Porirua's History post 1840

"You must always know the past, for there is no real Was, there is only Is."

- William Faulkner.

Image of Porirua Hotel, pre 1908.
Porirua Hotel, pre 1908.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.1d.43.


Post signing the Treaty

One of the reasons the English wanted a Treaty with the Maori is that they were concerned by the behaviour of the New Zealand Company, who had started making land purchases in New Zealand in 1839. Large tracts of land were being traded, and settlers were starting to arrive in New Zealand. England wanted to control land sales and make sure that Maori only sold land they didn't need. There was also a financial motivation for this as the Crown wanted to use the profits they made from selling land to settlers at a higher price than they paid to Maori to fund their colonial government.

Unfortunately Maori at the signing of the Treaty could not have foreseen the huge number of settlers who would start arriving on their shores hungry for land. Although in 1842 many of these early land purchases were investigated by Commissioner Spain, land was seldom returned to Maori.

Conflict between European and Maori over land

Image of a Public meeting notice which was posted in Manners Street, Port Nicholson (Wellington) 16 April 1842.
Public meeting notice which was posted in Manners Street, Port Nicholson (Wellington) 16 April 1842.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.13.3.

In May 1843, the disputes over the New Zealand Company's doubtful land purchases from Ngati Toa came to a head at Wairau. 15 Maori and settlers were killed in the conflict, including Ngati Toa rangatira (chief) Te Rangihaeata's wife, Te Rongo.

A series of skirmishes followed with both sides building defences in Porirua. Porirua Harbour became home to New Zealand's first warship. It was a longboat, around 10 metres in length that could be sailed or rowed. Owned by New Zealand, it was crewed by the British navy, and mounted with a 12-pounder carronade and a small brass cannon.

Other defences were planned, and in 1846 Governor Grey commissioned the building of stone barracks at Paremata. Before Paremata Barracks could be completed, Te Rauparaha was seized on July 23rd 1846 at Taupo Pa, making them unnecessary. Following Te Rangihaeata's last stand at Battle Hill and retreat to the Horowhenua, European settlement increased.

Changes to the harbours

Beginning in the late 1850s European settlement in the area had a major impact on the harbours. Forests were cleared a rapid rate. In 1855 the West Wairarapa earthquake, which had a magnitude of 8.2, rocked the settlement. Although it was once thought that the earthquake significantly reduced the floor of the Pauatahanui Harbour arm, research by a geologist has shown that while uplifting has taken place in the past neither the 1848 or 1855 earthquakes lifted the harbour floor. A more plausible explanation for the changes to the shoreline at the head of the Pauatahanui Inlet is the accumulation of silt following the clearance of the surrounding bush. The removal of this protective cover allowed erosion to occur, and many thousands of tonnes of soil were deposited into the harbour. Sea level changes have also had an impact on the harbour.

This deposition of silt has continued over Porirua's development and now poses a serious problem for the Porirua Harbour. For more information about the Porirua harbour and catchments see the link at the bottom of this page.

Connecting Porirua: Maori tracks, railways and State Highways

Before European colonization, Maori travelling between Wellington and Porirua took a well-defined track from Korokoro which then went west through the bush to the junction of the Kenepuru and Takapu Streams, and then alongside the Kenepuru Stream until Porirua. From the Hutt Valley there was a high track which roughly followed the line of the Belmont Road and emerged near the Pauatahanui Stream mouth.

The New Zealand provincial government commissioned roads near Wellington and in 1841 a bridle track to Porirua was under construction. In 1841 Te Rangihaeata declared the Porirua Road tapu, effectively closing it, and in 1846 he established a blockade over the road. After the conflict at Wairau in 1843 and the armed conflicts in 1846 relations between Maori and settlers worsened. It was not until the end of these conflicts that more permanent connections were developed. In April 1846 soldiers started building a properly formed road to Porirua. At this time there were 225 European inhabitants alongside the road's path.

The beach road from Porirua alongside the eastern side of the harbour, and the southern side of the inlet, to Pauatahanui was completed by September 1848. The road to the north was completed in November 1849 and continued as the main highway until November 1939 when the new coast road through Pukerua was opened.

In 1868 the newly established Pahautanui (sic) Small Farms District Roads Board called for tenders to construct two roads (priced £57 10s and £55 14s). A tender by B Draper was accepted 14 December 1867. Three roads were built, Flightys and Mulherns north of the Haywards Road and Murphys south of it. In 1873-74 the track over the hill to Belmont was converted into a road by W Ellerm.

