Mahia takes the cake

NOW AND THEN: Mahia Beach today with, inset, an old photograph demonstrating developments over the past 80 years. Many descendants of early settlers at Mahia are still living in the area.
Barnet Burns, the first white man to settle on the Mahia Peninsula.
George Canning Ormond.
Mahia Beach 80 years ago, much of the development not shown in this photo.
Many descendants from the early era are still living in the area.

MAHIA, meaning “indistinct sound”, was settled by Maori well over 600 years ago when the Takitimu landed at Nukutaurua (Table Cape). On board were the priests Ruawharo, Tupai and others who left the canoe and remained at Mahia.

Ruawharo went on to build his first pa at Oraka and named it Wahatoa. In time there were no fewer than 13 pa spread across the Mahia Peninsula.

Kahungunu, the charismatic leader who the country’s third largest tribal group is named after, is entrenched in the district’s history. He was born at Kaitaia but moved to various places down the North Island before arriving at Tawapata in Mahia.

It was there that he took a liking to the attractive Rongomaiwahine. After her husband drowned she became Kahungunu’s wife and raised five children.

The mana of Rongomaiwahine, the principal ancestor of the people of the Mahia Peninsula, is carried proudly today.

Mahia was “‘swamped’’ in the mid-1840s with Maori fleeing Ngati Toa war chief Te Rauparaha. It is said near 10,000 came to the peninsula, from the East Cape down to the Wairarapa.

In 1846 Te Rauparaha was captured and imprisoned on board a British warship, and the “refugees” gradually returned to their own areas.

Whalers moved into Mahia in the 1830s and ’40s and married local women. Many of their descendants still live in Mahia.

The first European

There is some controversy over who was the first European to arrive in Mahia.

J.W. Harris visited Mahia at times as an agent for a Sydney company, to trade flax and other commodities with local Maori. He settled in Poverty Bay in the mid-1820s and never lived at Mahia.

A man named Barnet Burns arrived in 1829. He worked as an agent for the same company as Harris, but lived amongst local Maori, married a Maori woman and learned to speak the language fluently.

Burns virtually surrendered his own individuality and adopted all Maori customs, including a full facial tattoo. He was believed to be a showman of sorts, and disappeared from the district suddenly.

The next group of white men were the shore whalers. Brothers William and James Ward set up a station at Waikokopu in 1837 while William Ellis started an operation at the western end of Taylor’s Bay.

By 1842 there were over 150 whalers on the peninsula. At the local industry’s height there were at least seven whaling stations along the western seaboard.

In 1842 Bishop William Williams performed the first local Maori baptism at the Coronation Reserve near Whangawehi creek.

Reverend Richard Taylor also spent time at Mahia. It is likely Taylor’s Bay was named after him, as a mission station was based in the area.

The Ormond family, a name synonymous with Mahia, became large property owners around this time.

Englishman John Davies Ormond acquired 14,500 acres or about 40 percent of the Mahia Peninsula in 1885.

His eldest son, George Canning Ormond, was sent to manage the holding.

A large family

George married Maraea Kiwi Te Ratahi Wharekete and they had a family of 10 sons and four daughters. George became heavily involved in local body politics, serving on the county council from 1911 to 1929. His son Gordon Ormond was a councillor from 1959 to 1969 and Gordon’s son Andrew was elected to represent Mahia in 1970.

George’s son Alexander was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He is commemorated with a statue at Kaiuku Marae where a dawn service is held every Anzac Day.

Another son John (Jack) Ormond farmed the Kinikini block. Jack played one game for the All Blacks in 1923, and featured in 10 of the 24 defences for the star-studded Hawke’s Bay Ranfurly Shield side of the 1920s. He became an MP, winning the Eastern Maori seat in 1943 as Tiaki Omana.

Farm worker Robert Gollan was shot on George Ormond’s property in 1889 then beheaded and set on fire. Wata Makaore was convicted of murder and hung in Napier five months later.

