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Settlement of Titahi Bay

Early History and Maori Legend

Maori legend tells us that the Polynesian navigator Kupe landed at Komanga Point, 3 kilometres west of Titahi Bay in the 10th Century, leaving an anchor stone, Te Punga o Matahorua, which today can be seen at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

The Bay area was settled by Maori before the arrival of Europeans and several pa sites are located nearby. Titahi Bay began its life as a series of fishing villages and pa for Ngati Ira making it one of the largest and oldest suburbs in Porirua City. The peninsula of Whitireia was the site of extensive gardening which contributed to the wealth of food already available from nearby forests. Ngati Ira built many pa in the area, including one at Komanga Point and another at Te Pa o Kapo. Te Pa o Kapo is still mostly intact and can be visited with easy access from Terrace Road.

The wider Bay area was the site of many inter-iwi conflicts, notably in the 1820s, when Ngati Toa led by Te Rauparaha and his nephew, Te Rangihaeata, invaded the area and the survivors from Ngati Ira fled to the Wairarapa and South Island.

Arriving shortly after, the first European residents were whalers, who set up three whaling stations around the Porirua region, including Thom's Station where Ngati Toa Domain is now, and Korohiwa (or Coalheavers) which was halfway between Titahi Bay and Komanga Point.

As increasing numbers of settlers arrived from Britain, conflict between Europeans and Ngati Toa over land increased. On 23 July 1846, Te Rauparaha was seized at Taupo Pa in Plimmerton and soon after Te Rangihaeata was forced to retreat into the Horowhenua after a fight between him, his men of Ngati Toa and Government troops at Battle Hill.

Today, Porirua Arena bears Te Rauparaha's name.

William Jillet was one of the earliest European farmers in the area, arriving in 1864, and he has often been called the ‘true pioneer’ of Titahi Bay. Jillet started up a horse-drawn ‘bus’ service from the Bay to Porirua and became the first postmaster in 1902.

Titahi Bay was also the point where the telegraph and telephone cables from across Cook Strait came ashore and the old cable house still exists (now a private home).

Mana Island Lookout (south end of Terrace Road) has fantastic views over the Strait and to Mana Island, first visited by Kupe, which is now an offshore wildlife sanctuary.

Early 1900's

From the 1920's real estate and holiday brochures promoted Titahi Bay's 'broad, deep sweep of sandy beach' as a natural and healthy destination. Most of these early holiday-makers would catch the train to Porirua and then the horse bus to the Bay. It is believed that the first bach was built in Christmas of 1900 by the Sievers family.

They were soon followed by businessmen from Wellington and Manawatu. Mrs Thornley, who from 1903 ran the Titahi Bay Club Hotel for thirty years, had a couple of cottages to let. The Titahi Bay Club Hotel provided accommodation and tearoom facilities throughout the twenties. Mrs Thornley’s son continued the business along with a little ‘sly-grogging’. After the Second World War, it was run as a nightclub. The Club was finally demolished in 1953.

1940 Housing Shortages - bring in the Austrians!

In the late 1940's, following the end of World War II and the baby boom, there was a drastic housing shortage in New Zealand. Over 45,000 people were on a state housing waiting list. In 1952, to solve this problem, the Government decided to import 1000 pre cut houses to New Zealand. Five hundred of these houses were to be built in Titahi Bay. As New Zealand was also suffering from a lack of experienced builders, 194 tradesmen from Austria accompanied the houses to build them. Many of these Austrians remained in the Bay and the houses are still referred to as the Austrian State Houses.

Swinging 60's

It wasn't until the 1960's that community development began in earnest. The 1960's were a boom time for Titahi Bay with the Titahi Bay Road providing better access to the Bay, new houses being built and everything growing – from the shopping centre and sports clubs, to children, teenagers and school rolls. Titahi Bay residents had to campaign hard during the 60's to ensure the community received the basic services and amenities it required from central and local government.

Let's Talk Sewage...

There were a number of significant events beginning in the 1960's, including the construction of the sewage treatment plant. In 1960 the main truck sewer was tunnelled through the bluff at the south end of the Bay to the outfall site. But, to residents’ horror, in certain weather conditions sewage drifted back towards the beach. By the 1980's the Porirua City Council was advising people not to swim in the water. In 1986 construction on the $26 million sewage treatment plant began and it was opened in 1989 by then Prime Minister David Lange and hailed as one of the most technically advanced systems around. The plant has since been substantially upgraded even further.

1970's onwards and upwards

The 1970's were the busiest years for the Whitehouse Rd shopping centre with about 20 stores including the fruit supply, butchery, pharmacy, dairy, post office, hardware and stationary and gift store. Due to a combination of factors, including the arrival of a giant shopping mall in Porirua City, the centre struggled to survive in the late 1980's. Another nail in the coffin was the closure of the Postbank in 1993 and many other stores followed suit.  Residents and retailers work hard to keep their local shopping centre vital. Today Titahi Bay shopping centre includes a busy branch library, a pharmacy, Plunket Rooms, a small supermarket, several other dairies, a bakery, a Police Hub staffed by volunteers, a pub, a hairdressers and a vet.

Next: Fossilised Forest