Maori and Pakeha Settlement in the Kaipara
When Pakeha settlers arrived in the Arapaoa River area of the Kaipara Harbour, they found Maori welcoming and willing to sell land, with a significant exception. William Henry Heathcote Jackman (1846 - 1923) is quoted as saying of Whakapirau in the 1870s:
It’s tapu enough now, though, and has been ever since the battle which, I opine, must have been fought about 1825. The chiefs won’t sell an inch of this piece to any one and not a Maori dares go near it. Lots of people have tried to buy it, and have even offered as much as five pounds an acre for its magnificent soil; but the Maoris are not to be tempted, and, what’s more, say they’ll have utu from any Pakeha that goes into it.
Under the guise of ‘Old Colonist’, Jackman’s account of the battle describes an attack on Ngati Whatua by Ngapuhi under Hongi Hika, following the battle of Te Ika-a-Ranganui in 1825. Ngati Whatua’s defence was based on Marohemo Pa (about 2 kilometres east of Whakapirau town). Hongi, wearing the helmet and armour given to him by King George, led the attack, which lasted three days. Eventually Ngapuhi prevailed, and Ngati Whatua were killed in large numbers. ‘The bodies of the slain lay in piles, and their blood flowed in streams down the hill’. Jackman recounts an incident to explain why Ngapuhi left the bodies lying there.
Heathcote Jackman owned the land to the north of Whakapirau, while to the south the landowner was Captain Colbeck. Jackman had bought 1,000 acres for £2 per acre, considered a fair price for first class land. It was Colbeck who ‘scooped up the land by building a mausoleum for the bones. It was a handsome, chapel like building, constructed of stone with buttressed walls. The internal walls were lined with shelves, the skulls were prised out of tree forks, the bones were gathered up and the ancestors of the Ngati Whatua were stacked inside’. This opened the land up for settlement and the development of the town of Whakapirau. Jackman was a pioneer grower of grapes on his land to the immediate north of Whakapirau - an Italian expert Romeo Bragato described his wine as ‘equal, and very likely superior, to any wine imported into the country’. In the 1890s, Jackman planted eight acres of grapes, growing classic European grape varieties, rather than the American variety being used by most grape growers at the time. To help his vines grow, Jackman advocated the use of bonedust, broadcast at the rate of three to five hundredweight an acre. According to Kaipara historian Dick Scott, Jackman broke into the Ngati Whatua ossuary and ground up the bones for his vineyard. The ossuary was situated on the spur immediately above the wharf at Whakapirau, a few hundred metres from the subsequent site of the dairy factory. It does not survive, having been demolished by Maori after the bones were removed. Photographs in the collections of The Kauri Museum, Matakohe and Auckland War Memorial Museum reveal that it was built of brick with ashlar render, rather than stone. It was still present at least until 1905 but had been removed by 1912. Local oral history suggests a date of 1909 for its removal.
This part of the Kaipara harbour was the focus for settlement by a group of English colonists who settled at Port Albert during 1862 and 1863. At the time the provincial government in Auckland was offering Special Settlement Schemes to encourage development in the north. This particular settlement was named in honour of Queen Victoria's consort who had died the previous year. From Port Albert, some of the settlers spread out to establish a number of towns in the Kaipara, and as these grew, so too did their outreach as centres for local government, business and church activities. Paparoa became the main centre at the head of the Arapaoa River, and the twin settlements of Pahi and Whakapirau straddled the Pahi River leading to it, and served as its port. By and large the Albertlanders lived on the Pahi side of the river, and slightly later arrivals like Heathcote Jackman took up land on the Whakapirau side.
The settlers on the Whakapirau side of the Pahi River established a number of enterprises, and once the ossuary had solved the problem of the tapu, they were able to expand into Whakapirau itself. ‘Symonds’s timber mill at Pahi was moved across to the new site, Jackman built a bigger general store and a gum-trading depot there, residential sections were subdivided, a boarding house and livery stables were erected..The new village was called Karaka, the name of the chief [Arama Karaka] who had always collaborated so well with the Pakeha. The honour was a brief one...Karaka was also the name for Drury, Thames and other places in both islands and the post office required a change. The name Whakapirau was taken from Whakapirau Creek, down-harbour..’
