Home' Special Magazines : Rodney Times Historical Insert Contents Focus On: Muriwai, Woodhill
Vehicles must travel slowly on the northern end of Muriwai Beach and
keep off the dunes. Photo: WWW.STUFF.CO.NZ
Ngati Te Kahupara, a sub tribe of both Te Kawerau a Maki and Ngati Whatua
descent, lived there from the 1700s until the late 1800s. They lived mainly at
Otakamiro Point, at Oneonenui in the headwaters of the Okiritoto Stream (Totoanui Falls) and at
Korekore Pa (Pulpit Rock). Two pa were located on Otakamiro Point.
European settlement began in the 1870s and 1880s with John and Annie Foster running a
flax mill at Okiritoto on the Muriwai Stream. Unfortunately it didn't run for long as the flax was
destroyed by fire. William Joseph Moore and his wife Mary and children were the first European
settlers to live within what is now the Muriwai Regional Park. They also bought a block of land that
included what is now the Muriwai Golf Course.
The area was known as Motutara until the mid 1920s when it was promoted as "Muriwai the
beautiful" beach holiday destination.
In 1909 Sir Edwin Mitchelson helped establish the forerunner to the present regional park,
the Motutara Domain. Mitchelson built a large homestead and extensive garden overlooking
Otakamiro Point. Many of the exotic and native trees he planted are within the park.
The first vehicle on the beach was a 'Velie' driven by local farmer William Jonas in 1918. For a
decade from the 1920s the two-day annual Muriwai races were a major event with thousands of
people camping in the dunes.
Between 1865 and 1908 eight vessels were wrecked on the beach north of the stream with the
loss of 11 lives. The US Army occupied the beach around 1942 for training during the Pacific
The surf club was reformed in 1948 and the clubhouse was built in 1953.
The beach remains a popular holiday spot and attracts birdwatchers to the gannet sanctuary.
Beach races: Car races were popular at Muriwai Beach in the 1920s.
Photo: THE RIVERHEAD
Top spot: Walk down to the hot black sand of Muriwai Beach.
Maori occupied the Muriwai
area for centuries.
Ngati Whatua were the
first settlers at Woodhill
with a marae at Reweti.
When Samuel Marsden passed through in 1820, there was friendly
interaction with Europeans, and by the 1880s there was an established
settlement of farming families such as the Holsts, Mackies, Pengellys
and the Vellenoweths.
Schooling was a major concern to integrate the children, and in the 1870s Richard Monk
senior spoke these words in Maori to his friend, Aperehama Uruamo (Porter). The quote
is from the Woodhill School Centennial Booklet. "Porter, it would be a good idea to build a
house of learning for the children and future generations to teach them to understand the
English language, which will be forever ahead of them."
These men were instrumental in establishing Woodhill's first school. It was a punga-type
whare as early as 1871 on Mr J.J. Hoe's farm with the headmaster, Mr W. Fosbroke and
his wife, also a teacher, staying at the Hoes. A government school was authorised in1876,
before Helensville was granted permission in 1877.
In earliest days the flat land bordering the Kaipara River was a swamp, with many fallen
kahikatea trees providing access to the hills behind. These were cleared, as were fine
stands of puriri and kahikatea, to be floated down the Wharepapa stream and taken up to
the mills in Helensville.
Other early developments were the railway stations at Reweti and Woodhill, established
in the 1880s as the railway moved north. A post office was put first at Reweti and later at
Woodhill, and a store, built opposite Ambury's Creamery on the main road, was a general
meeting place. The cream was taken by rail to an Auckland butter factory.
The Woodhill Hall was a major community effort built at the turn of the century and widely
used for church services and community celebrations and meetings. A library was housed
within it in the late1920s. Tennis courts were laid down between the hall and school and
used until well into the 1960s.
In the 1920s reclamation of the dunes encroaching on road and railway brought a new
community of forestry development workers.
In 1934, a nursery was established at Woodhill to supply pine trees for the whole area.
This created the nucleus for a settlement of houses on the hill, where wives and families
made a great contribution to the community. In 1987 with the privatisation of Woodhill
Forest this section was removed and community life altered.
A tragic loss to the district was the Brynder wyn bus accident on February 7, 1963,
when Maori representatives from Reweti were travelling home from meeting the Queen
at Waitangi. Colleen Sheffield, author of Men Came Voyaging, was also killed in this
About 1970 the Woodhill store burnt down.
Visit www.helensvillemuseum.org.nz/districts/woodhill.htm for information.
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