History of Pukerua Bay

"History is the transformation of tumultuous conquerors into silent footnotes."

- Paul Eldridge, Maxims for a Modern Man

Image of Milk delivery in Pukerua Bay.
Milk delivery in Pukerua Bay.
Milkman Mr Allen, 27 Oct. 1937.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.1.39.

Early Maori History

The legend of Hau and Wairaka

Pukerua Bay is linked with the legendary figure Haunui-a-nania, who came here during the pursuit of his unfaithful wife, Wairaka. She had run away with Kiwi and Weka, (although some versions of this legend give the lovers name as Weku), and Hau left the Mahia Peninsula in northern Hawkes Bay, on an epic chase.

Many present-day place names such as Otaki, Ohau and Waikanae record incidents in the quest which ended just south of Pukerua. Legend goes that after Hau changed his wife's lover into a bird he ordered Wairaka to go into the sea and collect paua. Wairaka ran unthinkingly into the tide, bending over and searching amongst the rocks. Hau hurled a dreadful curse on her, turning her into stone. This great rock can still be seen today and carries her name.

Ngati Ira's settlement of Pukerua Bay

The Ngati Ira are the earliest named people to have lived at Pukerua, but their claim to live here was disputed by the Ngati Rangi, who lived near Paraparaumu. When the Ngati Ira built a pa at Pukerua, the Ngati Rangi planned to attack, but their plans were overhead by a slave named Nohokoko who came down the beach with a warning. The would-be attackers advanced inland to approach from the rear but the Ngati-Ira and their allies successfully ambushed them near Pauatahanui.

Ngati Toa's arrival in the 1820s

Image of Te Rauparaha.
Te Rauparaha.
Image from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre from
The Southern Districts of New Zealand: a Journal, with Passing Notices of the Customs.

Later the Muaupoko lived from Lake Horowhenua to Pukerua. In 1822 when Te Rauparaha came south to the Kapiti coast he was determined to exterminate the Muaupoko because of their earlier treachery towards him. One of their last strongholds was the Waimapihi Pa at the seaward end of Rawhiti Road, overlooking the Waimapihi Stream, which was attacked by Ngati Toa led by Te Rauparaha and Te Roroa under Tuwhare.

Although the defenders had only traditional weapons, they repulsed the initial attack so effectively that Te Rauparaha had to use deception. According to S. Percy Smith in "History and Traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast", Te Rauparaha sent the message "He maunga-rono ta maua ki tenei pa" - "We want to make peace with the pa". When the Ngati Toa were allowed to enter Waimapihi they suddenly attacked and killed many of the defenders. The survivors were pursued up the stream as they fled towards the forest range and more were killed. Beforehand, the defenders are reputed to have hidden their greenstone somewhere up the Waimapihi Stream but it is not known if the greenstone was ever recovered.

European Settlement

Growing conflict between Maori and settlers

Pukerua was on the main route for Maori travellers going north or south. From Paekakariki the track came south along the beach, then ascended the cliffs near the Pukerua Pa and passed through the gardens on the plateau before going on to the present Plimmerton. The section from Pukerua to Plimmerton was known as "Taua Tapu". During the fighting in 1846 Te Rangihaeata declared the track to be his "backbone" and that it was not to be used by anyone supplying the settlers in Wellington. A notice to that effect was placed by the track near Taupo Pa at Plimmerton.

It is quite likely that the track was used to take supplies to Rangihaeata before the skirmishes at Pauatahanui and Horokiwi. James Cowan in "The New Zealand Wars" tells of powder being carried "through the forests and ranges of Pukerua" to the pa at Pauatahanui. Lead musket balls have been found in the hills to the west of Pukerua Bay. The track continued to be used into Pakeha times, mail being carried along it on foot until the coach road from Pauatahanui to Paekakariki was opened. Parts of the track are still shown today as rights of way on land tenure maps.

Very little evidence now remains of the former Maori inhabitants. Traces of the Waimapihi fortifications were faintly visible until houses were built there. Adzes and fragments of clay pipes have been found. On Peach Hill paddock of Kerehoma Farm, east of Puketiro subdivision, there is a furrow said to have been made by tree trunks dragged from the forest to form part of Pukerua Pa.

Pukerua Bay: farmland to weekend resort

Image of Early days of Pukerua Bay.
Early days of Pukerua Bay.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref CD 6 PM1984_123_12.

Pukerua Bay was surveyed and land blocks sold to settlers for farming in the late 19th Century. Residential development began in the late 20th Century when Charles Gray subdivided and sold residential sections. The Bay's development was curious as from 1886 until 1940 it had railway access but not good road access. This meant it was favoured as a weekender destination. The railway station was originally called "Pukerua" until it was briefly changed to "Waimapihi" in the 1920s and then changed to "Pukerua Bay" to avoid confusion with "Pukerau" in the South Island.

Image of Pukerua Bay farmland.
Pukerua Bay farmland.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref G.3.27.

By the 1920s, Pukerua Bay comprised 100 houses, a few stores and a small school, which had been built on land donated by Charles Gray. In 1927, electricity was put through Plimmerton to Pukerua Bay and in 1928 the track between Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay was widened to form a narrow road. The railway continued to be used by weekenders to reach the beach, as the road bridge was not built at Paremata until 1936. For more information about the original school room see the link at the bottom of this page.

Urban growth 1950s – 1970s

Image of Doris Burgess, Pukerua Bay Beach, 1930.
Doris Burgess, Pukerua Bay Beach, 1930.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.1.82.

Most of the development on the cliff top occurred after World War II. Pukerua Bay experienced significant growth in the 1950s and 1960s due to its connection to Wellington via the railway line, which had been doubled by this time, and its access to the north and south by State Highway 1.

In 1973 Pukerua Bay joined the Porirua City Council in order to address sewage and water connection issues. The residential growth continued through the 1970s mostly due to the Sea Vista Drive subdivision. Soon the increased traffic on State Highway 1 which went through the centre of Pukerua Bay began to concern residents. In 1989, after continuous lobbying by the local residents, an overbridge was built over the highway.

Pukerua Bay has been home to several notable people, including Peter Jackson. Many of the scenes from his movie "Bad Taste" were filmed in the area. Other notable residents have included Sam Hunt, James K. Baxter, Louis Johnson, Denis Glover, Meg Campbell and Davina Whitehouse.

Pukerua Bay today

In 2006, Pukerua Bay had a population of 1,725, with 89 businesses, a kindergarten, preschool and the Pukerua Bay School. In 2009 the Porirua City Council, the Residents Association, and PKBSK8 Inc. worked together to build a skatepark. The skatepark replaced an old asphalt bowl which was possibly New Zealand's first purpose-built skateboarding facility.

There are several walkways and reserves in Pukerua Bay including Secret Valley, Pa Road gully and the walkway to Brendan Beach. In 2004 a community driven project to restore Secret Valley was completed. It was the vision of one man, Tony Jackman that got this project underway. Before he began the area was so hazardous that children were forbidden to play there.

Continue to Sites of historical interest in Pukerua Bay or return to Pukerua Bay.