Heathcote Jackman rose to some local prominence, representing Whakapirau Riding on Rodney and subsequently Otamatea County Councils, and becoming Chairman of Otamatea County from 1902 - 1913. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1896 as a candidate for Waitemata. In 1898 he was elected President of the 50-strong North Auckland Vinegrowers Association, when they held their second annual meeting in Whakapirau.
Dairy Farming in Northland
Samuel Marsden introduced the first cattle into New Zealand in 1814, when he brought to the Bay of Islands a bull and two heifers given to him by Governor Macquarie of New South Wales. By 1824, a dairy herd of at least fifty was being farmed at the Kaikohe mission of Rev. Richard Davis by Rawiri Taiwhanga. The first cooperative dairy company in New Zealand was established at Howick in 1848, while one of the first cooperative cheese factories in the world was begun on the Otago Peninsula in 1871. With the growing demand for dairy products in Great Britain and the development of refrigeration, there was considerable development of the New Zealand dairy industry, though Northland was slow to follow. In 1884, when Northland’s first dairy manufacturing plant began operation at Maungakaramea, there were already 124 butter and cheese factories in the country, and by 1902, as Northland’s first cooperative companies were being formed, there were 289 dairy factories in operation in New Zealand, 142 cooperatives and 147 proprietary.
North Kaipara Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd
From 1900 onwards, there was a proliferation of dairy factories in Northland. The first cooperative was established in Waipu in 1900, followed by those at Kaitaia, Oruru-Fairburn and Bay of Islands in 1901 and Dargaville, Matakana, Hakaru and Maungaturoto in 1902. Port Albert started in 1903 and Hikurangi and North Kaipara in 1904.
The opening of the Whakapirau butter factory is described at length in an account in the local newspaper:
Opening of a New Butter Factory, Whakapirau.
Tuesday, the 27th September, was a red letter day in the history of North Kaipara. The occasion being the opening of the now butter factory belonging to the North Kaipara Co-operative Dairy Co. The shareholders with their wives and families turned out in full force, notwithstanding the inclement state of the weather. The proceedings commenced with a sumptious [sic] lunch to which full justice was done, after which Mr McMurdo, chairman of Directors, addressed the assemblage and traced the history of the company. In an able speech he urged upon all the necessity of pulling together and also of bringing in large quantities of good cream so as to make the factory a success.
He was followed by Mr Cullen chairman of the Maungaturoto Co., who urged upon the shareholders the necessity of all pulling together and carrying on the business as a true co-operative company. The Chairman then called upon Mr Bishop, representative of Messrs J. B. MacEwan and Co., the contractors for supplying and fitting up the machinery.
Mr Bishop.. congratulated the district on the decided advance it was making. He instanced the prosperity that had followed the establishment of butter factories in other parts of New Zealand and said no doubt it would have the same effect at Kaipara. He pointed out the difference in the fleeting prosperity caused by timber and gum as against the permanent prosperity that would follow the establishment of permanent industries such as butter factories. He said the gum and timber were nearly done and asked what was the district the better for it? He said when a farmer had to go off his farm to earn money it was so much time wasted as he had nothing to show for his labour, whereas by starting a butter factory they enabled the fanner to live and work at home thereby improving his holding and adding to the permanent prosperity and value of the district.
He then gave some comparisons between the so called poor North and the rest of New Zealand. He stated that whereas the total area of the Northern peninsula was only one twenty-fifth of the whole of Now Zealand it contained one twelveth [sic] of the total cattle in the colony and therefore could not be such a poor place after all.
