In the late 1940s two local characters, Gordon F. Ingram (editor of the weekly Waiheke Resident) and designer Stopford G. Wrathall, put together a colourful tourist map to introduce Waiheke to visitors and to promote island businesses. Wrathall’s map was on one side, and the other side contained Ingram’s witty and irreverent description of island life, interspersed with Wrathall’s drawings.
At this time Waiheke Island had no electricity, no sealed roads, and (except for two somnolent Road Boards) no local government. Read below how the islanders saw themselves just after World War II.
Return to the Waiheke Island Historical Society home page.
Today most of the inhabitants wear boots and despite the nearness of Auckland City the aborigines profess to discern definite signs of civilization. The history of the Island is sketchy and imaginative. The first settlers were the Maruiwi who arrived from the Western Pacific in 950 A.D. They were followed by the Maori two hundred years later.
BROWN MAN’S BURDEN
The next 700 years were spent in battling between the Maruiwi and Maori and when Maruiwi disappeared from Maori menus, between Maori and Maori. Even at that time many of the inhabitants on the nearby New Zealand mainland were browned off with the rush and bustle there and invasion of Waiheke was frequent.
CASH AND KAURI
In 1825 the first pakeha settlers came. They chopped down the bush for kauri spars for trading vessels and warships and supplied Aucklanders with firewood to keep them warm in their sub-tropical climate. (Now that most of the bush has gone this traffic has been rationalised and Aucklanders come to Waiheke to have a hot time.)
When the bush was gone early settlers dug kauri gum. When that was gone they abandoned work and became farmers.
Later the big land-owners at the Northern end of the Island (known as the Top End) cut up their estates and sold sections off the map all over New Zealand. High pressure salesmen toured the country with Fitzpatrick travel-talk about the wonders of Waiheke and optimistic souls in faraway places paid fancy prices for sections so rugged that even sparrows have to make crash landings on them.
The first section-owners to take possession were week-enders who built all manner of curious shelters. A favourite was the sack-bach made of sacking stretched on a frame-work. These were usually lighted inside by candles or oil-lamps and when night-time came and the silhouettes appeared the tenants had no secrets from passers-by. These were thought to be the first open-air picture shows in existence. People built what they pleased and did as they liked for there was no local body to control and the law concerned itself very little with Waiheke; this was reciprocated. Now, however, large areas of the Island are controlled by two Road Boards and the citizens betray at times a polite interest in their laws and edicts.
The Maori population has almost vanished. No one quite knows why.
As the pakeha settlers never considered the Maori edible it is assumed he went voluntarily. Perhaps he yearned for the primitive life and is now a State Suburb dweller.
The Maori name for the Island is “Te-Motu-Arai-Roa” meaning “The Long Sheltering Island”. They also called it “Motu-nui” or “Great Land”. The name “Waiheke” comes from a stream at Onetangi where seamen were accustomed to call for fresh water. It means “Cascading Waters”.
Waiheke is the fifth largest Island in the New Zealand Archipelago. Only North and South Islands have a larger population. It covers 37 square miles (about 26,000 acres), is 16 miles in length and varies in width from one to six miles. It has sixty miles of coastline and it is estimated there is a layer of empty beer bottles all the way round and about two miles wide on the seabed. Among the popular sports are yachties, who come in their thousands. The island is warmer in winter and cooler in summer than neighbouring Auckland. Lying as it does in the middle of the Hauraki Gulf, it is sheltered on three sides by the Coromandel Peninsula and by South Auckland. It is just over an hour’s run from Auckland City. The ocean side of Waiheke with its magnificent surf beaches at Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi, looks out across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean towards South America.
The total population of Waiheke is approximately 2000 people, 24,000 sheep, 2000 cattle and 13 members of the two Road Boards.
1500 live in Western Waiheke in the townships of Surfdale, Oneroa, Onetangi, Ostend and Palm Beach. Rocky Bay has 150 permanent livers; and the balance are spread out in the farming community at the “Bottom End”. During the summer months the population swells to around 10,000. No one on Waiheke works harder than the stork. For many years the resident population was predominantly elderly, but now the bulk of the vehicular traffic is composed of perambulators. There are schools at Surfdale and Ostend, and a Dental Clinic with nurse attached.
