The development of port infrastructure on Auckland’s waterfront has been underway since 1851. The shores in front of the CBD were initially very tidal and this made loading and unloading cargo difficult.
By 1859 work had start reclaiming Commercial Bay in an ongoing process of reclamation which is still going today. A list of the reclamations, their dates of construction and sizes is shown below.
More recently proposals for ongoing port development into the Waitemata Harbour by Ports of Auckland have prompted protests and an investigation into other options by the Port Future Study. Options canvassed include constraining the port to its current footprint, allowing further growth or potentially moving the port to the Manuaku harbour, Firth of Thames or Muriwai.
There are two species of dolphin resident in the Hauraki Gulf, the larger bottlenose dolphin and the smaller common dolphin. Bottlenose dolphins live up to around 50 years of age and they grow between 2 and 4 metres long. We still know very little about them but they appear to be using the Hauraki Gulf as a nursery area to bring up their young. The population is considered to be endangered so it is important that we look after these highly intelligent, fascinating animals.
If you want to learn more about dolphins in New Zealand and our interactions with them “Dolphins of Aotearoa“ makes a fascinating read.
Common dolphins are not considered to be endangered but anecdotally there are far fewer in the Hauraki Gulf than in the past. They are commonly sighted in large pods around ‘boil ups’ of fish and will play in the bow waves of boats travelling past.
The Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari take people out to see dolphins, whales and seabirds most days. They have kindly made available some stunning images of Humpback and Bryde’s Whales, Orca and Common and Bottlenose Dolphins for reproduction in The Story of the Hauraki Gulf.
Watching these extraordinary animals in their natural environment, on the very door step of Auckland, is a very thrilling experience.
The first New Zealand scow was built in 1873 by the Mieklejohn family at Omaha, inspired by the timber scows which operated on the Great Lakes in North America. They were ugly, clumsy square boats with flat bottoms designed to draw little water and to beach squarely on the beach. They also carried all their cargo on deck making loading and unloading easier.
Over 130 scows were built in New Zealand over a period of 50 years. They were a common sight around all the beaches and bays of the Hauraki Gulf. They were used to transport timber, sand and all manner of goods.
The remains of the last scow trading on the Hauraki Gulf under sail, Rahiri (formerly called Daphne) can still be seen on Blackpool Beach, Waiheke Island as shown in the feature image.
The scow Jane Gifford can still be seen sailing on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. She was built in 1908 by Davey Darroch at his Ōmaha boatyard and named after the Scottish immigrant ship which had brought Darroch and his family to Auckland in 1842. She had a busy and varied life carting granite, shell, road metal and general cargo.
By the 1950s the Jane Gifford had reached the end of her working life. In 2005 Peter Thompson and Hugh Gladwell set up the Jane Gifford Restoration Trust and purchased the old hulk for $10. Through fundraising and volunteer labour they restored her to her former glory. The Jane Gifford can now be seen tied up to the wharf at Warkworth. She operates a full schedule of sailings for schools and members of the public.
The P Class yacht was designed in 1920 by Harry Highet as a training boat for children. Although it was first sailed in Tauranga, it was not until the Ponsonby Cruising Club adopted the small craft in 1941 that it really took off.
Many notable sailors trained in the tiny boats in the Hauraki Gulf including Sir Peter Blake, Dean Barker, Sir Russell Coutts, Chris Dickson and Leslie Egnot. They were difficult boats to sail, particularly in heavy winds, as they have a tendency to nose-dive going downwind. This honed the balancing skills of the young sailors.
The rich maritime history of the Hauraki Gulf can be seen in the numerous wrecks still littered around its shores. Perhaps the most famous wreck lies off Moturekareka Island (close to Kawau Island). Here the ribs of the ‘Rewa’ a 3000 tonne, four-masted barque can be seen sheltering the bay. The wreck was bought by Charlie Hansen in 1930 and he had it towed to Moturekareka by an Auckland Harbour Board tug. Reports indicate that the prime purpose Hansen had in mind was to provide a breakwater for his beach but he may also have intended to use the vessel for accommodation and for a cabaret.
