The history of Paremata, Papakowhai and Mana

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

- L.P. Hartley

Image of aerial view of Mana and Paremata, 1940s.
Mana and Paremata, 1940s.
Photo from the Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref B.4.26.


1066 - Kupe sailed into Porirua harbour

1450 - Early Maori occupants established in area

1820 - Ngati Toa conquered area

1835 - Joseph Thoms set up whaling station alongside the pa of his father-in-law, Nohorua, within the area that is now Ngati Toa Domain

1846 - Paremata Barracks construction started

Te Rauparaha captured by British troops at Taupo Pa

1848 - earthquake which caused damage to the Barracks

1851 - Thom's whaling station closed

1855 - 2nd earthquake ended the Barracks military use

1875 - James Walker began farming the area between Paremata and Plimmerton

1885 - Construction of the railway bridge at Paremata

1907 - First rugby field pegged out

1936 - Road bridge built at Paremata

1938 - Area that is now the Ngati Toa Domain was purchased from the Walker family by the Crown and Hutt County (at the time the administrative body for this area). It was declared a reserve for public recreation purposes.

1939-1945 - Some of Ngati Toa domain used to as camp for military troops, first New Zealanders and later US troops

Early Maori occupancy

It is generally believed that the great Polynesian explorer Kupe landed at Paremata point in the tenth century. He sailed into the Porirua harbour in his canoe Matahorua. The Punga o Matahorua (Kupe’s anchor stone) was located nearby to the east of the domain until recently. It is currently held at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Archaeologists have established that there was a settlement at Paremata Point at least as early as 1450 AD and it has been almost continuously occupied since. These early people made camps surrounded by untouched forests and harbours. From studying these camps it is known that they lived on forest birds, including seven different species of moa, and huia, kaka, kiwi, takahe, New Zealand hawk, tui, as well as on the abundant fish available here.

Over the next 400 years there were Maori settlements of various tribes at this site. These probably included Ngai Tara, Ngati Rangi and Ngati Ira, all of whom lived in this region at various times.

Ngati Toa settlement

Image of Te Rauaparaha.
Te Rauaparaha.

In the early 1820s Ngati Toa, led by the chiefs Te Rauparaha, Te Peehi Kupe and Te Rangihaeata, arrived here from Kawhia in the early 1820s and soon became the dominant local tribe. Te Rauparaha the paramount chief of Ngati Toa established a settlement at Taupo (now Plimmerton); the tohunga of Ngati Toa, Nohorua, had a pa at Paremata point.

The arrival of Europeans

Image of Joseph Toms Jnr.
Joseph Thoms Jnr.
First European child born at Te Awaiti in 1842, presumably the son of whaler Joseph Thoms and his second wife Maria Boulton.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.1.46.

From the early years of the nineteenth century Europeans – mainly whalers, sealers and traders – also visited the point. In 1835 Joseph Thoms, also known as Geordie Bolts, married Te Ua Torikiriki, a formidable whaler in her own right and daughter of the Nohorua, and established his whaling station at Paremata point. With a mixture of Pakeha and Ngati Toa whalers, Thoms used up to seven six-oared row boats to chase the slow Right whales that migrated through the Cook Strait and past Porirua every year.

Deep Water Point, the north-west gap between Whitireia Peninsula and Paremata, was the first ferry crossing at Porirua. Thoms took advantage of this crossing point by supplementing his whaling with an inn. Being the only tavern in the area ensured its success. The ferry point remained until the British Army built the Paekakariki Hill road in the late 1840s and the station closed in 1851. Thoms' inn lasted for several more years.

Growing tensions between Maori and Settlers

In May 1843 the disputes over the New Zealand Company's doubtful land purchases from Ngati Toa came to a head at the Wairau River. Several colonists and Maori, notably Te Rongo, wife of Te Rangihaeata, were killed in the conflict and both sides armed themselves for war. Te Rangihaeata moved to a new pa, first at Plimmerton, then Motukaraka, then Matai-taua at Pauatahanui and finally Battle Hill.

It might be said that the first New Zealand warship operated from Paremata Point. The Colonial Records of Revenue and Expenditure in 1846 list the purchase for 100 pounds 17 shillings and 6 pence of a gunboat for Porirua Harbour. For the conventionally trained British troops the guerilla tactics of the Ngati Toa warriors under Te Rangihaeata were difficult to counter.

