Notes on some features of the Manukau coastline,
from Green Bay to Onehunga
A.W.Glen, November 2006
Green Bay is at the western end of the Blockhouse Bay Historical Society's bailiwick. The bay is a small indentation in the coastline on the inner channel. This bay was the southern exit of the old Maori portage from the Waitemata to the Manukau, via the Whau River. The route was a direct path from the Kaipara Harbour through the portage to the Waitemata, and then inshore to the entrance to the Whau river between the Te Atatu and Rosebank Peninsulas. A stream from the Whau branched off at New Lynn and followed up on the east side of the present day Portage Road, to near Craigavon Park. Another smaller stream exited from Craigavon Park and flowed to the Manukau on the east side of Green Bay Road. This stream entered the Manukau beside the beach facilities building and its course is a deep gully between the road and Motu Moana Camp, the Scout Association's property on the east side of the gully. There has been some filling and land reforming for roads and facilities between the Connaught and Kinross Road intersections. The distance between the two streambeds was about 200 yards. The streams, although not large, would have had enough water in them, at most times of the year, to lubricate mudslides so that the canoes only had to be carried a short distance. At the west end, a short distance from the beach is a rock breastwork, part of the sewerage holding tank which is no longer in use, the sewerage being pumped to the Mangere Treatment Plant.
Motukaraka is the Maori name for the land at the west end of Green Bay Beach, and today Karaka Domain, at the end of Harrybrooke Road. This area was the site of a large pa in the early days. No doubt the pa supplied the manpower to carry canoes over the short portage and help bring the canoes up the creekbeds.
About half way to Te Whau Point, and to the west of the Sugar Loaf, is a small cove known locally as Arman's Bay. This is named after the Armanasco family. Stephano Armanasco came to Blockhouse Bay in 1885 where he bought six acres of land. The property was known as Windy Heights and the house was near the Blockhouse Bay–Taylors Roads junction. About 1895 land was bought in the Michel Street/Taunton Terrace area and a new home, later known as Salisbury House, was built. Today the site of Salisbury House, on the corner of Connell Street and Taunton Terrace, is occupied by the Medlifecare Powley Retirement Village. Arman's Bay is just below the area and in the 1920s had a floating diving platform. The Maori name for the high land between Green Bay and Blockhouse Bay is Owhairaka.
The Motukaraka Bank is the sandbank between the inner and main shipping channels.
On the sandbank opposite the Sugar Loaf, is an outcrop area of papa rock on the edge of the channel. Yachts racing with the Blockhouse Yacht Club were careful to keep clear of this unmarked hazard
The Sugar Loaf
A large rock, and a favourite fishing spot in years gone by.
Te Whau Point
Inside Te Whau Point, catching the morning sun and sheltered from the cold winds, there was a sizeable Maori settlement. The proximity to the portage and the sheltered nature of the village would have made it a popular stopover. The existence of middens on the hill behind and in the bay, showed that there were plenty of shellfish.
Maori from the surrounding area came in season to catch kuaka (godwit), which fed and rested on the flats before flying off on their migration to the northern summer. The Maori had little difficulty in catching many of these birds. There was reputedly a track across to Blockhouse Bay from the Whau.
Blockhouse Bay was a muddy creek with mangroves, until the local people removed the mangroves. In the early 1930s the rock retaining wall was built and the area behind it reclaimed to make a picnic and recreation area. Blockhouse Bay Beach Reserve is very pleasant being protected by Te Whau Point from the cold westerly and southerly winds. The Blockhouse Bay Yacht Club was inaugurated in 1945 and extended the seawall out to Te Whau Point, where they built their clubhouse. The present building is the third one on the site, being finished in 2005. The original is the boat shed close to the cliff. The Blockhouse Bay Reserve is the home of the blue heron, oyster-catchers, shags, kingfishers and a variety of other sea and land birds.
Sandy Bay is a small beach to the east, round a little rock point. The reserve and beach, part of the Avondale South Domain, is reached by a walking track down from Blockhouse Bay Road. In the early years of the 20th century the beach was used in winter as a hauling-out area for the local boats. Many of the yachts were drop-keel and able to sit on the sand, anchored in Sandy Bay, it being the best holding and sheltered from most strong winds.
Flounder Bay, at the bottom of Lewis Street, is well named. It still has the reputation of producing good catches of flounder. In 1884, near the stream at the bottom of Lewis Street, Mr Gittos set up a tannery.
Known locally as Duck Creek, Lynfield Cove was an out-of-the-way area, in what was Harbour Board land. There was no easy land access and the creek was muddy and rocky. The City Council built a rough stone wall near the entrance to the creek and backfilled the floor of the valley. A nice, flat, grassy area has been developed, which unfortunately is open to the resident, cold, south-westerly wind. At this stage there is little tree cover to soften the strength of the wind. Access today to Lynfield Cove is via Gilletta Road.
Lynfield Small Coves
There are two or three small sandy coves between Lynfield Cove and Wattle Bay. These are accessed by walking track from the end of roads on the peninsula or through private property. They are pleasant and private for a beach picnic by boat if the weather is good, but are open to the south-westerly winds.
Wattle Bay is accessed by walking tracks from roads off Hillsborough Road, through the Wattle Bay reserve. In the 1930s and 40s there were several boat sheds on the western foreshore of the bay, which has reasonable shelter from the strong south-westerly winds. These sheds were used mainly by fishermen to house their boats. The Renton brothers of Wattle Bay had a shed in which they kept their champion 16 foot S class yacht, Sirona, in the late 1930s.
