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Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)


Early History

"Men are not qualified to look forward to posterity who never look back to their ancestors."-Burke
To get a true perspective of the factors leading up to the settlement of the Hutt Valley, it is necessary to record a few episodes of historical interest.
According to tradition, Wellington Harbour was discovered early in the 10th Century by Kupe, a celebrated Polynesian navigator, who landed on the Pito-one Beach and found the place uninhabited.
Some three centuries later, Whatonga's sons Tara and Taupoki, settled here and named the harbour Te-Whanganui-a-Tara. The Hutt River, which was previously known as Te-awa-kai-rangi, was named Heretaunga, after their earlier home in Hawke's Bay.
Our island home was first seen and named by Abel Tasman in 1642, but discouraged by the loss of four men in an attempt to land, he withdrew. Until 1769 New Zealand was supposed to form part of the great unknown land of Australia, but in that year the great British navigator, Captain James Cook, circumnavigated and surveyed the two principal islands, gave his own name to the Strait—previously called Ruakawa—by which they are separated, landed at various places and took formal possession of the country in pursuance of the Commission he received from the Admiralty prior to setting out on his voyage.
"You are also, with the consent of the natives, to take possession in the name of the King of Great Britain, of convenient situations in such countries as you may discover, that have not already been discovered or visited by any European Power; and to distribute among the inhabitants such things as will remain in traces and testimonies of your having been there; but if you find that the countries so discovered are uninhabited, you are to take possession of them for His Majesty by setting up proper marks and inscriptions as just discoverers and possessors."
This Cook did; leaving behind him pigs, vegetable seeds and potatoes. On his return to England Cook suggested the colonization of New Zealand; but no attempt was made to carry out his recommendations, though many schemes were advanced by various people, including Sir Benjamin Franklin.
In the Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons which led to the establishment of New South Wales as a convict settlement, New Zealand was frequently mentioned as eminently suitable for the purpose, and it was only the terror of the inhabitants as cannibals that saved our country from this fate.
From time to time whaling ships, by their increasingly frequent visits to these shores for purposes of trading iron goods, axes, nails, fish-hooks, etc., for dressed flax and kauri spars, established stations on the shores of Kapiti, Porirua and Te Awaiti, in the Pelorous Sounds.

The First Missionaries.

These circumstances, together with the periodical visits of Jackie Love's boat to Sydney, at length came under the notice of Samuel Marsden, Colonial Chaplain of New South Wales.
The sailors' accounts of the deplorable condition of affairs, economic as well as moral, caused Marsden to seek authority to extend the sphere of his jurisdiction to include New Zealand. This authority being secured, Marsden founded the first Mission Station at the Bay of Islands in 1814, and five years later the Wesleyan missionaries, under Samuel Leigh, were also labouring in the same district.
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The "Tory" and "Cuba" in Cook Strait, 1840.

(Drawn by A. H. Messenger from a sketch by C. Heaphy).
—Courtesy Wellington Public Library
The writings of travellers accompanying the missionaries did much to remove the impression conveyed by previous reports of the savage character of the Maoris, and this was further enhanced by the visit of two chiefs, Hongi and Waikato, to England in 1820.
Later, two other Maoris, Ngati and Tiaki, reached England, and were befriended by Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Dr. Evans, and this friendship indirectly led to the colonization of New Zealand.

The New Zealand Company.

Wakefield, who had made a study of colonization, induced the Directors of the New Zealand Land Company to present a Bill to the House of Commons in June, 1838. This, and the proposals of several other colonization Companies, were thrown out, but ultimately some of these Companies combined to form the New Zealand Company, which obtained a charter under which the first organised settlement in New Zealand was made.
Wakefield was instructed to fit out a ship and send out to New Zealand an advance party to locate and buy the islands.
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The Hutt River Near the Mouth in 1843.

(W. Swainson, F.R.S.).
—Courtesy Wellington Harbour Board.
The "Tory," noted for her speed and handiness, was secured. She was a ship of 382 tons, commanded by Captain Chaffers, R.N., carried a crew of 35, and was armed with eight guns. The passengers were Colonel William Wakefield, Principal Agent of the New Zealand Company; E. Jerningham Wakefield, Secretary to the Company; Professor Ernest Diffenbach, naturalist; Chas. Heaphy, draughtsman; Dr. John Dorset, Colonial Surgeon; Ngati, a native interpreter; Robert Doddrey, storeman and assistant interpreter; Mr. Lowry, chief; and S. Tankersley, second officer. The "Tory" made a run of 96 days from Plymouth without sighting land save for a distant glimpse of the Canaries, and sighted the high land of New Zealand on 16th August, 1839.

The Arrival of the First Survey Ship.