According to a 1930 report in the Evening Post, a Mr G Bennett was installed as caretaker of the vessel and he slept onboard. On 2 July at:
“about 2 o’clock in the morning, the barque started to list slightly and there were mysterious rumblings and the sound of falling materials almost continually throughout the night. At about 5 o’clock there was a crash. The bow-line parted with a loud report, and the barque heeled over to her port.”
Bennett scrambled ashore under torchlight and the stranded vessel was left with a 45 degree list.
Charlie Hansen used material from the ship’s superstructure to build a shack on the top of the hill on Moturekareka. He also let visiting yachties, such as Johnny Wray, take pieces. Wray describes his visit to Moturekareka in his book South Sea Vagabonds:
‘To anyone nautically minded his house was a perfect delight. It was built largely from gear salvaged from the ship ‘in his front garden’, as he called it. Lifebelts, binnacles, wheels, flags, shrouds, ropes, rails; in fact everything dear to the heart of a sailor was built into that little home. There was a library there that must have contained every nautical book ever published, a library that would be the heart’s desire of any true sea-lover. A perfect home for an old sailor.’
The restoration of Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wonderful success. The restoration project was initiated by the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park Board. It was the first time that public volunteers were used for island conservation in New Zealand and many thought that the approach would not work, that you could only have a successful nature reserve if the public was not allowed to go there.
The planting programme started in 1984. Members of the public were invited to come and help. Over a decade later over 250,000 native trees had been planted. Eleven bird species how now been translocated back to the island.
Tiritiri Matangi is ecologically important, not only as a site where wildlife can thrive, but as a breeding ground for rare species that can be transferred to other islands. It has also become a very popular place for visitors. But perhaps even more importantly, the project provided inspiration for other island restoration projects, in the Hauraki Gulf and elsewhere.
Thousands of Aucklanders, and people living in other coastal settlements around the Hauraki Gulf go fishing each year. Many people enjoy catching fish from mussel farms located around the Gulf. The farms attract snapper which feed on the growing mussels. The large Wilsons Bay mussel farms in the Firth of Thames now support a growing charter boat industry.
Mussel Barge Snapper Safaris is a small family owned business which operates fishing charters out of Coromandel. The images on this page were taken on one of their excellent trips.
The Story of the Hauraki Gulf features in the Listener’s Best 100 Books of 2016 and in the New Zealand Herald’s Best Books of 2016.
“It’s big, beautifully illustrated, packed with information about pretty much every aspect of the gulf, from the early Polynesian navigators who first found it to the environmental activists involved in repairing the damage done by centuries of settlement, and perhaps best of all it is full of personal stories about the individuals involved in its multi-faceted history. This is a book that, like the gulf itself, is surely destined to endure.” Jim Eagles, NZ Herald. Read full review.
“With its lovely maps and photos and prose as clear as glass, the book just kept opening up. This is a wonderful book.” Geoff Chapple, NZ Listener. Read full review.
“This is a beautiful tribute to a stunning part of New Zealand, and one that we should all have on our shelves.” Boat Books
The Story of the Hauraki Gulf is a social, cultural and environmental celebration of an extraordinary place. It brings together the many fascinating strands of history to provide a rich insight into the Gulf today and its possible future.
“I hope that the stories in this book will prompt readers to recall their own species stories of the Hauraki Gulf, and of other treasured locations. Because it is only if we remember our stories, if we tell our stories and if we act on them that we can ensure that out special places will endure.”
THE BOOK HAS A LIMITED PRINT RUN. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T MISS OUT. CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY NOW
The book, authored by Raewyn Peart from the Environmental Defence Society and published by David Bateman Ltd, is printed in high quality coffee table format with over 300 historic and contemporary images. The wonderful photos of the Hauraki Gulf highlight what an extraordinary place it is.
Although many people think that the Hauraki Gulf only includes the area between Bream Head and Cape Colville, it is much bigger than this.
The Story of the Hauraki Gulf takes in the entire Hauraki Gulf Marine Park which covers around 1.4 million hectares of marine space and over fifty islands. Some of the larger islands include Great Barrier Island, Great Mercury Island, Little Barrier Island and Waiheke Island.
The Story of the Hauraki Gulf is almost ready to go off to the printers. The designer Nick Turzynski has done a fantastic job of bringing all the images, the text, and the personalised stories together into a great looking format. I can’t wait to see it all the material professionally printed and bound.
A Celebration of Our Association with this Remarkable Place