Rangitoto baches are little gems

Some of the earliest baches in the Hauraki Gulf were constructed on the lava-strewn shores of Rangitoto Island. The island was purchased from Ngāti Paoa in 1854 primarily as a source of stone for the construction of Auckland. In 1890 the island was declared a recreational reserve. The Rangitoto Island Domain Board took over administration of the island and pursued a policy of opening up the island for pubic enjoyment. This involved the construction of a wharf on the southern side (Rangitoto Wharf) and the development of a track to the summit.

Rangitoto wharf waharoa
The first Rangitoto wharf was opened in 1897. Shown here is the new wharf which was opened in 2014 with the waharoa (customary gateway) welcoming visitors.

In 1911 the Domain Board started to lease out sites for campers in order to raise funds to cover the costs of administering the island. Eventually baches were built on the sites, with over 140 baches being built at 3 locations; adjacent to the Rangitoto Wharf, in Islington Bay and in McKenzie Bay near the Rangitoto Light. Vibrant holiday communities developed around the baches with families spending the entire summer school holidays there.

Isobel Conning (nee Simmons) remembers wonderful times at her family bach in Islington Bay before World War Two. “At night the bay would be full of yachts and launches. They were so numerous that you could almost walk across the bay on boats. Then someone, on one of the boats, would start up with a mouth organ. Someone else, in another boat, would follow. The crews would start singing and then people on the shore would join in.”

Simmons bach Rangitoto
Simmons bach in Islington Bay Rangitoto Island.

“One Islington Bay bach owner, Jock Loch, was noted for his unusual fishing methods. Wanting to fish from the comfort of his verandah he rigged up a line around a couple of pulleys, with one end attached to the outside of his house, and the other anchored in the sea. After baiting up his hooks, he would wind them down into the tide, tying a bell onto the rope, so that he would be alerted if there was a bite. He would then wind the line back up to his house, with the fish attached.”

By the 1920s there was disquiet about the impact of the baches on the island’s unique ecology. By 1937 a policy of gradually removing the baches had been adopted with owners being given 20 years to vacate and remove the structures. In 1957, when the 20 year time period had expired,  there was a reprieve when the remaining bach owners were granted a new lease for 33 years or the lifetime of the current owner. As the owners gradually reached the end of their lives, the baches started disappearing from the landscape.

Islington Bay bach and remaining infrastructure
At one time there were around 140 baches on Rangitoto Island. Now only some 34 baches remain. The empty infrastructure of vacant building sites and boat ramps can be seen around the coastline as shown here in Islington Bay.

Currently some 34 baches remain on Rangitoto Island. Rather than being seen as a blot on the landscape their historical and cultural value has now been recognised. But their future is still uncertain.

 

One thought on “Rangitoto baches are little gems”

  1. Reading about the Haraki Gulf is to say the last is so enjoyable.
    Well written bringing many unforgotten memories to this
    89 year old ancient marineress.
    In 1949 we sailed the Gulf in our 36′ launch ‘Ra Moana’ .
    Islington Bay was a favourite stop on our way home.
    How well I remember rowing ashore and crunching upwards on the ciner track, with my baby perched on her father’s shoulder.

    Thank you for such good reading.
    Thanks for the memories!
    Marjorie Holmes … ex Kawau Island 30+ years

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