Story: Northland places

Page 3. Mangōnui and district

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Mangōnui

Historic, picturesque township 36 km north-east of Kaitāia, on Doubtless Bay. The settlement and Taipā coast had a combined population of 1,662 in 2013.

Changing fortunes

Mangōnui became a favoured haven for whalers from the early 1800s. The township then grew as a trading port where kauri logs were milled and prepared for export. Farming started slowly too. By the 1860s Mangōnui was the administrative centre for the far north with government offices, hotels, a hospital, and coastal shipping links with Auckland.

Gum digging and flax milling boosted growth in the 19th century, but after 1900 kauri and gum business shifted west to Kaitāia. The administrative centre followed in 1918 and the hospital in 1934. Disappearance of the old industries and better roading led to Mangōnui’s decline as a coastal shipping port in the 1950s.

An impatient patient

A Northland woman was not happy with treatment in the early days at Mangōnui hospital, and when she received a bill, wrote: ‘I am sorry I cannot see my way at present to pay anything. Lucky I’m not dead, with the tinned milk, dried beans etc. I got when there. What with rates, taxes, soldier’s debts, bills etc. and a husband with not much work and plenty of swearing thrown in, I’m just about ready to keep company with His Satanic Majesty in the hot place, where I wish the Mangonui Hospital Board at present.’ 1

Mangōnui today

Mangōnui’s reputation as a fishing town attracts crowds to the small food outlets along the harbour front. The whaling days are recorded in a small museum, while early buildings convey the sense of a time long past.

The town serves a farming district and permanent residents along the coast at Coopers Beach, Taipā and other bays. It also nurtures a growing tourist industry, with summer numbers swelling to many thousands.

Doubtless Bay

Bay west of Mangōnui, claimed as the site where the Polynesian explorer Kupe first landed. A monument at Taipā marks the spot of this landing, which led to Māori migration and settlement many years later. One tradition tells of an ancestral canoe being led in by a big shark (mangō nui), giving Mangōnui harbour and town its name.

The bay was visited by European explorers – Frenchman Jean François Marie de Surville and Englishman Captain James Cook – in the 18th century. In December 1769 their ships were both in the area, unbeknown to each other. The bay was named by Cook – ‘Doubtless a bay,’ he is reputed to have said on sighting it.

Karikari Peninsula

Distinctively shaped land mass on the east side of the Aupōuri Peninsula, separating Rangaunu Harbour from Doubtless Bay. The rocky outer part of Karikari was formerly an island. It is now joined to the mainland by accretion, which has formed Tokerau beach on the east side of the peninsula.

Karikari is a traditional homeland for the Ngāti Kahu tribe. One of their marae, Haiti-Tai-Marangai, is on the south coast of the peninsula at Whatuwhiwhi.

In December 1769 the bay was the site of violence between Māori and de Surville. His vessel, the St Jean Baptiste, lost three anchors off the peninsula. One is now at Kaitāia’s museum, and another at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. Grapes were planted on the northern coast of the peninsula in the late 1990s, and it is a popular tourist destination.

Footnotes:
  1. Quoted in N. Clarke McKenna, Mangonui: gateway to the Far North. Kerikeri: Northland Historical Publications Society, 1990, p. 64. › Back
How to cite this page:

Claudia Orange, 'Northland places - Mangōnui and district', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/northland-places/page-3 (accessed 18 October 2017)

Story by Claudia Orange, published 12 Dec 2005, updated 4 May 2015