For the first half of the 19th century land owners and visitors only needed to throw a pot into the sea among rocks to reap huge crayfish catches. It was easy for a party of fishermen to catch 100 crayfish in a few hours at night. It was not until after World War 2 that any worth was placed on crayfish in a commercial sense.

About 60,000 kilos of fishing quota are now caught off Mahia in a 12-month period.

A quota system for fish

The quota system was introduced in 1991 to licence fishers, allocating quota based on a five-year average catch less 30 percent. Many onsold or leased their quota, reducing the number of fishermen from around 40 in the 1970s to less than a dozen operating today.

Mahia hosted a hotel or store as far back as the 1870s. The hotel was situated at the eastern end of Taylor’s Bay, but was burned down mysteriously in 1877.

Shore whalers had stores at Mahia as early as the 1840s. The Mahia Store on the northern side of the peninsula probably dates back before 1900. Jake and Adrienne Andresen spent some 21 years as owners.

The Mahia Beach Store dates back to 1952 when Alfred and Rose Cropp commenced business. The ninth owners are Bob and Elaine Westwood, who are still behind the counter after 27 years.

The Mahia Beach Holiday Park was established in 1963. It was commonly known as Fulton’s as it was originally leased by the Department of Land and Survey to L.J. Fulton, who developed the camping ground and ran it for a lengthy period. It has had various lessees in the past 25 years, with the best-known Trevor and Margaret Lyall.

There was also a camping ground known as Ormonds, opposite the fishing club’s boat-wash. It closed about 20 years ago.

There were 300,000 sheep in the Wairoa district in 1887, about 10 percent of which were run on the peninsula.

Tough times

Mahia farmers had challenging times with practically no roading of any standard, no motor vehicles and no electricity. In January 1903 a massive bush fire destroyed a great deal of farm infrastructure, killing large numbers of stock.

Wairoa centenarian Nelson Payne says surfboats came in from ships in the 1930s and landed onshore in the area now called Dinahs, “. . . they brought most of our stores in and took our wool away.”

“There was nothing much in the way of bridges, nothing at Whangawehi near the coast. You had to travel down the Waihakeke road and cross a bridge which was just above the water flow.

“Lighting was with kerosene lamps.

‘‘There were a lot of deer and wild pigs.

“Paua and crayfish were easy to get.”

Mahia has had its share of characters.

One to mention was Mick Neale, said to have a voice like a ship’s foghorn. He was “a true story teller’’ and on his post box the address was shown as “Fish Guts Avenue”.

Mick was the son of a Waikaremoana farmer. He served in the Royal Navy in World War 1 and arrived at Mahia in the early 1950s. He died in 1968.

Beach-front sections at Mahia Beach/Taylor’s Bay could be bought for less than $1000 decades ago, and areas like Oraka and Mahanga well below that. Today many homes are valued well over $500,000.

From Boxing Day to the first week of January some 7000 holidaymakers are spread across the Mahia Peninsula as they enjoy the summer break.

In March 2007 a solo bottlenose dolphin, subsquently named Moko, arrived at Mahia and won the hearts of residents with his friendly antics. The young male spent most of his time frolicking around the Mokotahi headland and entered the world stage when he rescued a pygmy sperm whale and its calf.

Sadly Moko left Mahia and was found dead at Matakana Island in 2010.

It looks like Mahia’s space age is now about to start. Rockets carrying satellites are scheduled to be launched from the remote Onenui Station at the southern end of the peninsula in 2017.

The Lonely Planet travel guide gives Mahia a positive, glowing report time after time. One recent issue said: “Mahia arguably takes the cake for the region. We see it as Santorini crossed with Dover — majestic in sun or storm. The beaches, hillsides, surfing, diving, fishing and walking all get the nod.”

MAHIA, meaning “indistinct sound”, was settled by Maori well over 600 years ago when the Takitimu landed at Nukutaurua (Table Cape). On board were the priests Ruawharo, Tupai and others who left the canoe and remained at Mahia.