There is a resident doctor, a District nurse, visiting dentist and an optician. There are First Aid Posts at the main beaches and the Zam-Buks man these in summer. Infectious diseases other than politics are rare.
ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE
The dominant feature of Waiheke life is the boat. The arrival of the Daily Boat from Auckland before midday brings most of the population out to visit the Post Offices (there are 8 Post Offices on the Island) and to collect their daily paper from the stores. Time is accordingly gauged by the boats rather than the clock. Most public meetings on the Island are concerned with the boat service. Everyone is an authority on shipping and how it should be run; to satisfy all the experts would require about 2000 boats.
Boat travel is a sociable business. The boats are equipped with radio, and tea or coffee, biscuits, cake, soft drinks are served aboard. People have their favourite seats and groups. On the Daily Workers’ Service to and from Auckland the same groups play cards determinedly from port to port.
Friday is “Town Day” and people from all over the Island meet one another on the “Shopper’s Boat”. On this day most Island business close and storekeepers go shopping with their customers. An extra boat to the City on Tuesday is the “Baby Boat”, much favoured by mothers of small children. This is a very domesticated affair with mothers or unblushing fathers trotting to and from the buffet to get hot water or have baby’s bottle warmed up. Waiheke people seem to have lots of days off for a “Trip to Town”.
The skippers and crews are all known by name, and the names of the boats are household words.
Waiheke people are very well informed. Many thousands of people in the City of Auckland have never heard of Waiheke; but everyone on Waiheke knows where Auckland is. Of those Aucklanders who visit Oneroa, many never know they have been on Waiheke.
Oneroa is the show-window of the Island and its commercial capital. It is familiar to many as the home of N.Z. Champion Wrestler, “Lofty” Blomfield, who ran a cabaret on the beach and maintained decorum by a frown upon riotous revellers. The coco-nut palms that Lofty imported and planted may some day provide a tropical setting for Oneroa’s incomparable beach.
Oneroa is a preferred residential area for the higher income groups. Auckland’s young things come down to Oneroa to try out the effect of the more modern swim-suits before venturing out on the City beaches. Ray Wright runs a modern movie show right on the Main Street where you can run down for a dip in the tide during the interval.
Oneroa is the newest of the Island settlements and like all new places it is aggressively eager. It competes with nearby Surfdale for Island leadership and every new business established in Surfdale sends a shiver down Oneroa spines. But it is a beautiful and sunny place, the settlement nearest to Auckland; and with the opening up for settlement of adjacent bays, it should become a populous and important town. Blackpool and Little Oneroa are suburbs of Oneroa. Close by is Church Bay where once there was a mission. After Samuel Marsden preached there it fell down and vanished. Gold-bearing quartz has been found in the nearby hills, but no extensive prospecting has been done. In practice, running a store has been preferred. Oneroa is mainly served by the port of Surfdale though a limited week-end and holiday service also runs via the Matiatia wharf.
SURFDALE with its 500 people and 14 miles of streets is the venue of meetings affecting the Island as a whole. It is also the headquarters of the three political parties, and the local newspaper, a brash and rugged journal which is practically a fourth party.
No other form of Island entertainment equals a public meeting in Surfdale. Local “characters” have accepted roles and any deviations from their customary views and idiosyncracies are greeted with disapproval.
Argument is vigourous; at one famous meeting elderly gentlemen laid their sticks aside and shaped up to each other to decide the location of a new Post Office. Surfdale is a large area and includes Little Oneroa Beach and the settlement at Ekerua and Enclosure Bays. Little Oneroa Beach is one of the most pleasant and popular on the Island. Putiki Point, a promontory on the Surfdale side of Putiki Bay, is a small residential area. A noted dweller there is Johnny Wray, whose yacht “Waihape” has been a familiar sight in many parts of the Pacific.
