Hokianga Sawmill Company Wharf (Former)

Kohukohu Road, Kohukohu

  • Hokianga Sawmill Company Wharf (Former), Kohukohu.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Stuart Park.
  • Hokianga Sawmill Company Wharf (Former), Kohukohu.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martn Jones. Date: 1/09/2002.
  • Hokianga Sawmill Company Wharf (Former), Kohukohu. c.1910 Kauri Timber Company sawmill on the northern shoreline of the Hokianga Harbour. Shows logs floating in the water in front of the mill, and buildings of the township on the hill behind. Auckland Libraries Ref: 1/2-029835-F .
    Copyright: No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: Northwood Brothers.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3947 Date Entered 6th September 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Sec 81 Blk X Mangamuka SD (CT NA978/136, NZ Gazette 1950, p. 8), Pt Sec 81 Blk X Mangamuka SD (s 5, Foreshore and Seabed Endowment Revesting Act 1991), part of the land known as Legal Road (NZ Gazette, 1977, p. 951) and part of the land known as Bed of the Hokianga Harbour, North Auckland Land District, and the structures known as Hokianga Sawmill Company Wharf (Former) thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 31 May 2018.

City/District Council

Far North District


Northland Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 81 Blk X Mangamuka SD (CT NA978/136, NZ Gazette 1950, p. 8), Pt Sec 81 Blk X Mangamuka SD (s 5, Foreshore and Seabed Endowment Revesting Act 1991), Legal Road (NZ Gazette, 1977, p. 951) and Bed of the Hokianga Harbour, North Auckland Land District


The Hokianga Sawmill Company Wharf (Former) at Kohukohu is a notable remnant of one of New Zealand’s most important nineteenth-century industries - the conversion of native forests to timber products. Made of local timber, the wharf was constructed in 1878 to service the Hokianga’s first large-scale, steam-powered sawmill, a major step in the industrialisation of timber production in the region. Used by notable businesses such as the Hokianga Sawmill Company (1878-87) and Kauri Timber Company (c.1888-1912), the wharf reflects the importance of waterborne transport to the industry, as well as associated processes such as log and finished product storage, timber waste disposal and land reclamation. Between 1933 and 1937, it serviced Northland’s largest butter box manufactory, itself connected with the growing importance of dairying as forests were replaced by pasture. Decommissioned in 1938, the wharf remnants reflect Kohukohu’s role as the main timber production centre in the Hokianga during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Kohukohu forms part of the traditional rohe of Te Ihutai hapū of Te Rarawa. During the 1820s and 1830s, local Māori partnered Sydney- and Hobart-based merchants in extracting kauri from throughout the Hokianga Harbour, resulting in the region becoming a pre-eminent centre for New Zealand’s nascent timber-extraction industry. Located at a narrowing of the harbour, Kohukohu became strategically important to this trade, attracting a succession of European merchants to operate a timber and trading base on land adjoining the current wharf remains. In the 1870s, part of this property was selected for the Hokianga’s first steam-powered sawmill, operated by the Hokianga Sawmill Company - a consortium involving South Island, Wellington and other interests. Initial products included baulk, sawn and dressed kauri timber, totara piles, and joinery such as sashes and doors. These were shipped to markets throughout New Zealand and Australia.

The wharf was the first part of the mill to be erected, demonstrating its importance to the enterprise. Largely completed by September 1878, it was constructed by a Māori workforce under the guidance of William Lowe (c.1833-1901), an Auckland shipwright. Described as ‘far superior to the usual style of wharf to be seen at saw-mills’, it was built of heart kauri and totara, incorporating piles up to 57 feet (17.37 m) in length. In plan, it measured some 450 feet (137 m) long and 30 feet (9.15 metres) wide, with two headstocks 12 x 5 feet (3.65 x 1.5 m) in size; and had a tramline on its deck. The structure also formed the southern side of a large boom for holding logs prior to processing, and became integral to the creation of land-based storage and the disposal of timber waste by forming the northern revetment against which reclamation made up of sawdust, timber offcuts and other material took place.

A township developed around the mill which was for a period the third largest settlement north of Auckland. Its inhabitants watched Kohukohu’s first regatta (1880) from the wharf - until 1886, the only major pier in the town. In c.1888, the Melbourne-based Kauri Timber Company (KTC) acquired the mill, adding a large shed at the landward end of the wharf (pre-1892), a tee at its eastern end (pre-1905), and further reclamation against its south side - possibly accommodating additional wharfage. After a hiatus between 1912 and 1924, milling resumed under the King Brothers, when repairs to the wharf probably took place. The wharf subsequently serviced K.D.V. Boxes Limited, whose adjoining butter box factory was the largest built-over space in the Hokianga. Parts of the wharf were probably dismantled after it was sold to the Hokianga Harbour Board in 1938, and its landward end covered over during subsequent construction of a road. Surviving remnants, including piles, associated posts and reclaimed land made up of sawmill waste and related material contribute to an important cultural and historical area at Kohukohu, and a wider landscape connected with timber extraction in the Hokianga.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

William Lowe

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Reclamation against south side of wharf

Wharf shed

Tee at east end of wharf

Further reclamation against south side of wharf

Demolished - additional building on site
Removal of shed

Partial Demolition
Removal of decking

Original Construction
1878 -
Original construction of wharf, including associated piles

Completion Date

15th May 2018

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

Auckland Star, 25 Sep 1878, p. 2.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

SO 3976 & SO 20286, North Auckland Land District, Land Information New Zealand.

Lee, 1987

Jack Lee, Hokianga, Auckland, 1987

Northern Advocate

Northern Advocate

Northern Advocate, 18 Nov 1933, p. 11; 1 Apr 1937, p. 5.

Masters Thesis

Munro, Duncan, ‘Sawdust and Slabs: The disposal of sawn waste from colonial and dominion-era sawmills of New Zealand’, MSc. thesis, University of Auckland, 2012.

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 Nov 1879, p. 3; 6 Jan 1880, p. 3; 12 Mar 1892, p. 1.

Australasian Historical Archaeology

Boswijk, Gretel and Duncan Munro, ‘Making productive space from sawmill waste: timber production and reclamation at Kohukohu, Northland, New Zealand (1879–1912)’, Australasian Historical Archaeology, Vol. 33, 2015, pp. 3-14.

Other Information

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand