Story: Auckland places

Page 6. Kaipara Harbour and kauri towns

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Kaipara Harbour

Vast harbour on the western side of Northland peninsula, and traditional home of Ngāti Whātua. The Kaipara is 500 sq km, with at least 800 km of coastline, has large tidal mudflats and misty headlands. It contains the lower reaches of the Wairoa and Kaipara rivers.

Timber port

In spite of a treacherous bar at the harbour entrance, a number of busy timber ports were established on the Kaipara’s shores in the 19th century, handling millions of metres of timber and thousands of tonnes of kauri gum. Once the forests had gone, the area became a backwater.


The Ōkahukura Peninsula marks the mid-point of the harbour and the northern boundary of Auckland. Tāporapora, on the western tip, is a haven for shore birds and waders. The sand hills of Kaipara’s South Head enclose a series of dune lakes which are important wildlife habitats.

Port Albert

Small dairying settlement on the Ōruawharo River, 9 km north-west of Wellsford, named after Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert. It was established between 1862 and 1865 as Albertland, a non-conformist religious settlement for 3,000 English immigrants. Not all of these arrived, and of those who did, many struggled to make a living. Most moved to more fertile farmland elsewhere in the region.

Naming Wellsford

Local tradition suggests the name Wellsford was an acronym based on the family names of the first settlers. These were the families of Watson, Edger, Lester, Levet, Simpson, Foster, Oldfield, Ramsbottom and Dibble.


2013 population: 1,698

Northernmost town in the Auckland region, 114 km north-west of Auckland. It stands at the junction of the main road north and the railway to Ōpua. Since the 1930s Wellsford has served hundreds of dairy farms extending to Ōruawharo, Tomorata and Glorit. Today a major employer is Izard Irwin International, a local saw-blade exporter.


2013 population: 2,640

Historic town on the banks of the Kaipara River, at the southern end of the Kaipara Harbour, 50 km north-west of Auckland. Mt Auckland/Atuanui, 22 km north of Kaukapakapa, is a sacred place for Ngāti Whātua. At 305 m it is the highest point in the district.

Formerly known as Awaroa, the town was renamed after Helen McLeod, wife of pioneering timber miller John McLeod. From 1863 it became a major port for the timber trade, providing shipping services around the Kaipara, and to west coast ports and Sydney. Once the logging days were over, Helensville turned to dairy and sheep farming. More recently deer farms, nut plantations and vineyards have been established.

The Parakai Springs Hot Pools, 3 km north-west, is a popular thermal resort.


Township at the head of the upper Waitematā Harbour, 31 km from central Auckland. In the 19th century it was a centre for gum digging, and a vital trading link with Helensville and the Kaipara. The river setting was also ideal for milling timber, flour and paper. In the 20th century tobacco was grown. The Riverhead State Forest was planted on 5,000 ha of poor gum land from 1929 to 1933. Owned today by Carter Holt Harvey, the forest is popular for its biking trails.

From gum to grapes

Among the Croatian gum diggers who became winemakers were Mick and Kate Brajkovich and their son Mate. In 1944 they bought a small vineyard in Kumeū, calling it San Marino Vineyards. In 1958 Mate married Melba Sutich and had four children. During the 1980s the family planted new varieties and renamed their vineyard Kumeū River Wines. The winery became celebrated for its chardonnay wine, boosting the district’s reputation as a premium wine-growing area.

Kumeū and Huapai

Horticultural centres 25 and 26 km north-west of central Auckland. The warm, well-drained rolling countryside around Waimāuku has many vineyards. These were established by Croatian settlers after they left the worked-out gumfields. Today five labels dominate winemaking in the area: Matua Valley, Nobilo, Kumeū River, Coopers Creek and Selak.

How to cite this page:

Margaret McClure, 'Auckland places - Kaipara Harbour and kauri towns', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 April 2024)

Story by Margaret McClure, published 6 Dec 2007, updated 5 Aug 2016