Cape Horn (to the Maori Matengarahi) stands out into the Manukau Harbour at the junction of the main shipping channel (Wairopa) and the south channel (Purakau). The name Cape Horn is a good one because, when the strong south-west wind is against an ebbing spring tide, the seas off the point are big and steep. This produces an uncomfortable ride for a yacht 18 foot or larger, but for a small yacht it is very difficult. Any lapse of concentration on the crew's part, a jammed sheet or sloppy change in course can be disastrous, meaning a long stint in the water until help arrives, or the boat drifts into shallow water where the crew can sort things out.
A pleasant beach, which in the 1930s and 40s had road access. One of the features of the bike ride to Waikowhai on a Sunday morning for a swim was the spiral road, where one rode down over a bridge and then round in a circle to ride under the bridge and continue down to the beach. Coming up from the beach the reverse took place.
In the 1950s the Council developed a landfill halfway down the hill and the road to Waikowhai was blocked, so a short walk from the car park is necessary to reach the beach.
The road from the Waikowhai carpark continues down to Wesley Bay, where a rock retaining wall was constructed, with parking and a launching path through the wall to the beach. The sand at Wesley Bay is firmer, and the channel closer than at Waikowhai Beach. The hauling-out area of Wesley Bay is now known locally as Boat Bay.
Pukekaroro is the Maori name for the Hillsborough Heights, which today sport a reservoir at the top of the hill by Richardson Road. The karoro is the black-backed gull, so in the early days the gulls must have had a nesting area on the hill.
Granny's Bay was a popular bay for the locals to keep their boats, being reasonably sheltered from the south-west winds. In the early 1920s, there were a number of moorings laid to accommodate keelers and other boats unable to sit on the sand safely.
Niger Bay was named for the steam packet HMS Niger. The Niger had been at New Plymouth, where her sailors saw some action against the Maori. When she was in the Manukau in the early 1860s, the Niger grounded on either the bar or a bank. The captain beached the boat at the small cove at the outside point of White Bluff, where she was inspected for damage and repaired as necessary. Niger Cove was used by the navy for target practice. Cannonballs were fired at targets on the beach — some balls were not recovered and were hunted and dug up in later years by collectors, and usually sold. Two balls, one 30lb and one 56lb, are on display at Laishley House in Jellicoe Park, Onehunga. One ball is at the Manukau Yacht Club, Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere. Later there was a slipway at Niger Bay, where boats were pulled out to refasten copper sheathing or carry out repairs. A steep access was provided to the top of the cliff. Niger Bay is the site of the watercolour by the Reverend Thomas Hutton, with a group of Maoris enjoying the 1850s equivalent of a barbecue on the beach.
White Bluff (Tetapere) is the prominent headland sheltering Hillsborough Bay and Onehunga Beach from the strong south-westerlies.
This is a large sheltered bay, unfortunately shallow and bare at low tide.
A small bay and beach at the head of Hillsborough Bay, with a pleasant reserve. The reserve is built up behind a rock wall, which by 2006 was being undermined by the tide. The suggestion was that sand be dumped on the beach to protect the wall from further erosion.
In the early days Onehunga Beach was a busy place with cargo being transported back and forth across the harbour to Mangere. Timber was towed in rafts from the bush at the Waitakere Ranges, and was stranded on part of the beach until required at the mill. The main commercial part of the beach was at the end of Church Street, now under the motorway. Beach barter was the trading method at Onehunga before the wharf was built. Ships were unloaded by cutters onto drays and wagons at low tide. There was a brisk trade with Maoris who brought kumara, pigs and poultry in their canoes.
The route to Wellington was through Onehunga, so it was not long before a wharf was built. Initially the ships took passengers to Wellington, but once the railway reached New Plymouth in 1885, an over night service operated to there. This service continued until 1929, when improvements to the service on the main trunk railway, which had started an overnight service to Wellington in 1909, made the shipping route no longer viable.
Onehunga Basin (Geddes Basin) was the Hopua volcanic crater that exploded into existence less than 20,000 years ago. The tuff ring can still be identified, with the lower end of Onehunga Mall, the Manukau Tavern and the businesses on the south side of Neilson Street from the Mall to the motorway access. The rest of the volcanic formation has been lost in the motorway development, the reclamation behind the wharf and the playing fields. The sea breach to the crater of Hopua was on the wharf side of what used to be the Manukau Yacht Club building, now the Sea Scouts. The basin was used as a sheltered mooring area for shallow-draught boats, but in the early 1930s this breach silted and the basin was reclaimed for a reserve over a period. The motorway system has eaten up most of the reclamation. The remains of the reserve has a field for American football, but this could change in projected alterations to the motorway and a second bridge.
The Onehunga wharf was built at the outer end of reclamation, allowing boats to tie up and still be in the channel. Ships still come to Onehunga. The most frequent visitor to the port seems to be the ship bringing cement from Westport. Freight is sent to the South Island on a regular service. In numbers, the fishing fleet tops the list.
The first bridge from Onehunga to Mangere was a wooden structure, the remains of the foundations being just past the motorway bridge on the Onehunga side.
The second bridge, a concrete structure, was opened in 1914. Today it is a little down-at-heel, with some sinking foundations and rusty railings. It is still possible to walk over it, but its main use appears to be a fishing platform.
The third bridge carrying the motorway across the harbour was opened in 1983. The bridge often surpasses its carrying capacity and planning is in progress for a second bridge.
The shore and beaches of the harbour, the cliffs, and in most parts the area behind the cliffs, are vested in the Auckland City Council as a series of reserves. Some of the reserves — Avondale South at Blockhouse Bay, Wattle Bay, Waikowhai and Hillsborough Cemetery and reserve — cover large areas. The whole area is well wooded with primarily regenerating native bush. However, there is an infestation of pine trees and noxious weeds, for which the council has a cleaning-up program. In 2007–08 the pines are to go, as they tend to spread and don't help the growth of the native plants.