In contrast to the spacious ocean beaches at Oneroa and Little Oneroa, Surfdale seldom sees the surf for which it is named. It has, however, a very gently sloping beach which makes it ideal for very small children. Because the settlement is close to the wharf, Surfdale is favoured by older people. Theoretically this means they can easily walk to the wharf. In practice they are apt to leave it too late and have to run for it. This trains their wind nicely for public meetings.
Waiheke Bowling Club’s picturesque greens are here and in almost constant use. There is much social life and community entertainment.
Surfdale, even more than other centres, is prone to petitions. These have to do with boats, buses, atom bombs, noisy motors or anything else that is someone’s pet peeve. People sign either for or against with equal enthusiasm so that eventually they cancel each other out.
From Surfdale there is a Worker’s Boat to and from Auckland daily.
PALM BEACH has no port and is served from Ostend port in the main, though buses connect with some boats at Surfdale. Smaller than either Surfeale or Oneroa, Palm Beach is a very compact village with its homes built in two valleys that run down to its fine ocean beach. This is a closely knit community living a life of its own: a contentious life at time for Palm Beach people are famous debaters.
Once there was an Astrological Society in Palm Beach and a prominent member set up a telescope on a hilltop for all interested to use. This was soon discouraged, although they have not yet put a roof on the girls’ dressing sheds. For no discernible reason Palm Beach is the Mecca of sea-faring men; Captain Collier, famous “Two-Gun Pete”, commander of the barque Pamir, has long had his holiday camp there. Men of the N.Z. Royal Navy settle there in numbers, and each new draft of English matelots contributes its quota. Palm Beach extension is an area between Palm Beach and Surfdale. Together with these places and Oneroa it is known as “The New Area”. Dudley Wrathall, nationally known radio personality has his holiday residence in the Extension.
PUTIKI – OSTEND
When they came to cut up and sell the District of Putiki, a prize was offered for a new name for the settlement. Today the wharf is named Ostend, the Post Office is Putiki, the school is Ostend, the Electoral Booth is Putiki Bay. (This barbarous conversion of names has been followed in other places. The pretty Whakarite became Palm Beach, Te Huruhi became Surfdale, the lovely Omiha became Rocky Bay.
Ostend is an old-settled place as time goes at the “Top End”. People who have lived in that sedate settlement for 30 years speak as if it were a period in pre-history.
Ostend was the capital of the Ostend Road District, now absorbed into Western Waiheke as the “Old Area”. There are two beaches, both tidal, but Ostend caters more to its residents and week-end “regulars” than to beach trippers. One of Ostend’s claims to fame is as the birthplace of Oscar Natzka who swotted and sang his way through school there. Another notable character who lived in Ostend was Bill Bailey but he did not practise there.
The N.Z. Tourist Trophy races are run on the Ostend-Onetangi circuit and for a week at Christmas and New Year the song of motor-cycles resounds. There are two days of racing. Ostend Vineyards belong to Mr. L. Gradiska and son and this is a show-place in the District where a swamp has been made beautiful and fertile.
Some of the early Ostend settlers were Spartans. One stern parent is said to have made his daughters run around naked “to toughen them up”. Ostend had the first sports ground on the Island where local lads also practised running. Football and sports meetings break out here occasionally.
ONETANGI Beach is two miles long and is clean sand and bouncing surf all the way. Homes and guest houses line the shore and up the valleys a hundred or so homes sit in among the bush. Served by the port of Ostend, four miles away, Onetangi is primarily a resort but is becoming increasingly popular as a retiring place.
Onetangi once had a wharf of its own but the surf made it too difficult to berth ships. Artists and other types of intellectual blokes settle in Onetangi; there are several mud and punga homes or studios constructed by these modern Primitives. Mostly they favour the Pie-Melon Bay area a little off the Onetangi mainstream.
A notable feature of the landscape is Charles Ding, a strong man who represented his native Switzerland at the Amsterdam Olympics. There is much social life in Onetangi and interesting types of indoor games are popular.
