Kaikoura Island in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

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EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT  (Maori Settlement)

Pre-Treaty of Waitangi purchase 1838

The first European purchase of land on Aotea was conducted on 20 March 1838. William Webster, Jeremiah Nagle and William Abercrombie claim to have purchased the whole of Great Barrier which they incorrectly estimated to be 20,000 acres (Turton Private Deeds, Deeds 349, pp.310-11). Payment was made in goods to the value of £1140 including a considerable quantity of guns and ammunition. The signing took place in Coromandel, with the principal signatories being Te Horeta Te Taniwha and his son Kitahi. Only 2 of the 19 signatures were Ngati Wai, who received only a minimal payment of three pairs of blankets (Turton 1882:311, MLC Minute Book 21 Taitokerau 1993:3). Although Ngati Wai Wai failed to protest at the time of this sale, the claim was subsequently investigated and it was found that the land had been unfairly sold by those who were not the rightful owners. It has been subsequently claimed by Ngati Maru that the sale was recompense for the loss of life inflicted on Marutuahu forces during the battle of Aotea (Murdoch 1993 and Tatton 1994:42-43).

In addition to those living on Great Barrier at Katherine Bay, Ngati Rehua people were still resident on Kaikoura at the time of its sale in 1838. At this time Fairburn estimated the population of Aotea at approximately 170 (Monin 1996:26).

Claim reviewed 1844

Two years later in 1840 the Governor of New South Wales Sir George Gipps issued a proclamation which forbade direct purchase of land from the Maori. The Aotea claim was subsequently investigated by Godfrey, and on 10 June 1844 he reported that while Webster, Nagle, and Abercrombie intended to purchase the whole island Maori had only affirmed the sale of the northern part. Godfrey further recommended that no grant be allowed on the basis that Webster had already received the maximum allowed of 2,560 acres in other claims (AJHR 1893, A-4, p.6).

Godfrey’s claim was however reviewed by the Legislative Council who found that considerable resources had been expended on copper mining operations which were felt to be of great benefit to the colony (GBPP 1845 247:101). Governor Fitzroy accordingly authorised Commissioner Fitzgerald to award a total grant of 8,080 acres to Webster, 8,119 to Abercrombie, and 8,070 acres to Nagle totalling 24,269 acres made on 6 July 1844 (Turton Deeds). The boundaries were from the mouth of the Whangapoua River to Mount Hobson (Hirakimata) to the Wairahi Stream and out to the coast at Akatarere, thus including Kaikoura, Nelson and Motuhaku Islands. A native reserve of 3,510 acres was excluded from this grant which enclosed many of the principal Ngati Rehua settlements at Katherine Bay from Ahuriri to Maunganui (Tatton 1994:45 citing Te Mariri 1858 Vol.1).

Speculation and the Great Barrier Land, Harbour & Mining Co.

In 1854 many of the earlier land grants were again revisited and required to be substantiated. Where evidence of purchase or payment was not produced the earlier claims were made void and new claims issued. This appears to have been the case with the Abercrombie grant of 24,269 acres, which was surrendered and a new grant issued to William Smellie Grahame on 29 December 1854 (Auckland Deeds 9D:194-5). No case on behalf of the Abercrombie brothers was brought before the Land Claims Court, possibly as they were by this time living in Sydney and almost bankrupt. A little over 12 months later on 17 January 1856 Grahame sold to Theophilus Heale for £6000 (Auckland Deeds 9D:195). Heale was surveyor and at that time appointed judge of the Native Land Court. The deed was signed in the presence of Frederick Whitaker, Heale’s partner in the ill-fated and scurrilous copper mining enterprise on Kawau Island.

Shortly after on 30th June 1859, Heale on sold to the Great Barrier Land Harbour & Mining Co for £20,000 (Auckland Deeds 9D:197). The Great Barrier Land Harbour & Mining Co had been registered in England on 5 May 1857 just over a year after Heale’s purchase with English businessmen Parke Pittar and Phillip Wright, both of Middlesex, the principal shareholders and trustees. It appears that these dealings had little impact on Kaikoura other than the several changes in ownership recorded against the title. Heale’s interest undoubtedly lay with the exploitation of the copper mine.

Early impressions of Port Fitzroy

From 1841 to 1859 the only settlement at Port Fitzroy had been the farm and shipbuilding yard at Nagles Cove, at that time leased by John Moor. William Bambridge, visiting Great Barrier on route to Sydney in December 1847, completed several sketches of the area around Port Fitzroy. A sketch of the Stirlingshire on stocks at Nagles Cove showing Kaikoura Island in the background provides names for places on the island including Mount Mitre (Mitre Peak) and Augustus Cove (Bradshaw Cove), but shows little else. Bambridge also completed sketches of Wellington Head (Motuhaku).

