Historic site: Aotea Lagoon

"Men have a need of history because, without it, the past threatens to overwhelm them."

- Guy Fregault, La guerre de la conquête.

Aotea Lagoon was created during the realignment of the Railway

Image showing the bays formed by the construction of the railway causeway as it nears completion in 1961.
Bays formed by the construction of the railway causeway as it nears completion in 1961.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.26.3.

Aotea Lagoon is one of three lagoons that were created by the 1958-1961 causeway construction which was built to realign the North Island Main Trunk Railway. The causeway, which ran north-east from the city centre to Paremata, cut off three harbour bays turning them into lagoons. Aotea Lagoon was the central lagoon. The southern lagoon can still be seen to the south of the Gear Homestead. The northern lagoon was later filled in and what remains of this lagoon is on either side of Papakowhai Road between Romesdale Road and Brora Crescent. Thurso Grove is on the headland that formed the southern end of the northern lagoon. Bowler's Wharf, a commercial jetty owned by William Bowler the owner and builder of Papakowhai Homestead, was likely situated on the southern end of the northern lagoon. This wharf was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1848 and effectively demolished in the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake.

Image showing Lagoons partly filled in with material.
Lagoons partly filled in with material.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref A.2a.16.

When realigning State Highway 1, the lagoons were partly filled in with material. The lagoon park was developed by the Ministry of Works and Development, which had been very active in Porirua during the late 1960s and had built up a reserves contribution responsibility. At the time the Ministry was developing a subdivision at Ascot Park, carrying out earthworks for the Royal New Zealand Police College and Aotea College and constructing Whitford Brown Avenue.

The Ministry initially sought to entirely fill in Aotea Lagoon for playing fields, but the then Porirua Harbour Authority expressed concern and suggested an aquatic recreational resource instead. Debate raged but by 1974 it was resolved in favour of an aquatic park and an estimated price tag of $283,000 was put on its development.

There were many ideas for the development of Aotea Lagoon

The original plan was detailed in the Kapi-Mana News in August 1975 and included possible features such as a reptile pit, a proposed miniature city and sunken aviary. In 1975 the Ministry undertook the bulk earthworks, including the construction of the island and filling of the backwater areas. Then in 1976 a landscape architectural firm was commissioned to prepare landscape design proposals. The Lagoon was finally opened in 1980. Project Employment Programme work schemes were used to establish much of the lagoons’ features such as road and brick works, planting of the basic vegetation and later in the mid 1980s the construction of the adventure playground.

The development of Aotea Lagoon was a community project.

The development of Aotea Lagoon was very much a community project. The Waitangirua Lions developed the model railway (which has a 833m long track and runs Sundays 1-4pm), Porirua Rotary developed the rose gardens and the Paremata Jaycees constructed the windmill. Various other projects have been proposed over the years for the lagoon such as a restaurant for the island; a garden for the blind; a paddle steamer; a wooden maze and a mini putt golf course, but none of these projects have been implemented.

An aluminium row boat concession did operate on the Lagoon for five years but stopped in 1989. Canoe Hire was approved, but never went ahead and jetski use was considered but rejected as incompatible with the passive nature of the lagoon.

The Lagoon perimeter path is 732 metres and is popular with runners and walkers. It is permissible to walk dogs on the lead, but please respect other users of the park and pick up after them (it is compulsory to carry a bag for this purpose).

The lagoon was vested in Porirua City Council in 1994. Prior to this the land was leased from the Crown.

Continue to Hobson Street or return to Paremata, Papakowhai and Mana.