Mr Rathbone, one of the Directors, followed and paid a high tribute to the builders, Messrs Weber and Sons, and to the contractors for supplying the machinery, Messrs J. B. MacEwan and Co. He said they had one of the most up-to-date factories in New Zealand and it reflected great credit upon the latter firm who had shown their knowledge of what was wanted by fitting up the plant in such excellent style. Mr Campbell, manager of the Maungaturoto factory, and Mr Jackman also spoke, and urged upon all the necessity of making the undertaking a success. Mr Angel said the success of the company was assured because the promoters were all of good old British bulldog breed who did not know the meaning of the word defeat (loud cheers). Everything now being ready Mrs McMurdo declared the factory open, amidst cheers. Mr Drake, the manager, then put the machinery in motion, and after explaining the process of receiving, cooling and ripening the cream, ran the cream from the vat to the churn, stating the butter would be churned in half an hour, and as a proof that he knew what he was talking about the butter was churned in the time stated. The butter was then placed on the worker and the process was watched by an interested crowd of farmers and their wives and daughters, who compared the method of working it by machinery with the hard labour system they had been used to. Needless to say, the comparison was not in favour of the latter.
The factory is built on the beach alongside the wharf and was specially designed by Mr Percival of Inglewood and reflects great credit upon him and the contractors Messrs Weber and Sons of Pahi. The machinery which was supplied and fitted up by the well known firm of Messrs J. B. MacEwan and Co. consists of a 21 H.P. Campbell oil engine, a two ton Humble and Sons refrigerator, cream vat, churn, butter worker and the hundred and one items that go to make an up-to-date butter factory. The fitting up, which has been planned to minimise the work at the factory as much as possible reflects great credit on the engineer and especially upon Mr [?W.W.D. - indistinct] Robertson who drew out the plans.
A detailed account of the history of the North Kaipara company has been provided in a publication by its second manager, Andrew Campbell. Campbell says that the North Kaipara Dairy Company began operations in 1904, with a butter factory built on concrete piles at the Whakapirau Wharf. It had creameries at Matakohe and Ararua, and used a motor launch, the first to be used in the district, to collect the cream and bring it to the factory. At this date the nature of the roads in the Kaipara was such that harbour access was the only feasible means of transport, with the use of motorised trucks not being used until the 1920s. However, trucks were used to bring the cream from the farms to the wharves, and this dual cartage expense was a heavy burden on the company.
There were other problems as well. The strongly tidal nature of the arms or ‘rivers’ of the Kaipara meant long hours had to be worked at the factory to fit the transport times of the cream. The factory relied on springs for its water supply, and these proved unreliable, drying up at times. There was no market for the buttermilk that was a by-product of the butter making, until company Secretary - Manager Campbell added pig feeding to his many other duties. He tells us the pig branch proved profitable and interesting as well.
Andrew Campbell, a young man in his twenties, had come from Taranaki to take up the position of manager at the Maungaturoto factory in 1903. He had spent a year in Scotland in 1905 studying dairy science, and then returned in 1906 to take up the position at North Kaipara.
Campbell indicates that in spite of the logistic and financial obstacles, the company was profitable and successful for eleven years, and produced an excellent grade of butter. However, the development of dairy farming in the district did not proceed as rapidly as anticipated, so that the factory never achieved its production potential, and thus was unable to achieve its optimum output to minimise its overhead and manufacturing costs. A newspaper account from the rival Northern Wairoa Dairy Company at Mangawhare near Dargaville gloated that ‘The Mangawhare factory is sending away one ton and a half [of butter] daily, and that quantity, it is interesting to note, is equal to the weekly output of Whakapirau factory.’ In the light of this situation, the directors believed their best interests would be served by amalgamation with the larger and older neighbouring Maungaturoto Dairy Company, and began negotiations with it in 1915.
The Maungaturoto Dairy Company had tried to collect milk from this part of the Kaipara in 1903, based on the privately owned Ararua Butter Factory that had begun in 1898. The Maungaturoto company tried to arrange for milk to be brought to the Matakohe wharf by steamship, but difficulties with the harbour operation caused this to fail, and the Maungaturoto company had abandoned the district, which had allowed the North Kaipara Company to be formed. In 1915, however, amalgamation was agreed to. Most of the North Kaipara suppliers were taken into the Maungaturoto Cooperative, £1500 was paid to North Kaipara for the company’s supply and assets, and the butter factory at Whakapirau was sold, to become a community hall. The founding Chairman of the North Kaipara Company, Henry McMurdo, became a director of the Maungaturoto company. Cream collection for Maungaturoto was still by use of the North Kaipara launch, but a half mile long tramway built over the tidal flats provided improved access to the Maungaturoto factory at all states of the tide, solving many of the collection logistics and enabling much more economical factory hours to be worked.
