top of page

History of Te Wai o Pareira

1854 Map of Henderson Creek

Maori history

The Waitematā Harbour, Whau and Riverhead portages have had a long history of Māori occupation and use.  Prehistoric Māori settlement has occurred on the peninsula from at least the 17th century due to its excellent location and abundant natural resources.  Small tribal groups of travellers used Orukuwai (Te Atatu Peninsula) as a stopover to rest and harvest edible plants and shrubs along with the shellfish and fish from the harbour environment.  Evidence of middens are located around the fringes of the peninsula.

The general area is significant to all iwi groups in Tāmaki Makaurau - particularly Te Kawerau a Maki and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

Te Atatū Peninsula has a long history of occupation and use by Māori thanks to its excellent location and abundant natural resources.  Ngāti Whātua ki Tamaki established themselves on the Auckland Isthmus in the mid 17th century and Te Kawerau A Maki settled in the area with whanaunga (relatives) after relocating from Kawhia.  The peninsula is well located on the Waitematā Harbour and is notable for its close proximity to waka transport routes. The Whau River is significant as it is the northernmost of three historic portage connections between the Waitematā and Manukau Harbours.   The peninsula is also close to the Riverhead portage which is the main route between the Waitematā and the Kaipara Harbours. The wide views from the Harbourview-Orangihina park area would have afforded good visibility of other iwi approaching. The harbour and adjacent land was used extensively, particuarly during the summer months, for fishing and gathering of natural resources.  The natural resources included bounty from both the land (fruit, medicine, birds and their eggs, weaving materials, dyes and timber) and the sea (shellfish, fish, seaweeds, eggs and occasionally seal). Iwi have occupied the area both permanently and seasonally, with settlement focused on headlands jutting into the harbour and at the entrance to major estuaries or creeks.

Other settlements throughout West Auckland included Ngongetepara (Brighams Creek), Waikotukutuku (near Hobsonville), Te Wai o Pareira (Henderson Creek), Kopupaka and Maanu Te Whau near the mouth of the Henderson Creek, Orukuwai (Te Atatu), Oratia and Pukearuhe (Henderson Valley).  On the northern Manukau they lived at Motukaraka (near Green Bay), Waikumete (Little Muddy Creek), Kakamatua and Te Rau o Te Huia.

See also this site ' for more information.

Aerial map of Taipari Strand, Te Atatu Peninsul 1963

History post-European arrival

The Early Settlers of this peninsula called it Henderson Point, for it lies adjacent to Henderson, but it is now known as Te Atatu. This name was given by Mr. Bennett, for when he went there for the first time in 1900, on reaching the top of the hill at early dawn the effect of the rising sun over the shimmering harbour was very beautiful, and he gave it the name of Te Atatu or Early Dawn.

The roads were more clay tracks, which were seas of mud after a deluge of rain. The main outlet for Te Atatu was by the sea. A launch by the name of ‘Elsie’ sailed every Tuesday afternoon to and from the city carrying both passengers and goods. The other outlet was a five-mile ride to Henderson, over rough and stony roads, where the train was caught to Auckland. The boat took an hour to get to Auckland where people bought all their groceries and household goods because there was no shop in Te Atatu. A few years after brickyards had been setup near the wharf, part of the road to the wharf was put down in bricks, so that riding was smoother.

At this stage we can obtain quite concise information by exact dates are rare. Amongst the first families to arrive, the Baily’s being the first, were the Moore’s, Roby’s, Semadeni’s, Thomas’s, Illingsworth’s and McCormack’s. They obtained the land at about $40.60 per acre, the land being all covered in scrub which when being cleared, manuka provided a problem. The settlers farmed cattle, pigs, goats, tobacco and vegetables, some as a source of income and some as a source of food. Around the years, 1900 – 1910, we come across the name of the land – Te Atatu. But who named it, and why? The answers to these are thus: The Baily’s in 1909 decided it was time the land had a name. Previous to this, the area was known as ‘5-mile point’, ‘Henderson Point’ and Te Atatu Road was ‘5 mile road’.

