Porirua City is situated in Hutt county at the head of the southern arm of Porirua Harbour, about 13 miles north of Wellington. Both the Wellington-North motorway and the North Island Main Trunk railway pass through the urban area, and a suburban rail service connects with Wellington. The urban area comprises the greater portion of the Porirua basin and includes the borough of Tawa-Linden as well as the former county towns of Porirua, Titahi Bay, and Takapuwahia.
The earliest inhabitants of the district were the Tini-o-Maruiwi who were moa hunters. About A.D. 1100 Whatonga and his sons Tara and Tautoki settled in the area, and their tribes – the Ngai Tara and Ngati Ira – remained in possession until the 1820s when they were replaced by Te Rauparaha's Ngati Toa. Following this invasion European whalers and traders appeared in the district. Among the earliest of these were Alexander Davidson, John Bell, and Archibald Mossman who occupied Mana Island intermittently from 1832 to 1834. In 1839 they were succeeded by the Fraser brothers, who introduced sheep into New Zealand on their Mana Island and Porirua properties. In 1832 there was a small timber and shipbuilding industry on the south-western shore of Porirua Harbour. This probably belonged to William Cooper, a whaler who had arrived in New Zealand three years earlier. In 1836 Joseph Toms built a permanent whaling station at Parramatta (now Paremata) Point near the present railway bridge. Toms also owned 160 acres of what is now Titahi Bay township. On 10 October 1839 Captain William Hays bought the whole of the Porirua basin, excluding Cooper's and Tom's portions, for goods to the value of £1,950. Shortly before 24 January 1840 Hays sold his deed to a syndicate of Sydney merchants who called themselves the Polynesian Company. In February 1840 Colonel Wakefield purchased the Porirua district from Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata, and the same chiefs who had sold it to Hays three months earlier. Although the Polynesian Company imported cattle for its holdings in March 1840, these sales were invalidated by the pre-emptive clause in the Treaty of Waitangi. The Polynesian Company was later compensated in Government land scrip. Late in 1841 the New Zealand Company opened the district for selection and much of the bush was felled. During the Maori troubles of 1846 the Hutt Valley land war spread to the Porirua basin where five stockades, built by the settlers after the Wairau Affray, were garrisoned by units from the 58th Regiment. The 1855 earthquake raised the floor of Porirua Harbour and ended any hopes that it would ever rival Wellington as a port. Since then the district has developed as a farming centre. A small village grew up at Porirua after 1891 when the Psychiatric Hospital was established. In 1897 the population was only 669.
In 1945, when it was realised that the Hutt Valley would no longer contain Wellington's increasing population, the Government directed its State housing development to the Porirua basin, the first State house being erected there in 1949. From the outset Porirua was planned as a satellite town for Wellington. In recent years the growth of population in the Porirua area has been so rapid that by the end of 1964 the total had increased to 19,400. On 2 October 1965 Porirua achieved city status.
Tawa, long known as Tawa Flat, attained borough status in July 1951. Porirua and Takapuwahia became county towns on 12 December 1953 and 17 October 1957 respectively. The name Porirua, or “Parirua” as it was originally, was bestowed on the harbour by Kupe. It means “the place of two flowings of the tide”.
POPULATION: 1961 census, 15,844.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.