Early farming

Following the purchase of Heale’s interest, the Great Barrier Land Harbour & Mining Co set about establishing farms on its newly acquired property. An article in the Southern Cross in early 1862 reports considerable investment in the establishment of farms by the Great Barrier Land Harbour & Mining Co on its lands Kaikoura, Mohunga, Kairara and Kiwiriki (S.C. February 1862). On 21st April 1863, the island was transferred via an indenture to Pittar, Wright and Albert Allom of Great Barrier (Auckland Deeds 15D:749-63). A map of the area included on the deed showing the boundaries and the farm settlements, notes the island as ‘Waikoura farm & sheep station’ and also notes sheep as being farmed at Wellington Head (Motuhaku). A hydrographic map of Port Fitzroy by Bedford Pim in 1863 shows the western portion of Great Barrier including Kaikoura with a farm settlement located at the head of an inlet on the south-eastern portion of the island (Pim 1863:372).

A subsequent article in Southern Cross reported the sheep and cattle on these farms as being ‘in a flourishing condition’ (S.C. 07/09/1865). It has been reported that George Moor lived on Kaikoura at one time, and he may have been the original leaseholder, on the basis of his daughter’s birth certificate of 12 February 1867 that states his occupation as Great Barrier, Farmer when all other farms known to be established on Great Barrier appear to be accounted for (Moor 1987:42).

Subdivision of the islands

Kaikoura, Nelson and Motuhaku were later subdivided from the remainder of the property and sold to railway surveyor George Laurie for £250 on 26 Feb 1879 (Auckland Deeds 27M:885-88). Just under a month later on 25 March 1879 Laurie further subdivided and on-sold Kaikoura for £500 to Portuguese farmer Manuel Silva who had been living at Whangaparapara (Auckland Deeds No.62169). Laurie retained Nelson and Motuhaku Islands, and these were later sold to Ellen Pittar of Port Fitzroy (Murdoch n.d.). Ellen Pittar was the wife of Arthur Pittar, the brother of Parke Pittar who had sold to Laurie on behalf of the Great Barrier Land Harbour & Mining Company (Moor 1987:81).

The Rev. Baker who visited Great Barrier in March 1881 reports Silva living in Whangaparapara, but the Rodney Electoral role of the same year has him owner and resident on Kaikoura. Cyril Moor suspects that Silva may have built a house in Augustus Cove (Bradshaw Cove) giving it the name ‘Old House Bay’ but his recollections of the bay from as early as 1916, never included any buildings having been there (Moor 1987:77).

On 19th August 1881 Silva sold Kaikoura to another Portuguese Antonio de Varga (Martin) (CT 19:83 No.3299). Silva and Martin had arrived on the same whaling ship, and had abandoned the vessel together in the Bay of Islands. Martin owned a farm at Tawharanui and Silva had worked for him there (Murdoch). Following the sale Silva stayed on Kaikoura as stock manager. Martin died only a year later in August 1882, and the deed was transferred to his widow Agnes Martin and Matthew Martin. The island may not have been fully paid off, as it was transferred back to Silva on 3 March 1883 (CT Vol.19:83 No.4616). Meanwhile, in February 1882, Ellen Pittar sold Nelson and Motuhaku to John Moor.

Silva himself died shortly after in December 1883, reported drowned in Fitzroy Harbour although the body was never recovered. Kaikoura was willed to his widow Mary Charlotte Silveira (CT Vol.19:83 No.168). It is assumed that she was an absentee landowner as the Rev Hazelden visited the Great Barrier in May 1884 and makes brief mention of several homesteads in Port Fitzroy in his report in the Auckland Weekly News, but fails to mention anyone living on Kaikoura (A.W.N. 17/05/1884). The island was sold again in 1885 to Ernst Engster of Pukekohe (CT Vol.19:83 No.7412). It is unknown if he ever lived on the island (Moor 1987:106).

Homestead in Governors Pass

In November 1888 the island was again sold, this time jointly to Allen Ashlin Taylor and Edward (Ned) Paddison, of Karaka Bay (CT Vol.19:83 No.10718). Ned lived for a while on the island (Moor 1987:85), before Taylor bought his share to become sole owner on 26 April 1890 (CT Vol.56:218 No.11911). The Taylors built the first permanent house on the island, and Moor reports a house being present in Governor’s Pass in 1890 (Moor 1987:86). Remains from an old house platform, jetty and boat hauler are still present today. Old dams are also located in the heads of the streams above the house site. An article in the Weekly News in June 1892 has Mrs Susan Taylor of Kaikoura kindly lending her piano for a dance held at the Cooper’s hall in Port Fitzroy (A.W.N. 4/06/1892).