Ruawharo went on to build his first pa at Oraka and named it Wahatoa. In time there were no fewer than 13 pa spread across the Mahia Peninsula.

Kahungunu, the charismatic leader who the country’s third largest tribal group is named after, is entrenched in the district’s history. He was born at Kaitaia but moved to various places down the North Island before arriving at Tawapata in Mahia.

It was there that he took a liking to the attractive Rongomaiwahine. After her husband drowned she became Kahungunu’s wife and raised five children.

The mana of Rongomaiwahine, the principal ancestor of the people of the Mahia Peninsula, is carried proudly today.

Mahia was “‘swamped’’ in the mid-1840s with Maori fleeing Ngati Toa war chief Te Rauparaha. It is said near 10,000 came to the peninsula, from the East Cape down to the Wairarapa.

In 1846 Te Rauparaha was captured and imprisoned on board a British warship, and the “refugees” gradually returned to their own areas.

Whalers moved into Mahia in the 1830s and ’40s and married local women. Many of their descendants still live in Mahia.

The first European

There is some controversy over who was the first European to arrive in Mahia.

J.W. Harris visited Mahia at times as an agent for a Sydney company, to trade flax and other commodities with local Maori. He settled in Poverty Bay in the mid-1820s and never lived at Mahia.

A man named Barnet Burns arrived in 1829. He worked as an agent for the same company as Harris, but lived amongst local Maori, married a Maori woman and learned to speak the language fluently.

Burns virtually surrendered his own individuality and adopted all Maori customs, including a full facial tattoo. He was believed to be a showman of sorts, and disappeared from the district suddenly.

The next group of white men were the shore whalers. Brothers William and James Ward set up a station at Waikokopu in 1837 while William Ellis started an operation at the western end of Taylor’s Bay.

By 1842 there were over 150 whalers on the peninsula. At the local industry’s height there were at least seven whaling stations along the western seaboard.

In 1842 Bishop William Williams performed the first local Maori baptism at the Coronation Reserve near Whangawehi creek.

Reverend Richard Taylor also spent time at Mahia. It is likely Taylor’s Bay was named after him, as a mission station was based in the area.

The Ormond family, a name synonymous with Mahia, became large property owners around this time.

Englishman John Davies Ormond acquired 14,500 acres or about 40 percent of the Mahia Peninsula in 1885.

His eldest son, George Canning Ormond, was sent to manage the holding.

A large family

George married Maraea Kiwi Te Ratahi Wharekete and they had a family of 10 sons and four daughters. George became heavily involved in local body politics, serving on the county council from 1911 to 1929. His son Gordon Ormond was a councillor from 1959 to 1969 and Gordon’s son Andrew was elected to represent Mahia in 1970.

George’s son Alexander was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He is commemorated with a statue at Kaiuku Marae where a dawn service is held every Anzac Day.

Another son John (Jack) Ormond farmed the Kinikini block. Jack played one game for the All Blacks in 1923, and featured in 10 of the 24 defences for the star-studded Hawke’s Bay Ranfurly Shield side of the 1920s. He became an MP, winning the Eastern Maori seat in 1943 as Tiaki Omana.

Farm worker Robert Gollan was shot on George Ormond’s property in 1889 then beheaded and set on fire. Wata Makaore was convicted of murder and hung in Napier five months later.

For the first half of the 19th century land owners and visitors only needed to throw a pot into the sea among rocks to reap huge crayfish catches. It was easy for a party of fishermen to catch 100 crayfish in a few hours at night. It was not until after World War 2 that any worth was placed on crayfish in a commercial sense.

About 60,000 kilos of fishing quota are now caught off Mahia in a 12-month period.

A quota system for fish

The quota system was introduced in 1991 to licence fishers, allocating quota based on a five-year average catch less 30 percent. Many onsold or leased their quota, reducing the number of fishermen from around 40 in the 1970s to less than a dozen operating today.