For a time Pauatahanui remained as an important staging point for coaches on the run between Wellington and Foxton, but in 1877 residents mounted an angry protest against plans to route the Manawatu railway line through their township. They were successful. The line opened in 1885, providing connections with Wellington to the south and Manawatu to the North, but bypassing Pauatahanui.

See also Porirua's Rail Heritage

The Road Bridge at Paremata

Image of Paremata railway bridge pre 1936. Image of Paremata railway and road bridge, 1936.
Paremata railway bridge pre 1936 (left), Paremata railway and road bridge, 1936 (right).
Note Mana in the background in the first photo and in the foreground in the second photo is still undeveloped.
Photos from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref (left) B.3.14 (right) B.5.13.

A railway bridge was constructed over the harbour at Paremata point around 1883, but it was not until 1936 that a road bridge was built here. Before this, access to Plimmerton was by way of a road along the north shore of the Inlet from Pauatahanui and over the hill.

Fort Elliott, The Ferry, and Porirua Village: the beginnings of Porirua City

Map showing the approximate locations of Fort Elliott.
Map showing the approximate locations of Fort Elliott.

Fort Elliott, or Elliott's Stockade as it was also known, was originally situated close to the Kenepuru Stream at the mouth of the Porirua Harbour. In 1846 this area flooded and the Fort was rebuilt on higher ground. Nearby was Jackson's Hotel an inn named after its owner and from which a harbour ferry ran.

From the 1860s, a settlement called The Ferry developed alongside the Kenepuru Stream in the area that is now Porirua Central. It came to be called the Porirua Village and was a thriving market community. Its customers were local Maori from Te Urukahika and Takapuwahia villages, the farming families of the area, and travellers going north.

Porirua Village was known for its Mental Asylum and horse racing

Image of Titahi Bay c1919.
Titahi Bay c1919.
Horse racing also took place at Titahi Bay until recently.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref F.5.1.

In 1887 the Porirua Lunatic Asylum was established. With 2000 staff and patients by the turn of the century, the Lunatic Asylum had a major effect on the development of the village. As well as the Lunatic Asylum, Porirua boasted three churches, a hotel, a railway station and a general store.

The mudflats at the head of the harbour provided a course for occasional race days and for training horses from local stables. The racecourse was on the beach at the southern end, so races could only be held at low tide. Porirua became a nationally renowned centre for racing, largely due to the efforts of Joshua Prosser.

Residential Development in Porirua: State Housing

Image of Young state housing resident.
Young state housing resident.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref CD 7 PM1992_262_40.

After the war New Zealand saw a drastic increase in state housing. In Titahi Bay the Government built 500 houses between 1953 and 1955, now known as the Austrian State houses (as they were built by Austrian tradesmen). They were built to relieve a desperate housing situation in the post-war "baby boom" era. The houses provided a family home for many people and form a unique part of New Zealand's architectural heritage.

In the 1940s the region needed more new housing and Porirua was chosen. Land was cheap: £50 per acre compared with £300 in the Hutt Valley. The rail had been electrified and plans were ready for a new road between Johnsonville and Porirua.

Along with housing a regional shopping centre was planned and in 1960 the final design was accepted. The plan cleared away the village, diverted the stream and reclaimed land between Parumoana Street, Norrie Street, and Titahi Bay Road. The first shop, "Fashion Court" on Lyttelton Avenue, was opened in October 1963.

Industry in Porirua: making wallpaper, cars and jobs

Image of Kodak NZ Ltd building.
Kodak NZ Ltd building.
Photographic processing laboratory, Prosser Street, Elsdon, Porirua.
Building and equipment installed valued at £2,000,000 – employed 105 when first constructed and 250 five years later.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.1d.19.

In October 1965 Porirua officially became a city. Several companies were attracted to the area. The General Electric Company established its factory in 1965. Others included Kodak, Chubb, Ashley Wallpaper, and W.R. Grace. The major employer though was the assembly plant of Todd Motors (later Mitsubishi Motors).

From the 1960s the central city remained fairly untouched until the opening of the K-Mart Plaza in 1991 (now North City Shopping Centre). The older 1960s shopping area was given covered walkways in 1995 to modernise it and then the Mega-Centre stores began opening in November 1999.


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