History post-European arrival
Early Name and Transportation Challenges:
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.
Early Settlers and the Name 'Te Atatu':
At this stage, we can obtain quite concise information, but 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.’
The Significance of 'Te Atatu' Name and Development:
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.
Historical Highlights and Changes:
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 neighbors. 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.