Mahia hosted a hotel or store as far back as the 1870s. The hotel was situated at the eastern end of Taylor’s Bay, but was burned down mysteriously in 1877.

Shore whalers had stores at Mahia as early as the 1840s. The Mahia Store on the northern side of the peninsula probably dates back before 1900. Jake and Adrienne Andresen spent some 21 years as owners.

The Mahia Beach Store dates back to 1952 when Alfred and Rose Cropp commenced business. The ninth owners are Bob and Elaine Westwood, who are still behind the counter after 27 years.

The Mahia Beach Holiday Park was established in 1963. It was commonly known as Fulton’s as it was originally leased by the Department of Land and Survey to L.J. Fulton, who developed the camping ground and ran it for a lengthy period. It has had various lessees in the past 25 years, with the best-known Trevor and Margaret Lyall.

There was also a camping ground known as Ormonds, opposite the fishing club’s boat-wash. It closed about 20 years ago.

There were 300,000 sheep in the Wairoa district in 1887, about 10 percent of which were run on the peninsula.

Tough times

Mahia farmers had challenging times with practically no roading of any standard, no motor vehicles and no electricity. In January 1903 a massive bush fire destroyed a great deal of farm infrastructure, killing large numbers of stock.

Wairoa centenarian Nelson Payne says surfboats came in from ships in the 1930s and landed onshore in the area now called Dinahs, “. . . they brought most of our stores in and took our wool away.”

“There was nothing much in the way of bridges, nothing at Whangawehi near the coast. You had to travel down the Waihakeke road and cross a bridge which was just above the water flow.

“Lighting was with kerosene lamps.

‘‘There were a lot of deer and wild pigs.

“Paua and crayfish were easy to get.”

Mahia has had its share of characters.

One to mention was Mick Neale, said to have a voice like a ship’s foghorn. He was “a true story teller’’ and on his post box the address was shown as “Fish Guts Avenue”.

Mick was the son of a Waikaremoana farmer. He served in the Royal Navy in World War 1 and arrived at Mahia in the early 1950s. He died in 1968.

Beach-front sections at Mahia Beach/Taylor’s Bay could be bought for less than $1000 decades ago, and areas like Oraka and Mahanga well below that. Today many homes are valued well over $500,000.

From Boxing Day to the first week of January some 7000 holidaymakers are spread across the Mahia Peninsula as they enjoy the summer break.

In March 2007 a solo bottlenose dolphin, subsquently named Moko, arrived at Mahia and won the hearts of residents with his friendly antics. The young male spent most of his time frolicking around the Mokotahi headland and entered the world stage when he rescued a pygmy sperm whale and its calf.

Sadly Moko left Mahia and was found dead at Matakana Island in 2010.

It looks like Mahia’s space age is now about to start. Rockets carrying satellites are scheduled to be launched from the remote Onenui Station at the southern end of the peninsula in 2017.

The Lonely Planet travel guide gives Mahia a positive, glowing report time after time. One recent issue said: “Mahia arguably takes the cake for the region. We see it as Santorini crossed with Dover — majestic in sun or storm. The beaches, hillsides, surfing, diving, fishing and walking all get the nod.”

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Aroha Burrows nee Ormond - 2 years ago
Thank you for the wonderful history of our beautiful home Mahia, a special place in Paradise.

Whare Turuwhenua - 2 years ago
Ka noho au i tawaahi i Perth, ka hoki aku mahara ki te hau kainga ara a Maungaroa i runga i Oraka titro ki Turanga.