So, a Māori missionary came up with the name Te Atatu (Dawn of the Day), because, he said, “This is where the sun hits first.” Now that we had a name, people were attracted to this part of the wilderness. The brickyards previously established around 1890 turned out materials for houses, roads, churches, schools, etc. The people had something to come for. Te Atatu was no longer an isolated area but an establishment, although transport routes were not that superb. From Henderson, Te Atatu Road presented a 5-mile ride over dirt road covered in shells by a horse and dray. From town the quickest way to Te Atatu was 1 hour by launch. Its name was ‘Elsie’, named after Elsie Thomas who was drowned off the boat. It arrived Saturdays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and food supplies such as bread and meat could be brought in this way. Later on cars and roads were improved. 

About one hundred years ago, much Kauri went from Te Atatu, which was accessible to the water, and was rafted to timber mills in Auckland. Later native Hakea, ti-tree and fern grew everywhere. There were only tracks, no roads, so houses were built near rivers or the harbour. There were three brickyards, one where Taikata Sailing Club is now situated and bricks from that works were used to build YWCA and other buildings in Auckland.

The bricks, coal and goods were carried by scows mostly, also by launches. The school was opened in 1907, and mail was delivered to the school by pack-horse twice a week. It was opened and sorted by the teacher and the children delivered the mail to neighbours. There were about 14h children at the school. In 1909, Te Atatu was named by Bishop Bennett’s father who was a missionary and lived down the far end of Beach Avenue.

The sheen off the fern, Ti-tree and the Hakea, with the reflections off the Upper Harbour lit up Te Atatu early, so day dawned here first, which is what the name means – Dawn of Day. Scows, launches and boats were mainly used for goods and travel as roads and tracks made it difficult to get to Henderson Station in the winter. About 1911, the first car came to Te Atatu. The children were allowed to stand on their seats and desks to see it pass, and there were about ten cars in Auckland at that time. The children only went to town once or twice a year.

The wharf was built at the West end of Wharf Road about 1914. Previous to that, the brickyard wharf was used. The wharf was taken away about 1928, when buses and lorries took over.

Aerial map of Taipari Strand Te Atatu Peninsula 2017

Maurice Gee reminiscing

The man many consider New Zealand's greatest living author sits in a sunny corner of his living room in Nelson, thinking of another place, another time. As he talks about where he spent his own childhood, at Henderson near Auckland, 70-odd years drop away.


"I can't seem to get away from Henderson Creek," he says, in a voice that's little more than a gentle whisper. "It runs right through my imaginative life. So much happened to me there. I learned to swim there. I nearly drowned there. I saw a man die there; he dived into a pool and didn't realise the tide was out."

"I remember a great voyage with my older brother where we made tin canoes. We hammered all the corrugations out of some old iron, made wooden bow and stern posts and sealed all the nail holes with pitch, and we put them in the nearest pool to our place and went down Henderson Creek, right through the mangroves and out into the Waitemata Harbour. The tide was so far out we couldn't bring them back, so we just abandoned them and came home. I can still recreate every stretch of that creek in my mind, so it's not surprising that I set all kinds of significant episodes on that creek."


"These days Henderson Creek is smaller, of course," he continues. "It's shrunk and it's dirty. I don't think anybody swims in it anymore."

Read the Full Article

Owha Edit 1.jpg
Owha Edit 2.jpg

Owha the leopard seal

Owha is a Female Leopard Seal (Hydrurga Leptonyx) that appeared in Te Wai O Pareira late 2018. 

Information from

Owha is short for her Māori name “He owha nā ōku tūpuna” which translates to mean “treasured gift from our ancestors”.  She received this name from the  local Māori hapu (sub-tribe or clan), Ngati Whatua ki Orakei, after she spent more than a year in their home waters.

Currently, has over 200 sightings of Owha.  We have documented that she has ranged from Dunedin to Tutukaka (Northland).  We are preparing a scientific report about her movements and other information we have gathered about her.  She was the first leopard seal entered into the New Zealand Leopard Seal Identification Catalogue due to all the data that we have gathered about her.

While Leopard Seals are Carnivorous, there have been very few reports of attacks on humans. Even though, if you find a leopard seal in a marina, particularly on the narrow marina pontoons, do not approach without first seeking the Marina Management team and asking about their protocols.   If they or you have concerns, please contact us on 0800 LEOPARD (0800  5367273) and we can advise you about other marina’s protocols.

Additionally, please note that because she likes visiting marinas, she is also vulnerable to boat strike – please do not approach closer than 20m in your boat and please slow down if you have sighted her.  She can be very difficult to spot as very little of her body or head typical protrude above the water surface.

bottom of page