Waikouaiti & Karitane History

The birth of the Southern Maori environment is most vividly portrayed in the formative Araiteuru tradition. Upon the wrecking of the waka (Canoe) at Matakea (Shag Point), the subsequent search for resources by the stranded crew resulted in the birth of the landscape of the of Te uai Poenemu (the South Island). The search for firewood by the Araiteuru Tipuna (ancestors) established the formation of much of the landscape of the Otago Coastline within tradition. 
Huriawa Peninsula is most famous for the Pa and Kaik complex of Te Wera (Tipuna Ariki a Kai Tahu). Based on oral tradition it seems likely that the Pa of Te Wera was established just prior to the arrival of James Cook and the Endeavor. The richest oral traditions and subsequent histories surround the protracted siege of this Pa by Te Wera's cousin Taoka and on of the most vividly recorded events known for the Araiteuru/Otago Coastline for the period prior to pakeha settlement. The physical advantages of that stronghold provided to withstand such a siege included the water supply of the spring Te Punawai a Te Wera. The celebrated God, which Te Wera kept in a cave on the Peninsula at Waikouaiti, was called Kahukura. It is through that the name Huriawa originated from the fact that in an earlier era the river flowed out to the south. 


The most important name in Southern whaling is that of Sydney born John Jones, pioneer, settler and merchant. By 1839 he had practically full control of the trade from Moeraki to Riverton. He brought the shore based whaling station established at Karitane by Long and Wright of Sydney, for the sum of 22 pounds including all huts, boats, stores, slops, try pots and other whaling accessories. The capture of two whales was sufficient to cover his outlay, a whale being worth one to two hundred pounds. He then purchased vast tracts of land in Otago including Matanaka and Cherry Farm. The Matanaka homestead built in 1843 was the first substantial building of its kind erected in Otago or perhaps the South Island. By 1840 he claimed 1,980,000 acres later reduced to 20,000 acres and finally to 2,560. He was at the same time, farmer, run holder, ship owner, money lender, commission agent and general merchant. This was the heyday of the whaling industry. Up to 15 whaling vessels could be seen riding at anchor in the Waikouaiti Bay. The tally for Waikouaiti station in 1838 was 41 whales but the decline in numbers had begun. Johnny Jones closed the Waikouaiti Station in 1848 after 11 years of operation. 

In 1840 John Jones sponsored a contingent of 14 "steady farming families" and several single men to travel from Sydney on the Magnet and work on his farms. These pioneers were originally from countries in the south of England and were offered free passage, free rations and a grant of 60 acres of land after two years. They arrived in March closely followed by the Rev James Watkin, his wife Hannah and their five children. John Jones had arranged with the Wesleyan Missionary Society to send the Rev Watkin to provide a steadying influence on the lawless communities of whalers who were reputed to have on one occasion consumed 120 tonnes of liquor shared between 40 men. 

Jones had already persuaded the adventurous Dr Joseph Crocome to come to Waikouaiti as clerk, medical adviser and teacher to the European families. Agriculture flourished, although few of the original families stayed long in the district. 

Sir Truby King is well known for his early work setting up the Plunket movement and for his commitment to Children's Health which included a successful business making nutritional products best suited to growing babies. His pioneering work was responsible for the infant mortality rate falling from 309 per 1000 births to 88.8. He also advocated for the education of medical professionals who were working in the system. Sir Truby King was appointed as Inspector General of Mental Hospitals where he was known for advocating for small and dispersed wards which led to the Villa Hospital Principal. Sir Truby King house still stands today overlooking the Waikouaiti River Mouth and the Sir Truby King reserve is still open to the public next to the Old Seacliff Asylum. Truby King received the CMG in 1917 and was knighted in 1925. 

Waikouaiti Attractions




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