Double tragedy

Allen Taylor had a brother in South Africa and was interested in moving to join him, so went about finding a buyer for the island. His brother and a prospective buyer Mr Harvey arrived in December 1892. While negotiating this deal at Kaikoura, Susan Taylor went into labour with their second child. A decision was made to get help from the women at Nagles Cove, and the Taylor brothers and Mr Harvey left to fetch them, presumably leaving Susan in labour with only the company of their 21 month old daughter Eleanor. Tragically the boat capsized in a squall, drowning both Allen Taylor and Mr Harvey. Susan Taylor and her two children returned to Auckland on the next steamer. Things went from bad to worse when on 14 March 1893 the Auckland Weekly News reported the destruction of Susan Taylor’s five roomed house, dairy and storeroom at Kaikoura (AWN 25/03/1893 p.21). The fire was believed to have started beneath the dairy, and the caretaker, a man named Hamilton who was in the house asleep at the time, was woken by a dog barking and wood crackling in time to evacuate. The house was unfortunately uninsured.

In May 1893 the island was purchased by Edward and Mary Darton (CT Vol.56:218 No.14627). The Dartons rebuilt the house that had been destroyed by fire. Henry Winkelmann is reported to have photographed this house in 1902 (Moor 1987:111). The Dartons remained on the island until April 1907 when they sold to Theophilus Wake (CT Vol.56:218 No.41773).

Early twentieth century owners

Wake owned the island for just over two years before selling to Charles Owens, an Auckland farmer, in March 1909 (CT Vol.56:218 No.49622). Owens likewise had the island for two years before selling to George Thomas Bayly on 16 June 1911 (CT Vol.56:218 No.59926). The Bayly family owned the island for nearly 30 years before selling in 1941 to William Warren, who lived at Port Fitzroy (CT Vol.426:100 No.339135). The Bayly’s released fallow deer, and although accounts differ as to when this occurred, it appears to have been in the 1920s or early 30s (Harlow 2001:3, Woodcock 1995). Interestingly a Lands and Survey map prepared for the Forestry Department dated 1922, erroneously has the property owned by W. S. Grahame. As outlined above, Grahame was issued the crown grant for the island including the northern part of Great Barrier in 1854.

World War Two Occupation

During the Second World War moves were made to fortify Port Fitzroy as part of the wider defence network for the port of Auckland. The German raider Orion had already infiltrated New Zealand’s coast line and visited Port Fitzroy in 1940, and it was apparent that additional defences would be required to prevent similar occurrences in future (Corbett 2004:186). Three camps were established on mainland Great Barrier at Port Fitzroy, and consideration was given to mounting a fixed BL 6-inch howitzer gun on the north-eastern point of Kaikoura (Cooke 2000:474-5), but at 160 ft ASL it was rejected as being too high and the gun was instead mounted on the south side of Man o War passage in 1942 (Cooke 2000:474; Bouzaid 2002:16-17). In July 1942 another gun was made available and was planned for the previously rejected Kaikoura site, but this emplacement was cancelled before work began (Cooke 2000:475). Controlle minefields were laid by the Navy in Port Abercrombie and in Man-o-War Passage either side of the island to defend the entrances to Port Fitzroy. Underground bunkers and accommodation barracks were built in Bradshaw Cove, and an Observation Post constructed on the headland to the west of Bradshaw Cove over looking the minefield. The base at Bradshaw Cove was also linked to a radar station situated at Moors Peak above Nagles Cove. In February 1943 a review of defence spending was carried out. The Staff Officer (Torpedo and Mining) reported that NZ should be focusing on the offensive and with the exception of those at Auckland and Wellington the controlled minefields were a waste of resources. It was proposed that the existing minefields should be manned as long as they were operative, after which time they should be lifted or fired (Waters 1956:235). The buildings were abandoned on 29 June 1943 (Cooke 2000:475), and the mines detonated in 1944 (Bouzaid 2002:16-17). Locals were disappointed that they received no advance warning to view the spectacular event (Bouzaid 2002:17).

