This page describes the history of Titahi Bay, a seaside suburb in Porirua City.
Titahi (meaning one cabbage tree) Bay has a long and rich history. The legendary explorer Kupe landed at Komanga Point about three kilometres west of Titahi Bay in the 10th Century. He left behind his anchor stone, Te Punga o Matahorua. The stone was at some stage relocated to Ngati Toa Domain where it remained until it was damaged by troops stationed at Paremata Barracks. It was shifted to Te Papa where it can be seen today.
Titahi Bay began its life as a series of fishing villages and pa for Ngati Ira making it one of the largest and oldest suburbs in Porirua City. The peninsula of Whitireia was the site of extensive gardening which contributed to the wealth of food already available from nearby forests. Ngati Ira built many pa in the area, including one at Komanga Point and another at Te Pa o Kapo. Te Pa o Kapo is still mostly intact and can be visited with easy access from Terrace Road.
In the 1820s, Ngati Toa led by Te Rauparaha and his nephew, Te Rangihaeata, invaded the area and the survivors from Ngati Ira fled to the Wairarapa and South Island. Shortly after this the first Europeans arrived in the area. These Europeans were mainly whalers who set up whaling stations at several points in the Porirua region, including Thom's Station where Ngati Toa Domain is now Korohiwa (or Coalheavers) which was half way between Titahi Bay and Komanga Point.
As increasing numbers of settlers arrived from Britain, conflict between Europeans and Ngati Toa over land increased. On 23 July 1846 Te Rauparaha was seized at Taupo Pa in Plimmerton and soon after Te Rangihaeata was forced to retreat into the Horowhenua after a fight between him, his men of Ngati Toa and Government troops at Battle Hill.
William Jillet was one of the earliest European farmers in the area, arriving in 1864, and he has often been called the ‘true pioneer’ of Titahi Bay. Jillet started up a horse-drawn ‘bus’ service from the Bay to Porirua and became the first postmaster in 1902.
From the 1920s real estate and holiday brochures promoted Titahi Bay's 'broad, deep sweep of sandy beach' as a natural and healthy destination. Most of these early holiday-makers would catch the train to Porirua and then the horse bus to the Bay. It is believed that the first bach was built in Christmas of 1900 by the Sievers family.
They were soon followed by businessmen from Wellington and Manawatu. Mrs Thornley, who from 1903 ran the Titahi Bay Club Hotel for thirty years, had a couple of cottages to let. The Titahi Bay Club Hotel provided accommodation and tearoom facilities throughout the twenties. Mrs Thornley’s son continued the business along with a little ‘sly-grogging’. After the Second World War, it was run as a nightclub. The Club was finally demolished in 1953.
In the late 1940s there was a drastic housing shortage in New Zealand. Over 45,000 people were on a state housing waiting list. To solve this problem the Government decided in 1952 to import 1000 pre cut houses to New Zealand. Five hundred of these houses were to be built in Titahi Bay. As New Zealand was also suffering from a lack of experienced builders, 194 tradesmen from Austria accompanied the houses to build them. Many of these Austrians remained in the Bay and the houses are still referred to as the Austrian State Houses.
However it wasn't until the 1960s that community development began in earnest. The 1960s were a boom time for Titahi Bay with the Titahi Bay Road providing better access to the Bay and new houses being built and everything growing –from the shopping centre and sports clubs to children, teenagers and school rolls. Titahi Bay residents had to campaign hard during the 60s to ensure the community received the basic services and amenities it required from central and local government.
There were a number of significant events beginning in the 1960s, including the construction of the sewage treatment plant. In 1960 the main truck sewer was tunnelled through the bluff at the south end of the Bay to the outfall site. But to residents’ horror in certain weather conditions sewage drifted back towards the beach. By the 1980s the Porirua City Council was advising people not to swim in the water. But in 1986 construction on the $26 million sewage treatment plant began and it was opened in 1989 by then Prime Minister David Lange and hailed as one of the most technically advanced systems around. The plant has since been substantially upgraded even further.
Another hot issue for the Bay is cars on the beach. Cars have been driving along Titahi Bay Beach almost from the time they became common in New Zealand. Some people argue that this means they should continue to have the right to do so, but unfortunately cars cause damage to the ecosystem, especially to the fossil forest stumps which lie under the sand.
In 1976, after much debate, the Council moved to prohibit cars using the beach altogether for the first time. However notices erected at the beach were often ignored. A compromise was sought and cars are now allowed to use a limited area of the beach, and that area is roped off during the summer months. The central part of the beach remains car free.
The 1970s were the busiest years for the Whitehouse Rd shopping centre with about 20 stores including the fruit supply, butchery, pharmacy, dairy, post office, hardware and stationary and gift store. Due to a combination of factors, including the arrival of a giant shopping mall in Porirua City, the centre struggled to survive in the late 1980s. Another nail in the coffin was the closure of the Postbank in 1993 and many other stores followed suit, although residents and retailers are still fighting to retain their local shops.
A popular high-profile business venture of Titahi Bay resident Bill McArthur was an aquarium. In 1976 he leased the old electrolytic sewage plant at the south end of the beach to open a diving school. He added an aquarium in 1987, but was hit by financial problems and closed in 1990 after the company went into voluntary liquidation. The site is now a grassed area.
For years a regular sight in the Titahi Bay skies was a floatplane operated by Float Air Picton, which used Onepoto harbour as a terminal. It began operating a service between Porirua and Marlborough Sounds in the mid 1970s, but competition from the fast ferries was too strong and it stopped flying in 1996.
Sport and recreation has been a huge part of Titahi Bay's history, with the local sports clubs nurturing many talented youngsters and the Titahi Bay Little Theatre encouraging the arts. Since 1969, Porirua City's sports champions have included many representatives from Titahi Bay sports clubs, including of course US Open winner golfer Michael Campbell.
Of course you can't mention Titahi Bay without talking about surfing and over the past 40 years the local Surf Life Saving Club has dominated national competition. The Bay has also nurtured a fair array of talented musicians, artists and writers in the past 40 years, including poet and entertainer Gary McCormick, musician, artist and producer Radha Wardrop, artist Robyn Kahukiwa and author Noel Hilliard.
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