As noted below, the legal situation in respect of the land tenure of this site has been at best ambiguous for much of its history. It may well always have been situated on public land (esplanade reserve), but it has been treated as if it were public land. There is no surviving record as to who purchased the factory from the Maungaturoto Dairy Company when it sold the Kaipara factory, though it seems quite possible that it may have been Heathcote Jackman, whose store and house were adjacent. However, Jackman’s fortunes were in severe decline at this stage of his life, and he died in 1923 aged 77.
The hall came to be administered, and perhaps owned, by a body referred to as the Whakapirau Hall Committee. Unfortunately, the records of the organisation have not been able to be located. The following information derives primarily from information supplied by Owen and Mary Stevens of Pahi, whose families have had a long connection to Whakapirau. Mary grew up in the house opposite the former dairy factory.
The hall was used for a wide variety of community purposes, including meetings, musical performances and rehearsals, dances and life milestone celebrations such as twenty-first birthday celebrations and wedding receptions. Table tennis and badminton was played in the hall. Mary Stevens had singing lessons in the hall. Owen Stevens’ parents met at a dance in the hall in the late 1930s, and their wedding reception was held there in 1942. The dances held in association with the Pahi Regatta were also held there for many years, since Pahi itself lacked a suitable hall. The hall was the local polling station in several parliamentary elections in 1931, 1935, and 1938.
Monthly meetings of the local branch of the Country Women’s Institute were held in the hall, from at least the period from the late 1940s to about 1960. Owen Stevens’ mother used to row down the Arapaoa River from the Stevens property at Cloon Even, collect fellow members at Pahi wharf and row them across to Whakapirau for the C.W.I. meetings. She then rowed them back again at the conclusion of the meetings.
The annual Oyster Dance to mark the opening of the season was also held in the Whakapirau hall between Easter and May. From the late nineteenth century onwards, oysters began to be harvested commercially in the Kaipara, and from the 1930s the Marine Department began to enhance natural stocks with the construction of artificial settlement areas. This provided a basis for a new industry in the Kaipara.
To process the increasing quantities of oysters being harvested, processing facilities were required. In about 1970, the Whakapirau hall was sold by Bruce Leach to Whakapirau Oysters Ltd, a company of Bluff oyster interests that came to farm oysters in the Kaipara. The hall was converted to use as an oyster processing factory. Subsequently, the oyster factory business passed though several local interests, including Ken and Doreen Quaife, Martin Roff and Colin Leask. With the accidental introduction of the Pacific oyster in the early 1970s, oyster farming came to be based on the Pacific oyster in the Kaipara, as in other parts of Northland, since Pacific oysters grow vigorously in Northland conditions.
The former butter factory and hall was still being used as an oyster processing plant circa 2000 when the author first visited it, but that use had ended by 2005.
In 2010, the present owner purchased the building with plans for its conversion to use both as holiday accommodation, and for use again as a community hall.
The former North Kaipara Dairy Company Factory is situated at the end of Whakapirau road, on the south bank of the Arapaoa River at Whakapirau, beside the Whakapirau wharf. Although treated for many years as being privately owned, it is situated at the landward (southern) end on land that is esplanade reserve, now vested in Kaipara District Council, projecting at its northern end into the Kaipara Harbour on concrete piles.
The earliest plan that has been located which shows the building dates from May 1959. It shows the landward end of the building being on the esplanade reserve, with the south-western end projecting into the ‘Te Pahi’ (Arapaoa) River.