New farm homestead

The Crawford family owned the island from 1945 to 1977, although Mrs Crawford lived there on her own for most of that time following the disappearance of her husband (CT Vol.426:100 No.369559, Weck pers. com.). The Crawfords presumably built and occupied the farm house located in the farm gully between the airstrip and the wharf shortly after purchasing the island. The stream below the homestead was dammed, and pegs in the rock below this suggest there was a waterwheel or pelton generator. The farm implement sheds are reported to have been built in the 1970s. An aerial photo from the 1960s shows the island largely cleared of bush, remnants of which were mostly confined to small pockets along the south-western coast.

After the military buildings were abandoned Mrs Crawford used them as bach accommodation, and continued using the line to Nagle Cove as her own private line (Bouzaid 2002:17). The buildings and bunkers are still present today. Remnants of the cable are still visible on the foreshore at Bradshaw Cove and a recent side scan survey revealed a cable still running across the bay.

Commercial deer farming

Following the death of Mrs Crawford the property passed to her son Cameron Crawford (CT transfer 206557/1). In 1973 the property was sold again to Stuart Searle (CT transfer 243081.1) who with two other partners, Barry Preddle and John Burres, licensed the island as a commercial deer farm. In 1980 the island was sold again, this time to a syndicate of five landowners from Pukekohe (CT transfer 912738.2). During this time the deer farming operation was expanded with the smaller first airstrip cleared (perpendicular to the present day strip), a network of deer fencing erected, and additional areas cleared for grass. George Mason lived on the island at this time, occupying the Crawford’s house in the farm gully. In addition to deer, feral goats and wild pigs were released on the island, although the goats were fortunately eradicated in 1993 (Woodcock 1995). Farm clearing has now ceased, with the last clearing being undertaken around 1980 (Cameron 1995:73). An aerial flown in 1979 clearly shows grassed areas and a road network on the southern side of the central ridgeline.

Lost Resort

The Pukekohe syndicate made plans to establish accommodation on the island. Buildings for what would later be known as the Lost Resort were started in December 1978 on the southern side of the island in Man o War Passage in the vicinity of the present day wharf. Unfortunately the initiative encountered financial problems, and was bailed out by the remaining syndicate members. The Lost Resort was eventually finished and leased out (Weck pers. com.). The resort closed down shortly after it had started in 1979 following a failed arson attempt (Armitage pers. com.). The buildings are still present and used as temporary accommodation.

Eventually it was decided to again sell the island, and attempts were made to sell the island as a reserve to the government, who advised the purchase price was beyond available funding. While scouting for a potential buyer, expressions of interest were made by an Australian businessman, but regulations under the Land Settlement Promotion and Land Acquisition Act 1952 prohibited sale to foreign land owners. Eventually Kaikoura was sold to Auckland businessman, Stuart Galloway, who traded his title to Chase Corporation for real estate on the Auckland waterfront in 1988 (NZ Property Dec 1990:2).

American Acquisition

Chase Corporation soon found itself in financial difficulty and forced to sell many of it assets including Kaikoura Island in August 1990. The island was able to be sold to foreign interests this time through exploiting a legal loop-hole as the Land Settlement Act did not cover transfer of company assets (NZ Property Dec 1990:2). The island was initially transferred for just under $2.5 million to Westy Holdings Ltd., which was formed by solicitors Paul Preston and John Waller on 13 July 1990. One week later Preston and Waller were replaced as directors by real estate developer Thomas Gentry, and solicitor Harvey Migdal, both of Honolulu. The shares in the newly formed company were purchased for an undisclosed sum, subject to a confidentiality clause (NZ Property Dec 1990:2). Due to the ill health of the new owner very little happened on the island in the years following the sale and the island became increasingly run down.

In 1995, when the island was again offered for sale, ‘Save our Islands Trust’ attempted to purchase it, but was unsuccessful, and the island was instead sold to Don and Joy Fasher (NZFRT 2003:14). The Fashers continued farming on the island and cleared the larger present day airstrip (Harlow 2001:3). Also during this time the Vodaphone cell site was established on the ridge line to the south of Mitre Peak. In 2003 the island was put up for sale with an asking price of $10 million, and enthusiastically marketed hoping to draw attention during the build up to the Americas Cup racing in February that year (NZ Herald Press statement 09/02/2003). The proposed sale was opposed by Ngati Rehua on the grounds of their outstanding Waitangi Tribunal claim, and conviction that their wahi tapu sites should not be sold to foreign owners (letter M. McGee to Secretary of Overseas Investment Commission 06/03/2003).

Motu Kaikoura Scenic Reserve

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'Kaikoura Island Archaeological Survey' Andy Dodd and Vanessa Tanner Department of Conservation 2006.

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