Anna Bowen - 2 years ago
Great article. Just a small correction - Maraea and George had 12 sons (not 10) and 4 daughters

Roderick, Taharangi, Gray - 2 years ago
As I understand the threat, from Te Rauparaha, did not exist,and did not happen. The gathering at Nukutaurua took place due to the expected arrival of a Nga Puhi war party led by Hongi Hika. It was at Nukutaurua that Ngati Kahungunu gathered to defend their lands from this invasion. One of the principal Rangatira who was allied and related through marriage to N. Kahungunu was Te Wera, also of Nga Puhi descent. It was at the same time of the gathering at Nukutaurua that Ngati Raukawa, under the Rangatira Te Whatanui, ventured into what we know now as Hawke's Bay, and seeing that the land was vacant decided to stay. N Kahungun returned and so ended N Raukawa's short stay.
The only other threat from Te Rauparaha that did not happen was the combined forces of N. Toarangatiraand Nga Puhi of the heke Aimiowhenua.

Sylvia Spooner - 1 year ago
Good reading. Just a little addition. Long before the arrival of the "fleet canoes" around 1350AD, Nukutaurua - as the entire peninsular was known - was inhabited by descendants of Kupe, the discoverer of Aotearoa. Whatonga, his brother Mahutonga, Tauira, Paikea and several other very prominent chiefs and their families. They were Ngai Riki and Ngai Tauira and Nukutaurua was under their tribal protection. When the Takitimu Canoe arrived, the High Priest Ruawharo took control of the area and renamed it Mahia-mai-tawhiti after his home in the Pacific.
Mahia was not just abundant with seafood, of which whale meat was a delicacy, but kereru and eels were plentiful. It was also famous for its massive kumara gardens and storage pits, supplying tribes everywhere.
Later, when Kahungunu arrived and married Rongomai Wahine, her parents Rapa and Moe-Kakara gifted her the lands above Table Cape where he lived and built his home Maungakawhia Pa, flanked by two other pa. Tawapata was the home of her parents and her children to her first husband, master carver Tama-taku-tai, the Mahia Ngai Tauira. Terraced land where kumara gardens were planted are the only indications Maungakawhia pa existed.

Andrew Dever - 1 year ago
Anther part of Mahia's history is us Devers. When my dad grew up he spent most Christmases in Mahia. My uncle Thomas and his wife Julie have a bach up in Taylor's Bay and my grandma and grandpa also had a bach up there when they sold their own place in Wairoa. When I was a kid we would always go up to Mahia and visit our cuzzies. One thing I enjoyed was going on my uncle's boat and I loved riding on the biscuit.

Diana Symes - 1 year ago
Awesome Aunty Sylvia.

Barbara F Wood who was a Winter by birth - 10 months ago
The Winter family owned the second bach across the road from the camping ground. The Crombies from Nuhaka owned the one next door. I was interested in the comments about Mick Neale and have vivid memories of him. He lived on the flat land above the beach. His shack had a dirt floor and one main living sleeping room with assorted add-ons. I remember seeing his big brass bed with socks hanging from the foot rail. Mick loved cats and his pets had a row of food saucers in a back room. We gave him a kitten once. We thought it was a male and he did not let us forget we had it wrong. That cat was called Mr Thompkins but renamed Mrs Thompkins. We used to invite him for meals and I was always impressed by the way he ate from his knife. Mum used to give me warning glares to prevent my comments. At the end of our beach holiday we'd bring him any leftovers and he would say, "That is good grub, Missus" to Mum. Mick had an extremely loud voice and he rowed his boat standing up. His shack was demolished when boating became popular and he moved into a little house by the store. At the end if his life he spent time in Wairoa hospital. My mother went to visit him and a female friend, bringing eggs for Mick and flowers for her friend - but when Mick saw the flowers he admired the roses so much that he was given them and my mother's friend got the eggs.

Veronika Williams, Qld - 10 months ago
"Rongomaiwahine te iwi"
I like to think I'm one of the lucky ones, with my siblings, for I am blessed to have had an abundant lifestyle - 'kaimoana in abundance'. Our upbringing was in Opoutama-Mahia. When we moved to Napier for schooling, dad made sure we knew where we came from by planning almost every school holidays/ Easter/ Christmas/ New Year back "home".

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