OMIHA or Rocky Bay, is the third port of call. “Omiha” means “welcome”. It is one of the finest anchorages on the harbour and a delight to the sailor’s heart, for Tom Levien or son John can supply petrol for launches practically at the water’s edge. At Xmas and Easter times Regattas and Aquatic Carnivals are held here and Rocky Bay Memorial Cruising Club is often host to visiting Clubs.
Apart from three or four business families Omiha is inhabited solely by retired folk. They fish and play bowls (indoor), eat and play bowls, sleep and fish, hold dances, concerts, bazaars, and play bowls. They also go about the harbour in boats – and play bowls. They run raffles – frequently – and it is difficult to escape winning a tatted collar or a hand-carved aspidistra at least one or twice a year.
There are very many week-end baches in Omiha. For this is still beyond the frontier and comes in nobody’s territory. Such problems as arise are dealt with by the Welfare Society which also runs the hall, tennis courts, and of course the bowls and raffles. Omiha’s roads do not connect up with other parts of the Island; they all come back to where they started from. This is thought no hardship by many residents. Most of the roads are avenues through native bush and these places are highly prized by the droves of young people who week-end there. In the absence of a local body, some responsibility still falls on the Syndicate which cut up the area for sub-division. Today this means two genial farmers, Phil and Terry O’Brien, whose broad acres still stretch across the virgin skyline.
If energetic enough you may hike across the hills to the Cascades, where a surprising body of water glides down from the rearing hills.
Awaroa is an occasional port beyond Omiha. Inland here is the source of the Island’s dwindling firewood resources and the workings of the now disused manganese mines. The finest mile of road on the Island is here for it is metalled with tailings from the mines. Further in yet is the Ashwin Country, where Lumley Ashwin, President of Federated Farmers, is monarch of all he surveys.
Many years ago there was a school at Awaroa where the pupils ranged from toddlers to bearded men. When the timber and the gum was all worked out the settlers dispersed and today only the red brick chimney, standing in the scrub, shows where the schoolhouse stood.
All this end of the Island is full of farmers working for sheep. Waiheke wool always fetches top prices in the sales; accordingly farmers here are enterprising chaps who have founded – and control – two shipping lines running between Island ports and the port of Auckland, besides serving Great Barrier and Mercury Islands.
Ashwins, Days, McIntoshes, Connells, McLeods, Gordons, Careys; and offshore the colonial Island of Ponui where the Chamberlin sheep are as the leaves of the forest. These names are old in Waiheke history. When an Urban Farm Lands Assessment Court was sitting on Waiheke Lumley Ashwin was asked when repairs were last made to the road in his vicinity. He said it was sometime around 1870.
Orapiu is the main port for “The Bottom End”. Although there are only eight families in Orapiu itself, which gives Orapiu Seaside Private Hotel a nearby private beach, there are quite a number of farmers inland who use this port. Besides the Waiheke Shipping Company’s boats, the Strongman Company’s “Coromel” also calls here. Orapiu is one of the oldest settled places on the Island.
The children of Jack McIntosh who runs the Orapiu Seaside Hotel, are the fifth generation of McIntoshes to live on the estate, which has belonged to the family for 105 years. Orapiu comes down from the hills to a wide, but sheltered, grassy flat. There are tennis courts, indoor bowls, and endless opportunities for fishing, boating or just lazing between swims.
Cowes is the final port and point of “turn-around” for Waiheke Shipping Co.’s boats. It is a noted yachtman’s rendezvous. Some beautiful seaside homes line the bays between Orapiu and Cowes.
Copper was once mined down here in small quantities. Even in the early days there was an unofficial pub on the Island (near Cowes) but it was closed after the murder of one of the patrons. It was felt that this treatment of patrons might tend ot discourage tourists.
There is a vast amount of pedestrian traffic, mostly people travelling to and from meetings of the multitude of local societies.
