Porirua’s double harbour evolved from an ancient river system, which was drowned by the rising sea about 5,000 years ago. Pāuatahanui, the name of the northern arm, means ‘big shellfish’.
The battle for Pāuatahanui
In 1839, the London-based New Zealand Company acquired land around both arms of the harbour, and planned a township at Motukaraka on the Pāuatahanui Inlet. Ngāti Toa objected to the purchase of their land without their consent. In 1846, part of the tribe fought British troops in the Horokiri valley. Eventually their chief, Te Rangihaeata, retreated, allowing Europeans to settle around the harbour.
As settlers cleared the bush, increased erosion filled the Pāuatahanui Inlet with sediment. A road was built round the southern shore, then through the Horokiri Valley to Paekākāriki. This route was used by the coach service from 1865. Pāuatahanui soon had three hotels catering for travellers.
From 1886 Pāuatahanui declined with the completion of the Wellington–Manawatū railway, which crossed the inlet at Paremata, reducing traffic through the settlement. The village’s eclipse was hastened in 1936 when the Paremata road bridge opened followed by the completion of a highway between Pukerua Bay and Paekākāriki. This removed the need to drive round the Pāuatahanui Inlet.
In the 2010s Pāuatahanui remained a village, known for its tidal flats and the diverse bird life they attract.
Established in the early 1970s as a middle-class subdivision, Whitby was built around an artificial lake. The area was named after James Cook’s home town in England, and some of the streets bear the names of his ships.
Paremata and Plimmerton
When Ngāti Toa people took control of the area in the 1820s, their senior tohunga, Nohorua, built a palisaded village near Paremata Point. In 1835, Joseph Toms, the first European to settle in the Porirua district, built a whaling station nearby.
A rum recipe
Joseph Toms, who ran a tavern at Paremata, added water to rum to make it go further. Then he bolstered it by adding turpentine, disguising the taste with bluestone (copper sulfate). As he was the sole supplier of liquor in the area, he could sell his ‘chain lightning’ and still retain his customers.
Toms had seven boats, crewed by Europeans and Māori. One of his best whalers was Te Ua Torikiriki, Nohorua’s daughter, who became Toms’s wife.
Toms also ran a tavern, famous for its home-made liquor, known as ‘chain lightning’.
Paremata remained a fishing village until the completion of the Wellington–Manawatū railway in 1886. With better access, Paremata, Plimmerton (named after John Plimmer, one of the railway’s chief promoters) and Pukerua Bay soon became seaside resorts.
In the early 1900s, yachting became common on the Porirua Harbour. In 1923 the Paremata Boating Club was formed, followed two years later by the Plimmerton Boating Club at Karehana Bay. Today windsurfing is also popular.
Hau, an early Māori tohunga (priest), pursued his wife Wairaka, and her lover, Weku, down the west coast of the North Island. He caught up with them near Pukerua Bay. After killing Weku, he sent Wairaka into the sea to collect shellfish, then turned her into stone. She can still be seen today, at the end of the headland beyond Pukerua Bay.
Hongoeka Bay and Pukerua Bay
Hidden by a headland from Karehana Bay is the Māori settlement at Hongoeka Bay.
Further north is the small settlement of Pukerua Bay, its houses and seaside baches (holiday homes) clinging to the slopes of the Wairaka Range.