Historic site: Titahi Bay Boatsheds

"Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts."

- Edward R. Murrow.


Image of Titahi Bay boatsheds, 1978.
Titahi Bay boatsheds, 1978.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref F.4.6.


The first boatsheds in Titahi Bay were built by Andrew Vella

Image of Andrew Vella.
Andrew Vella.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref P.1.115.

The first boatsheds built in Titahi Bay were on the rocks at the north end of the beach and were originally known as launch sheds. The first (No.1) was built by Andrew Vella in 1916 for the launch he used to access his farm on Mana Island. Vella operated a fourteen foot launch which he used to carry stock supplies to and from Mana Island. He also used to tow an old whaleboat behind the launch. He built a concrete building alongside shed one. Vella owned this, and shed No.10 (at one stage he also owned two other boatsheds), until 1953 when it was sold to J S Gault.

In 1918 Eric Johnston built the shed next to Vella. Eric Johnston was a keen fisherman and operated his boat Tupati from the bay on most weekends and would give his catches away to locals from his boatshed.

The owners of sheds between 1916 and 1943

Image of R.W. Bothamley and Dorris Gear on their wedding day. Image of Bell family at Mana Island trig station.
R.W. Bothamley and Dorris Gear on their wedding day (left).
Bell family at Mana Island trig station (right).
Photos from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref (left) P.2.29 (right) P.2.260.

Between 1916 and 1922 there were 20 sheds built on the rocks. Motor boatsheds were allotted to Hunter (No.5 1918), Blair (No.3 1918) Johnston (No.4 1918). Other sheds constructed were for No.6 in 1936 for Mrs. G.D Armstrong, No.7 after 1927 for Mr T Gray, No.8 c.1922 for Mrs B Bell, No.9 sometime prior to 1930 for Mr A Long, No.10, c.1930 for Mr Dunbar Sloane, No.11 c.1938 for Mr Nankivell and No.12 occupied up to c.1943 by R. W. Bothamley.

From 1918 onwards Makara County Council required boat and bathing shed owners to pay an annual license fee. Sixteen bathing sheds were allotted over the 1918 summer season for the fee of five shillings to Messrs Hunter, Corrigan, Hoffner, Langdon, Dimock, Martin, Bradley, Baker, Lynnerberg, Monckton, Tucker, Gleeson, Somerville and Holden.

In 1922 the Council imposed bylaws governing erection and use of sheds and building permits were needed. Prior to this any structures could be built without local authority control and the sheds on the rocks are evidence of this. The sheds on the beach built prior to 1922 were also of different styles but these were later standardised.

The central boatsheds

The central boatsheds and bathing sheds were built from c.1922 to the 1950s. In 1949 a report by the building inspector, Bill Threadingham, described the sheds as eyesores and noted that there was not one that did not need painting or repairs. The report also highlighted that of the 30 sheds licensed in 1948, four were owned by non-ratepayers, nine occupied more than one site and five boatsheds were not being used by the supposed owners of the sheds. The report went on to suggest that the number of boatsheds on the beach could be increased if they were standardized in size and design and built in one continuous row. Letters were sent to all the owners asking them to either demolish or rebuild their sheds to a specified design to improve the look of the foreshore and by 1953 many of the boatsheds had been rebuilt to the standardised design.

The southern bay boatsheds

It is unclear when the southern bay boatsheds were built. Photographs from the Alexander Turnbull Library show that there were some sheds there in the 1920s and 1930s but these may have been temporary as they do no appear in the image of 1950. It would appear that they were constructed after the 1950 edict requiring the standardizing of designs, scale and size because they all appear to be of very similar design, materials, unlike those on the rocks the northern end of the beach.

Collectively the boatsheds are landmarks and have featured in paintings, photographs and writings about the bay since they were built.

The Titahi Bay Boating Club

The first Titahi Bay Boating Club was formed by a group of local boat shed owners, sailors and fishermen in 1952. The club’s first premises were located on the northern rocks however due to increased costs they moved to Onepoto which was more sheltered and a safer place for sailing. In 1966 the fishermen who were originally part of the Boating Club formed their own club and moved back to premises at Titahi Bay beach.

Background: Boatsheds in Wellington

Boatsheds are shoreline structures in which small recreational vessels are able to be stored, while boat ramps are structures that extend onto the seabed for the purpose of launching recreational vessels, and may or may not have sheds associated with them.

Boatsheds are normally used to store boats and their associated paraphernalia. However, in the Wellington area (and at Porirua particularly), people have also used these sheds as a way spend time in the coastal environment. This has extended to residential use. In the past this practice was low key but concern about lack of sewer connections and the restrictions this practice has caused to boat launching and usage has seen a more rigorous approach to preventing residential use in more recent times. The Council now requires resource consents from people wanting to stay in their boatsheds, and is taking enforcement action against those people who do not comply.

The boatsheds have always been a contentious issue because they occupy the public foreshore and yet are privately owned. The Porirua City Council administered the boatsheds under the Harbours Act 1950 until 1991 when responsibility passed to Greater Wellington Regional Council. Porirua City Council continues to administer all those at the northern, middle and southern ends of the beach as they are deemed to be above Mean High Water Springs (and so in its jurisdiction) and is also responsible for the boatsheds in terms of other local government purposes).

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