History of Waiheke Island

s1Her ancient Maori name "Te Motu-arai-roa" - The Long Sheltering Island.

The "long sheltering Island" was already known by Maori as Waiheke
Ngati Paua claimed the motu as tangata whenua round 1700.

The full name, Motu-Wai-Heke means island of trickling waters, - or descending waters, (Maori word for cascade being hukere). The deep forest litter absorbed the heaviest rains... to be slowly released in trickling streams of pure clear filtered water. The Island was widely known amongst Maori for her abundant water. In 1820 James Downie, the master of the store ship HMS Coromandel, made a chart of the Tamaki Strait & the Coromandel Coast. He labeled the Island Motu Wy Hake, spelling the name as he heard it.s2
Pockets of Pohutukawa, Puriri, and Taraire occupied their own ecological niches in the valleys and the coastlines. Many other trees & shrubs important to our Tupuna, found their own niches wherever there was moisture, shelter & light.

Forests of Kauri, Rimu & Totara once upon a time abundant through the motu… Fire destroyed s3this at the western end. The fires were probably started accidentally by our Tupuna clearing bush for garden plots during long dry spells.
Our motu was rich in natural resources to the Stone Age people who first lived here. Maori term for those times was Te-Ao-Kohatu, the world of stone. The open sea, the sandy beaches, the rocky shores and tidal estuaries swarmed with kai moana, Ika, shellfish, crayfish, crabs, kutai. The Forest producing vegetables foods, greens berries as well as birds for a good kai in the hangi and cooking pots. Freshwater streams of pure clear water trickled down every valley providing habitat for native trout, eels, fresh water crayfish and fresh water mussels! Eels lurked in the swamps and wetlands.
The forest supplied timber for building huge war canoes, and waka small enough for fishing. Timber being used for house frame, garden tools and for utensils and implements of everys4 kind. Raupo thrived in swamps for thatching and the roots & pollen head for food. Outcrops of greywacke & basalt boulders provided raw materials for stone tool makers, although the local stone was not of the first quality. High quality basalt was sourced from Great Barrier and the tough hard argillite from the South Island.


Our Island sheltered canoe traffic passing through the Tamaki strait from bad weather coming in from the North. The Island's Inhabitants were able to keep watch of the strait from the watch towers of their Pa. This being one out of 46 sites posted around vital high points throughout the motu. Travelers’ plying the strait must of wondered what wealth lay hidden in the bush clad valleys and within its deep estuaries opening out to the south...

Our Maori history for the motu follows the classical pattern of one tribe conquering and ousting another. The earliest coming from the Western Pacific about 950 A.D., the Maru-Iwi who were overrun several centuries later by the children of Toi whose effect upon Hauraki was s5much the same as the Normans' on England. Hogi Hika's war parties of the 1820's paid the motu frequent & bloody attention. The population of the human kind was never large. Small whanau groups of perhaps 30-40 kinsmen settled around the coast and on flatlands behind the beaches, making a total of about twelve hundred. Some settlements being occupied for short periods as our Tupuna moved with the seasons, like when the fish were running in schools or forest foods were in season. As agriculture was developed the settlements became more permanent and located close to garden plots.

At the very beginning of human habitation, the motu would have been in its primeval state, with noisy birds inhabiting every level of the dense bush from the canopy to the bush litter. Many being, ground birds with limited powers of flight. No land mammals except for kinds of small bats. No rats, mice, cats, dogs no predators of any kind apart from birds and marine mammals, the only vertebrate animals were three orders of lizards, geckoes, skinks, and tuatara. The arrival of our Tupuna brought profound changes to the forest environment. The large flightless birds were made for easy pickings and were hunted to extinction. Bones found in mittens, and bone deposits found in caves and swamps being proof to this. Now I beg to differ here as we have been told the Kiore, the big Polynesian rat, STOWED away, on the great voyaging canoes. Anyone has another opinion of this?? I reckon our Tupuna knew what they were doing and brought them along fors6 their food source. And they are still alive by the time our people hit the shores, must of been pets! On making the landfall the numbers of the Kiore multiplied rapidly and compete with the bird species foraging in the bush litter and raising their young on the forest floor.

Our Tupuna agriculture required bush to be felled for garden plots, but it wasn't until the 19th Century the European farmers and timber merchants cleared the forest. The sharp hooves of Cattle and Sheep started the process of erosion which gradually silted up estuaries which once would have run deep and clear into the land.



This is the name we have given our club,

Her ancient Maori name "Te Motu-arai-roa" - The Long Sheltering Island
So Aratika Whanau & friends, this is it from little me a little history of Waiheke. A detailed account of the long and sometimes turbulent history of Maori occupation of Waiheke can be found in two books by the historian and Waiheke resident (who was my next door neighbor and helped me with my history lessons many moons ago when I was attending Selwyn College) Ha! Sandy Bay is where I live and Paul is now living in Church Bay, Oneroa. So Paul Monin: Waiheke Island: A History & Hauraki contested 1769 -1875.