NORTH SHORE HISTORY with David Verran
Flagstaff and the Lake in the 1820s and 1830s
For centuries, Tamaki-makau-rau was a much fought over landscape and the results of the last major conflict in the early 1820s, between local iwi and Ngapuhi from the North, were still obvious to those who ventured into the three harbours right up to the proclamation of Auckland in September 1840. Volcanic soils for kumara growing, ready access to kai moana in the Kaipara, Waitemata and Manukau Harbours and waka links between these harbours Northwards and Southwards, had in the past all encouraged different iwi to settle in the Auckland area. However, from the early to mid 1820s much of the land became desolate, with only the ruins of once proud pa, kainga and cultivations. Few waka ventured into these harbours.
The French Captain Jules-Sebastian-Cesar Dumont d’Urville navigated the Waitemata Harbour in his corvette ‘Astrolabe’ in the middle of February 1827. On 20 February, he landed at Takapuna (North Head) and climbed Takuranga (Mount Victoria) to try to see the Tasman Sea – obviously a forlorn hope. In his climb, he saw no sign of any inhabitants, although he could see a little smoke from a Maori settlement on distant hills – likely the Waitakere ranges. He then crossed over to the other side of the harbour to a deserted Orakei and then met members of Ngati Paoa in the Tamaki River area.
Those iwi associated with the North Shore and surrounding areas, Te Kawerau, Ngai Tai, Ngati Paoa and others of Marutuahu (Ngati Maru, Ngati Tamatera and Ngati Whanaunga), Ngati Whatua and Te Taou, only began to return in the mid to late 1830s, still fearing the return of Ngapuhi. On the North Shore, Rahopara (Castor Bay), Te Onewa (Northcote Point), Te Mataraeamana (Kauri Point), Takuranga (Mount Victoria), Takapuna (North Head) and other pa sites had been long abandoned and only slowly re-occupied. Pa had protected local kainga in the vicinity, and Maori relied on local shellfish, roots and berries, kumara cultivation and nearby fishing grounds especially shark.
Physically, the stretch of land along what is now King Edward Parade in Devonport at that time featured three volcanic cones – North Head, Mount Victoria and Mount Cambria. Narrow Neck was just a small stretch of land between the beach and the inlet where Alison Park is now. The area now known as the Devonport Domain was a streambed flowing from Mounts Cambria and Victoria.
Elsewhere across the North Shore, there were also few signs of human influence on the geological landscapes. In the past, the North Shore had had great kauri forests, evidenced by the amount of kauri gum unearthed by mid to late nineteenth century gum diggers, but fires from such events as lightning strikes, volcanic activity and deliberate burnings for cropping had decimated them. By the 1830s, there remained only low-lying scrub over large parts of the North Shore.
Heteraka Takapuna, the last chief of Ngai Tai, is said to have returned to Takapuna (North Head) around 1835 or 1836. The story is that he planted a weeping willow tree, originating from Napoleon's St Helena, by the inlet between Narrow Neck and Ngataringa Bay. One can only guess from where that sapling came.
From September 1840, and Hobson's arrival in Auckland to create the new capital of the colony of New Zealand, the Devonport area became known as Flagstaff, from the naval signalling station on Mount Victoria, while the Takapuna area was first known as the Lake – after Lake Pupuke.
By David Verran.