Ngati directed Colonel Wakefield, the leader of the party, to Te Awaiti, in Marlborough Sounds. Here he met the Maori Chief Wharepouri, who was in a position to give legal title to the lands which he desired to purchase.
On the 20th September, 1839, the "Tory" arrived in Port Nicholson. Coming up the harbour she was met off Matiu (Somes) Island by a large canoe containing not only Wharepouri, but an older and very dignified compatriot, Te Puni. Negotiations were opened almost immediately, and the story of the subsequent sale of the land around Port Nicholson by the Maoris and the description of goods handed over in part payment, is well known. Under the Agreement, every tenth town acre and every tenth 100-acre block of land in the Valley was to be set aside as a native reserve.
The principal Chiefs involved in the transaction were Te Puni, of Pito-one; Wharepouri, of Nga-Uranga; Puakawa, of Wai-whetu; and Taringa Kuri, of Kai-wharawhara. It is evident that the fear of Te Rauparaha, of Kapiti, and Rangihaeata, of Mana, whose periodic raids disturbed these peace-loving Maoris, and the vision of the protection of the white men, induced them in no small way to part with their land. A Deed of Sale was drawn up by Jerningham Wakefield, and after lengthy deliberations, at which Dicky Barrett, a portly white whaler, acted as interpreter, was duly signed on the 27th September, 1839.
On the following day Lowry Bay received its present name, and on the 30th September the name of the river was changed from Heretaunga to Hutt, after a Director of the New Zealand Company.
On the same day a party from the "Tory" landed and a flag was hoisted on the shore at Pito-one, with the customary 21 gun salute from the ship, much to the delight and consternation of the Maoris and their dogs. Not to be outdone, the Maoris danced their wildest hakas, and the inevitable feast followed.
Jerningham Wakefield wandered about mystifying the natives by the sound of a concertina which was concealed under the folds of his coat. It was a day of great rejoicing, and among the spectators was Joe R. Robertson, the sole white man in the Valley when the"Tory" arrived, who built a boat near the river mouth and made the necessary fastenings out of hoop-iron.
Shortly after this Wakefield left in the "Tory" to make further purchases of land in Taranaki.

The Second Survey Ship.

Another ship, the "Cuba," of 273 tons, was chartered, and commanded by Captain Newcombe, arrived in Port Nicholson on the 3rd January, 1840. She brought out the survey party consisting of Captain Wm. Mein Smith, Messrs. R. D. Hanson, W. F. A. Carrington, R. Park, R. Stokes and K. Bethune.
Colonel Wakefield was absent at Taranaki when Mein Smith arrived, and the attractions of the Hutt Valley were so great that Mein Smith set up the first trig station on rising ground at the mouth of the river. But work of surveying was slow, difficulties were immense, cutting survey lines was almost insuperable owing to the size of the trees and density of the bush. Dieffenbach, the naturalist attached to the "Tory" party, tells of trees 70 feet in height, 40 feet clear of a limb, and with their branches interwoven, the whole a tangled mass of bramble vines and supplejacks.
The ground was carpeted with a great variety of ferns, some in clumps, some in vines, some short and dense, others tall enough to reach the lower branches of the shorter trees, the whole obstructing the view, and making the advance of the chainmen a work of art and endurance. Ever and anon the ground, always soft from the absence of sunlight, changed into a bottomless peaty swamp that had to be corduroyed before the theodolite could be placed to take the next shot.

Activity in England.

Meanwhile the Directors of the New Zealand Company in London had not been idle. They held their first land ballot in June, 1839, and it is interesting to note that some of the land in the Valley which was then sold for £100 per 100-acre block (with a town acre and free passages to New Zealand for the whole of the purchaser's family thrown in) changed hands recently for over £100 per foot frontage.
Artisans of all descriptions were also offered free passages for themselves and families, provided they could comply with the conditions laid down as to qualifications, character and health. Needless to say, the depressed state of affairs in England at the time resulted in the Company being overwhelmed with applications, and with meticulous care the builders of our country selected the material for its foundation.
The other ships chartered at this time were the "Adelaide," 640 tons, "Oriental," 506 tons, "Duke of Roxburgh," 417 tons, "Aurora," 550 tons, and "Bengal Merchant," 503 tons. No report had as yet been received in England from the Colonel's party in New Zealand, so the captains of passenger ships were instructed to proceed to a rendezvous in Port Hardy, D'Urville Island, a port clearly defined in Captain Cook's chart as being safe in all weathers.
As the survey was slowly proceeding in the Hutt Valley, passengers were rapidly gathering at Gravesend in readiness for departure, and the first ship to leave was the "Aurora," which sailed from Gravesend on the 2nd September, 1839, actually before the land in New Zealand had been purchased from the native owners.

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