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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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The Bay of Islands is a drowned-river system on the east coast of North Auckland between Whangarei and Whangaroa Harbours. It comprises about 150 islands, as well as several inlets or arms leading into the bay, chief of which are Kerikeri Inlet, Waikare, Mangonui, and Purenua. The Bay was visited by Kupe and Ngahue in the tenth century and Toi called there some 200 years later. In 1769 Captain Cook was the first European to arrive there. Three years later Marion du Fresne established a shore base on Moturoa Island. He is said to have claimed “Austral-France” for his homeland and buried evidence on the island to that effect. Shortly afterwards the French navigator was killed in the course of a dispute with the local Maoris. Crozet, his second-in-command, bombarded the Maori settlement and, according to reports, killed 250.

In pre-European days the Bay of Islands was the seat of the powerful Ngapuhi tribe and the home of such notable chiefs as Te PahiRuatara, Hongi Hika (q.v.), and the two Pomares. HMS Daedalus visited the area in 1792, and in the early 1800s the Bay became the recognised watering place for ships whaling off New Zealand. The arrival of Marsden in December 1814 and the founding of the first mission at Rangihoua marked the beginning of permanent European settlement in New Zealand. In 1819 J. G. Butler founded a second mission at nearby Kerikeri and, four years later, Henry Williams established his mission at Paihia. The first inland mission was established at Waimate North in 1830, where Richard Davis set up the mission farm in the following year. In October 1831 thirteen chiefs from Kerikeri petitioned King William IV for protection against the French. As a result of this, two years later Busby settled at Waitangi as the first British Resident. The Beagle, with Captain Robert FitzRoy as commander (later Governor of New Zealand) and Charles Darwin as naturalist, anchored in the Bay in 1835. In 1837 Captain Hobson visited the Bay of Islands in HMS Rattlesnake.

Besides, the missions, by the mid-1830s the Bay of Islands boasted several small European settlements. The largest of these was Kororareka, with Otuihu being next in size, while J. R. Clendon had a trading post at Okiato and Gilbert Mair senior traded and did ship repairs at Wahapu. At the end of January 1840, when Hobson arrived as Lieutenant-Governor, one of his first duties was to select a fitting settlement to be his seat of Government. As Kororareka was scarcely suitable for the purpose it became necessary to form a secondary settlement in the district. Hobson chose Clendon's settlement at Okiato, which he immediately renamed Russell after Lord John Russell, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It remained the capital until the following year, when the Government was removed to Auckland. On 1 May 1842 fire swept Russell, destroying Government House and the offices. The town was never rebuilt and the name was loosely applied to Kororareka, which was part of the Port of Russell. In January 1844 Governor Fitzroy formally incorporated Kororareka within the township of Russell. Despite the hopes of the British Government that the Treaty of Waitangi(q.v.) would begin an era of peace, the years 1844–46 were marked by violent disputes between European and Maori, the “War in the North”–including the cutting down of the flagstaff on Maiki Hill–and the sack of Kororareka by Hone Heke.

The rock exposed around the Bay of Islands is largely greywacke, and hence the country is steep to hilly. It was formerly bush clad and from the district large quantities of kauri timber, gum, and tanekaha bark were exported. Manganese was mined at several localities, notably Frenchman's Hill, antimony at Lanigan's workings near Rangi-taroe Trig. Station, and coal at Kawakawa.

The Forest Service has pine plantations near Waitangi and citrus-fruit growing is important at Kerikeri. In the hinterland of the Bay of Islands is a valuable farming area. Deep-sea fishing based on Russell and Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island, is becoming increasingly well known.

The Bay of Islands was named by Captain Cook during his visit there in 1769.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington and Robert Findlay Hay, M.A., B.E.(MINING), Scientific Officer, New Zealand Geological Survey, Otahuhu.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington and Robert Findlay Hay, M.A., B.E.(MINING), Scientific Officer, New Zealand Geological Survey, Otahuhu.