Background and history

Location             Historical Sites             A brief History



  whaka sign 2006
     Northland New Zealand

 whaka view from road background

This site is about a place called Whakapara in the Northland of Aotearoa New Zealand.  Whakapara is rich  in history; stories of people, some long passed and some still with us; of struggles and  conquests, of love, of survival and hope. This is a place that is home for many people who are scattered throughout the world; there is an unseen cord that continues to pull on the heart strings no matter how long you have been away.  You can learn some things from this site - you will learn a lot more if you make a personal journey  to Whakapara – nau mai, haere mai welcome.


Whakapara is located 20 minutes drive north of the city of Whangarei. It is an inland area that is well known for its trees and rural beauty – Whakapara means a clearing in the bush. When you get to Whakapara you turn onto Puhipuhi road to find the Whakapara marae and St Isaac’s church. Continue up the hill and you pass the old Whakapara Native school and if you keep going you will pass the sites of the forestry headquarters, the mercury and silver mines, the old Comstock Hotel and the Puhipuhi school.  

 mao nth background

Historical Sites  

There are significant Mäori sites in and around Whakapara where Tangata Whenua lived long before the European settlers came. Pa sites where people lived, burial sites,, battle grounds., and sacred sites such as rivers and water falls. The water ways and the forests were well known for their abundance of food and resources.

Waiariki is the name of the river and the water falls that are located in the hills of Puhipuhi, Whakapara. These waterfalls have special significance to the Tangata Whenua (people of the land). In recent years there has been a serious decline in the quality and quantity of these waters. It is important that we work to preserve these taonga.

background water falls             

This is the area at the top if the falls (1980s). This was a favourite place to go swimming, and picnicking. Catch the small fresh water crayfish called kiawai and cooking them in a billy of water that has been heated over an open fire - a delicacy not to be missed. 


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Taumata Okiokinga
This is a large rock that is situated on State Highway One north of the Puhipuhi turnoff. The main highway runs in front of the rock and you would not notice it unless you know it is there, it is covered in vines and moss. In the past the track that people travelled on was above the rock

 taumata okiokinga background






This is a sacred rock and has special significance to the Māori people. It was a place that people stopped at when they were on long journeys.There is a river close by for water and the rock was used as a resting place for tupapaku (the body of a deceased person) when whānau were taking them to their final resting place.

A brief history of Whakapara

Church and Marae School

See the other sections on this site about the St Isaacs church, Whakapara marae and the Whakapara native school.

Post office and railway   

Ronald H Harrison had the first store and the Post Office Agency started in September 1896 and the Telephone Office in December 1896, in 1902 they merged. In 1977 the Post Office was closed and people needed to go to nearby townships for postal services.

The railway line from Hikurangi to Whakapara was completed in 1895 and the railway buildings finished in November 1896. The railway station and post office buildings were sold in the 1980’s and moved to
a local farm for accommodation.

Boarding House   

The Boarding House that Carlton’s ran had originally been built as a hotel, but with Hukerenui and Hikurangi so close it was refused a license. It had big dining rooms, a billiard saloon, kitchen, and back porch, with eight bedrooms upstairs. The Gardiner Family took over after Carlton’s.

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World Wars    

The two World Wars had a tremendous effect on life in the district. While the young men went off to fight, many not returning, the older men and the women worked hard to keep the land producing and raising funds to support the war effort. During World War One locals trained using tii tree sticks for guns to be in the home guard.

The Whakapara bridge had barricades dug into one end and on the other, a tree dropped down to stop traffic. People had to keep blankets on windows to cover the lights. There was rationing with coupons needed for everything; tea, sugar, blankets and clothes. The bigger families were better off then, with half a pound of butter and tea to each person and half a bag of sugar for each child.

Land Marches   

In 1974 Māori were claiming back their lands, their culture and language. Dame Whena Cooper led the land march to Wellington, stopping at marae along the way. Whakapara marae at the time was covered in gorse and there were no buildings there. That didn’t stop the locals from playing their part. When the marches came to Whakapara there was a hot meal for them and a place to rest. The locals had built a fire and got the cooking pots out. For the Whakapara marae this was the beginning of the renaissance.







Page last updated 20 Feb 2012