosser obtained the contract to carry mail between Pauatahanui and Wellington and ran a coach service daily to Wellington. This hotel was later known as the Junction Hotel and was destroyed by fire, at this time it was owned by Alexander Nichol.

Establishment of classrooms in Pauatahanui

Image of Pauatahanui's first school, 1940.
Pauatahanui's school, 1940.
Photography by Pat Burt.
From left to right: Jean Winifred Burt (now Howell), Mr and Mrs Jim Bishop of Lower Hutt, Arthur Wentworth Burt.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.1b.1.

The first school lessons in Pauatahanui were taken by John James Waldergrave in 1855 at Edward Boulton's hotel. Lessons were later held in Pauatahanui's first chapel, which was built by William Blackie on the site of Matai-taua Pa.

In 1860 Horokiwi and Pauatahanui Schools opened. Both schools were built with materials from the former army barracks, which stood very close to the site of the present Pauatahanui School. The bell from the barque "Tyne" totally wrecked on the Rimaropa Rocks, close to Sinclair Head, on July 4 1845 was used at the Pauatahanui School from its beginnings. When the Wellington Education Board demolished Pauatahanui's first school and erected the present building in 1939, the bell was moved to the new building and still functions today. In addition to being used as a school, Pauatahanui School was for some time used for all social functions in the area.

The first churches in Pauatahanui

Image of Pauatahanui's first chapel, established in 1857.
Pauatahanui's first chapel, established in 1857.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.1c.1.

In 1857 work began to build a chapel. Built on land donated by Thomas Stace, the first service in this interdenominational church was held on August 11, 1857. By the late 1880s Pauatahanui's first chapel had deteriorated considerably. It was replaced by the St. Alban's Church, which was consecrated June 17, 1898.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church was opened is now the oldest church in Pauatahanui as it was consecrated April 1878.

Industry in Pauatahanui


Image of Hurley and Carter's sawmill on Francis Bradey's run, Duck Creek.
Hurley and Carter's sawmill on Francis Bradey's run, "Duck Creek."
From a painting by John Bradey, Levin (in 1926), of the original oil painting by Frank Bradey in 1863.
The driver is G.H.Taylor. Pit sawyers: William Harris Snr (top), David Clark (under).
New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. From "Early Wellington" by Louis E. Ward (Whitcombe and Tombs, 1928)

In April 1859 Edward Carter and Joseph Hurley leased part of Thomas Stace's property and began saw-milling. The venture was so successful that shortly after the partners leased 392 acres at Duck Creek from Francis Bradey and established a steam-driven saw-mill. Timber from this mill was rafted down the inlet to Paremata, from where it was transported by boat into Wellington.

Hurley returned to Wellington in the 1860s but Carter continued to operate both the Duck Creek mill and another at Judgeford until his death in 1895.

Gold Mining: an unsuccessful enterprise

In the late 1860s gold was thought to be present in the quartz reef at Mt Welcome, the top of ridge about halfway between Pukerua Bay and the summit of the Paekakariki Hill Road.

Four companies were registered, with Pauatahanui, Horokiri and Porirua residents as majority shareholders of the Mt. Welcome Gold Mining Company, the Central Gold Mining Company and the West Coast Prospecting and Goldmining Company. The Telegraph Gold Mining Company, which also worked this claim, was mainly sponsored by Wellington business men.

During 1869-70 five shafts, 10-20 metres deep, were sunk at Mt Welcome and a small shaft was also sunk on the north western shore of the inlet. Only small quantities of gold were recovered and within 18 months the companies had ceased their operations in the area.

Pauatahanui Oyster Fisheries Company

In 1849 the Pauatahanui Oyster Fisheries Company was formed with the aim of cultivating oysters in commercial quantities. The company acquired over 400 acres of leasehold land on the southern side of Motukaraka and engaged John Harvey, an experienced English oyster farmer, to run the operation. The venture was unsuccessful because of excessive sedimentation in the area.


The village declines but community spirit strengthens


The railway and highway bypassed Pauatahanui

Pauatahanui’s role as a commercial centre began to decline with the establishment of the rail link between Wellington and Longburn in 1886. The decline of Pauatahanui’s hotels was accelerated when the area was declared ‘dry’ in 1912. A protest by the Pauatahanui succeeded in ensuring that the railway line did not pass through Pauatahanui. With the opening of the Paremata Road-bridge in 1936, Pauatahanui was no longer on the main west coast highway. Prior to this motorists had travelled around the shores of the inlet to get between Paremata and Plimmerton.

Image of Pauatahanui Store 1928. Image of Pauatahanui Store 1928.
Pauatahanui Store 1928.
Left: Arthur Burt, store owner Thomas's son, and Pat Burt second from right.
Right: The Burt Sisters and brother Pat outside the Pauatahanui Store pumps. Blacksmith's Shop in the background on the site of the present school driveway. Pauatahanui Hotel on the extreme right. Hotel and Smithie were owned by Harold Tregurtha.
Photos from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.1d.1.

On April 27 1927 the village's only store and Post Office was burnt down. Mrs Helen Vanderpump, the local school mistress, resigned from her position and established the store that still operates today. Two years later she leased the store to Thomas Burt, whose son Vivian managed the business until 1942.

Recreation and Social Life: Cricket and Dancing

The Cricket Team

Cricket was being played in the area by the 1860s and by the turn of the century Pauatahanui had a regular cricket team which played at the Basin Reserve in Wellington every Wednesday afternoon.

Dancing at the Pauatahanui Assembly Hall

Image of Pauatahanui's first Public Hall, Pauatahanui Assembly Hall.
Pauatahanui's first Public Hall, Pauatahanui Assembly Hall.
Part of William Stace's home appears at the extreme left of the photo.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.3.35.

The Pauatahanui Assembly Hall was built on Section 63 for William Stace, son of Thomas Hollis Stace, in 1904. It was built by Mr George Manson, a builder who lived at Johnsonville, at a total cost of £436. Legal surveying costs were £23.13.0.

Fees for all functions held at the hall were paid to William Stace until his death in December 1926. Its opening night was advertised as a Grand Ball, held on 21 September 1904. Its last dance was held by the Mana Dart Club on Saturday 19 November 1966.

During the 1920s and 1930s dances were held in the Pauatahanui Hall once a fortnight. Long-time resident Joe Boulton recalls:

"The dances would cost 9d or a shilling to get in and they were organised by the local community. The ladies would bring a plate and the men some home brew, although there wasn't much drinking in those days. The musicians were mostly locals. The Bradey brothers would sometimes play: violin, piano, mandolin and double bass and all the favourite tunes of the day. There might be a euchre party going on, while others would dance or just talk. It was relaxed and friendly ... you knew everyone in those days."

The old hall was finally demolished by 12 December 1966, and the remains were burnt on the following weekend, the 19th.

Continue to History of Judgeford or return to the Pauatahanui, Judgeford and Whitby.