Wednesday 29th May 2024
HomeOur TownWaiukuRiver & Harbour major influences

River & Harbour major influences

By Bill Deed, local historian

The Manukau Harbour has had a profound influence on Waiuku’s development, but it wasn’t always as we see today. Thousands of years ago the southern part was a swampy
marsh but it was the influence of the nearby Waikato River which changed the state of the waterway.

Bullocks at Waiuku Wharf, left, and a busy day at the Waiuku Wharf, 1915, a very changed place today.

At one time, the river flowed into the Bay of Plenty, but this may not have been its first course. One theory is that it might have followed a route similar to the Mohaka River and entered the sea on the East Coast.

But soon (in the measure of land evolution that is) its course changed to Thames through the Piako swamp basin and the Hauraki Plains. The river should have had a million or two years to make its job a success, but it was interrupted when less than half done.

A great seismic convulsion broke a wide path through what is now known as the Taupiri Gorge and the river made its way through the low-lying land of the Aka Aka and Otaua area and out through what is now, Waiuku. In doing so, it silted up the bed of the Manukau to the half tide level.

As we all know, the Waikato River changed its course away from the Manukau Harbour, breaking through the low hills of drift sand to flow into the Tasman Sea. However, this is old history because it all happened more than 2000 years ago.

Settlement around what was to become Waiuku was fi rst made by Maori tribes and
later colonial settlers.

The name, Manukau has an uncertain origin. Some say it should have been known as the Manuka Harbour because of the amount of manuka which grew along the banks of the harbour in those early days. However, the word Manu-kau in Maori means ‘single bird’ or ‘single flock of birds’.

Another version of the name comes from Maori tradition. After the great 1350 migration, when the Tainui canoe made shore near Auckland, the vessel was hauled across the Tamaki isthmus to the Manukau Harbour to continue her journey down the west coast to a spot near Kawhia where it made permanent landfall.

One legend is that as the great waka was heading out through the entrance to the harbour, the commander Hotoroa may have called out “manukau” as he approached the broken water which pounds the bar. In this translation, the word would have referred to his apprehension or anxiety as he headed over the rough water.

The last remaining fragment of the river’s flow into the Manukau is the Awaroa tributary. In the 1840s and 1850s, it was an important portage route for both Maori and European traders who were selling their wares to the residents of New Zealand’s new capital – Auckland. The traders were forced to wait for the Manukau tide to complete their journey
and this resting point, at the most southerly tip of the Manukau Harbour, was why
Waiuku was born.

Most Popular