Governor Grey inspected the Porirua Harbour area in early 1846 and ordered that a small army base to be created at Paremata Point, Paremata Barracks. The objectives, as Grey recorded in his instructions, were to prevent the threat of a build-up of enemy forces in the rear of Port Nicholson, to free the coast road to Wanganui from Te Rangihaeata's blockade and to prevent the escape by sea of anyone fleeing down the north branch of the harbour. This last point was especially important as Te Rangihaeata's main pa, Pauatahanui, was located on the Paremata Harbour.

Paremata, Mana and Papakowhai became farmland

With the end of military occupation, Paremata point became farmland. James and Louise Walker ran sheep and raised a family in the area which is now Ngati Toa Domain with their home the old Whalers Inn. The once elegant but poorly constructed Paremata barracks became farm buildings, stables and a hayshed.

Some of the area came to be known as Dolly Varden, which was the name of Walker's rowing skiff. James and Dolly Varden won almost every race they competed in after the skiff's arrival in 1875. In 1907, as a patron of the Plimmerton Football Club, James arranged for the first rugby field to be marked out near his house. This consisted of erecting goal posts in an open space near his house.

At the same time Walker was farming the area, fortunes were being made in the Wellington region at this time and some of these wealthy entrepreneurs were choosing to make their home in this area. One such entrepreneur was James Gear, the son of a farmer in Somerset, England, who arrived in New Zealand in 1857. He established a butcher's shop on Lambton Quay and by 1882 founded the Gear Meat Preserving and Freezing Company. Gear commissioned a homestead, Gear Homestead, in Papakowhai when he remarried in 1880.

Railway Bridge at Paremata

Image of train on Paremata Railway bridge pre 1936.
Paremata Railway bridge pre 1936.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref B.3.14.

In 1885 the construction of a railway bridge at Paremata by the Wellington-Manawatu Railway brought the first beach-side residents. This led to the development of the phenomenon of "weekenders", people who lived in Wellington and had weekend baches around the Porirua Harbour.

Image of Paremata Boating Club, November 1923.
Paremata Boating Club, November 1923.
Preparing for the first race.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref B.6.29.

The Paremata boatsheds that can still be seen around the Pauatahanui Inlet were first built around this time. The Paremata Boating Club for instance was established in 1924, and was originally a boatshed evolving over the years into the large clubrooms and function centre it is today. More information about the Paremata Boating Club and other Paremata Boatsheds can be found in a Heritage Review Report at the bottom of this page.

The opening of a road bridge in 1936 meant that the main route once ran by Paremata Point as it had 90 years before. The number of residents living nearby again increased.

World War II

Image of Military camp at Ngati Toa Domain.
Military camp at Ngati Toa Domain.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref B.9.27.

In 1938 the land which now forms the Ngati Domain was brought from the Walker family by the Crown and Hutt County (at the time the administrative body for this area). It was declared a reserve for public recreation purposes. During the Second World War, as in other areas of Porirua, some of the Ngati Toa Domain was used as a military camp, first for New Zealand forces, and later by United States Troops.

Also surviving from this period in Mana are two machine-gun posts (or pillboxes) that were built as part of New Zealand’s coastal defence network between 1942 and 1943 by the New Zealand Army and the Home Guard. 340 machine-gun posts were built around New Zealand's coastline, 38 of which were in the Wellington region. Porirua harbour was seen as a prime potential landing spot for invading forces heading towards Wellington and other pillboxes survive at Pukerua Bay and Titahi Bay.

Post World War II Community development

Image of Hobson Street Fishermen.
Hobson Street Fishermen.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.2.60.

Many of the permanent residents in the area were fishermen. One street which was representative of this period is Hobson Street in Paremata. The shoreline community alongside the Paremata railway bridge began as a ramshackle collection of fisherman’s baches in the late 1800s. At its peak, it was home for up to 100 people and a busy boatbuilding and fishing industry.

1940s to today

To see how Paremata, Papakowai and Mana developed in modern times, take a look at the historic aerial photos of the area over this time.

Continue to Sites of historical interest in Paremata, Papakowhai and Mana or return to Paremata, Papakowhai and Mana.