There are some forty-odd societies and associations: Bowling, Indoor Bowling, Table Tennis, Basketball, Football and other sports bodies multiply. Ratepayers’ Associations, Horticultural Societies, Women’s Institutes, Parent-Teachers’ Associations, First Aid Groups. There is a Returned Services Club, a Little Theatre. Sunday Schools and Church services are held. The Reverend F. L. Gardner attends to the Waiheke Interdenominational Church and the Reverend Father Hayes cares for the Roman Catholic flock. Itinerant preachers exhort other persuasions.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
WAIHEKE SHIPPING COMPANY LIMITED, a wreckless band whose merchant navy keeps New Zealand in touch with Waiheke. GEORGE PEARCE, an accommodating man whose Seaview Lodge at Onetangi will bed and board you. “TINY” WILLIAMS, a big businessman who runs the Ostend Store. “BUB” SMITH, a musicianly character who owns a band and a hall at Palm Beach. LEVIEN & SON, who set great store by Rocky Bay. AUCKLAND CITY, a Place on the outskirts of Waiheke. JACK PAYNE, a constructive type whose gang build houses, schools and so up. ROMA, the Dust-Freed Tea, which is served on the boats to encourage travel. RAY WRIGHT, a movie magnate, whose Oneroa Ascot Theatre is a movie magnet. JACK McINTOSH, who has two shipping lines to bring lovers of swimmin’, playin’, and fishin’ to his Orapiu Seaside Private Hotel. “SKIPPER” DAY and “BOY” DAY, who run an all-Day and into-the-night taxi and passenger service, and a garage. LEW POSLEWAIGHT, who sends people to baches in batches, and who can find you a place to live. PHIL TAW, whose Palm Beach store makes people come back more and more. THE WAIHEKE RESIDENT, a newspaper which keeps you up with the news by giving you the low-down. GEORGE POLLOCK LIMITED, who supply radios all the better to hear with, and electrical wiring and equipment all the better to see with. TOM PATERSON, who runs Waiheke Transport and Supplies, but not on his pat. IVAN ROLFE, a plumber with an elephant’s memory. CLARRIE THOMPSON, boss-man of Palm Beach Transport Company, who runs a fleet of buses, a taxi and a freight service. TED BEALE, who’s got the goods and carries it. COURT DALE, who has a Post Office – and the big store on ONETANGI Beach. JOHN AIREY, who runs Takrouna Lodge flats for guests, and builds houses for permanent livers and baches for bachers.
If you want to get out of Onetangi in a hurry, CES BROWN will run you out in his regular bus service; or GILL COLEMAN will run you anywhere in his Onetangi Taxi. If you say “this is the second best beach on the Island” the inhabitants will run you out free.
LADY JANE, the chocolates that are making Caley’s famous all over again. FRED MUIR, who owns Fairview Joinery and who can show you the works. JIM MILLER, a naval type who runs ship-and Anchor Holiday Camp at Surfdale, and who keeps steeds for people’s needs. ROY BUTLER, who runs a state housing scheme; you state what you want and he builds it. ANCHOR DAIRY PRODUCTS, who sell the kind of butter which a pat in the hand is better than a pat on the head of WALLY McLARNON, whose “MACK’S Store” give you the maximum and whose Surfdale business is TIP-TOP. ERNIE PARKIN, who is mine host to a fine host at Palm Beach Guest House. MELLOR’S DRAPERY, who have a flair for finding the bare the right thing to wear.
TYNDALL’S STORE, a “Tony” business. Sells everything that goes into a home. V. G. ROLFE & CO.’s timber yard supplies everything you need to build that home. BUTTERWORTH & BUTTERWORTH, a pair of busy Bees who carry on in great style. WAIHEKE JOINERY CO. LTD. the joinery they have joined no man can put asunder. BILL MULLINS, another housey-housey expert who has put many of our best people in homes. JOHN SMITH, who runs Oneroa Private Hotel, and restaurant and home cookery and milk bar and delicatessen. R. H. WOOD LTD., whose phone number is 44-764, Auckland, if you want to buy or sell property or boats. They’re worth a Bob or two. TIM COOLEY, a librarian. Palm Beach is in his good books.
The Waiheke Playmap was created on the Island. Its production is a testimonial to the very material assistance given by those business people who are on, or, who serve the Island and who are, literally, “on the Map”.