The former North Kaipara Dairy Company Factory is a rectangular kauri weatherboard building with a gabled corrugated iron roof. While constructed essentially as a single storey building, it did have an upper floor with both internal and external access. It is supported on concrete piles, many of them in the harbour at high tide, and a number of them now quite corroded.
The building is oriented north-east - south-west, projecting into the Arapaoa River at its south-western end. Alterations over its lifetime have changed some of the openings, but as originally configured the factory had two nine pane possibly fixed windows on its south-western (river) end wall. The southern of these two windows has been replaced by a wider corrugated roller door, believed to date from the 1980s use of the building as an oyster factory.
The northwest wall provided the main entrances from the wharf and the land. About a third of the way from the north-western corner was a pair of top mounted sliding doors, clad with diagonal boards. Above these, giving entry into the upper floor, is a smaller pair of similar doors. These are protected from the weather by an open dormer, roofed in corrugated iron. To the left of the main double doors, a small square hatch was covered with a wooden door at chest height. This would seem to have been for communication between those making deliveries and the factory workers. To the left again, about a third of the way from the north-eastern corner of the building was a tall single width doorway, extending the full height of the wall. In contemporary photographs this does not seem to have had a door, but to give access to a cylindrical tank on a raised floor. At the north-eastern end of this wall is another pair of nine pane windows, separated by a pair of hinged wooden doors.
Most of these openings on the north-western side remain, albeit somewhat altered. The double doors at the north-eastern end have been replaced by a pair of aluminium framed glass doors, and the windows either side are now double hung windows, six pane over six on the left and four over four on the right. The tall opening has been filled in with weather boards, and the square hatch has been replaced by a smaller square fixed window. The main sliding doors under the dormer remain, at the upper level, though at ground level the top hung sliding external doors have been replaced by an internally mounted corrugated roller door, again probably dating from the oyster factory use. The main building had four revolving cylindrical vents with conical covers.
At the north-eastern (landward) end of the building there was originally a small weatherboard lean-to, with a single door on its eastern side. This lean-to was served by a tall cylindrical metal chimney flue, and would seem likely to have been the boiler-room. This original weatherboard lean-to has been replaced by a larger lean-to structure, made of board and corrugated iron with a corrugated iron roof. It has a single aluminium door in its eastern wall.
No historic photographs have been located that show details of the north-eastern and south-eastern sides of the building. The north-eastern end of the lean-to currently has no openings. On the south-eastern wall, there are currently three window openings towards the south-western end of the main building. Two of these are boarded over but the third has nine panes, matching those shown historically on the south-western end, suggesting that these may be original windows. At the south-eastern end, there is a top mounted sliding door that may be original. The modern lean-to has a six pane window on this south-eastern wall, as well as a another top mounted sliding door.
Inside the building nothing remains of the dairy factory equipment, but many of the interior finishes survive, especially in the south-western part of the building. The north-eastern end of the main building and the lean-to have modern finishes, but at the south-western end the ceiling sarking, match lining and timber floors all appear to be original.
In spite of, or perhaps even because of, its relatively short life as a dairy factory, and its subsequent use for other purposes, the former North Kaipara Dairy Company Factory has remained essentially intact as it was built. It is a rare surviving example of a kauri dairy factory built beside a harbour to utilise marine transport. While it has been modified, it retains many elements of its original design and construction. Other dairy factories which lasted in longer use were modified and altered to meet changing needs, and the use of road transport. Because this did not happen at Whakapirau, this represents a rare survivor.
Sale of the factory for use as a community hall. The dairy plant and equipment was removed
Purchase and use of the building by Whakapirau Oysters Ltd, with modifications to some external doors and windows, and the interior
Kauri, corrugated iron, concrete piles
12th September 2011
Report Written By
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908
Scott, 1987 (2)
Dick Scott, Seven Lives on Salt River, Auckland, 1987
Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, Whitcombe and Tombs, Christchurch, 1910.
Sir Henry Brett and Henry Hook, The Albertlanders Brett, Auckland, 1927
Dick Butler, This Valley in the Hills Maungaturoto Centennial Association 1963
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northland Area Office.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.