Origins of the area

Baring Head, or Orua-poua-nui, is an area with very long Maori history associated with the many tangata whenua who have lived in the area from the very early times of Kupe and other early Polynesian explorers. The richness of its resources from the Cook Strait, Wainuiomata and Orongorongo rivers, lakes Kōhanga-piripiri and Kōhanga-te-ra, along with those of the forests of the hinterland.

The first person said to visit and name places in Wellington was the Polynesian explorer Kupe. Kupe left a heritage of names which are still in use today - these include the islands in the harbour named for his nieces Mātiu and Mākaro (later called Somes and Ward). Kupe also named many places around the Fitzroy Bay area and into Palliser Bay.

Many iwi today claim descent from Kupe. One of those was Whātonga, who had two sons Tara and Tautoki. Tautoki and his people occupied part of the Upper Hutt Valley and from Fitzroy Bay around into Palliser Bay and the Wairarapa. Tautoki built the Pa Parangarahu in what is now Fitzroy Bay. With his wife Te Waipuna, their son was Rangitane, the eponymous ancestor of Ngāi Rangitane, the tribal name by which the descendants of Tautoki are known.

Division of the land

Of the total area of land granted to Māoris in the 1840s as a result of the McCleverty awards, the largest portion came from the outlying unsurveyed lands. The four largest outlying blocks, which contained some 14,340 acres, were Orongorongo, (6990 acres), Korokoro (1214 acres), Parangarau (Wainuiomata) (4704 acres), and Opau (Ohariu) (1431 acres).

The Native Reserve at Parangarau was listed as Pitone No 2 Block, and extended from a point just north of Pencarrow Head running eastward to a place called Mukamuka in Palliser Bay and Southward around the coast through Turakirae, Orongorongo River mouth, Wainuiomata River mouth, Baring Head and Fitzroy Bay. This reserve was made up of ‘unsurveyed land’ with the surveyed land along the Wainuiomata and Orongorongo Rivers. The reserve included the ‘eel lagoons’ of Kohangapiripiri and Kohanga tera. This block was originally 4704 acres.

Plan of native reserves in the Pencarrow / Baring head / Orongorongo area

Plan of native reserves in the Pencarrow / Baring head / Orongorongo area

The block was described as being used as a fishing station and Maori had eel-ponds, vegetable production and extensive cultivation, however McCleverty stated that there was little land available for cultivation as the terrain was very hilly. In 1912 the block went before the Native Land Court for determination of title and CTs were issued for subdivisions in 1913.

The land was initially used by Maori as a sheep run, later leased to settlers who used it for the same purpose. The Crown purchased 69 acres of the block for a lighthouse in 1931. A further 27 acres was taken by proclamation for lighthouse purposes. After CTs were issued, a number of subdivisions were sold.

The Parangarahu Block was awarded to Petone (Pito-one Pa) Maori in McCleverty’s deed. The block was divided into 9 subdivisions of unequal size by the Maori owners. The descendants of Pito-one Pa affiliate today to Te Tatau o te Po Marae based at 437 Hutt Road. These include the owners of the Takarangi Blocks.

Archaeological Sites

Three karaka groves just west of the Wainuiomata bridge and access road
This is an area where Maori cultivation was extensive with the shift from fern root and kumara to potatoes, melons, then corn. The remain karaka on the hill slope with the cultivations on the flood flats.

Maori horticulture and stone wall, Fitzroy Bay at foot of cliff
The stone wall and four shallow pits adjacent to these, midden are also present. This is an important historical site connecting early colonial exploration and Maori occupation.

Midden/Ovens at Baring Head
At mouth of small stream, north of Baring Head. This was also likely to be part of the occupation of the area with ovenstones scattered about. Also evidence of midden and oven exposed in erosion scar of east side of fence.

Cave/Rock shelter at Baring Head
Te Wera – this site has a very prominent rock with an overhang on the south side with midden material. It bears the name of a warrior of Ngāti-Mutunga, slain there by Te Retimana, a war prisoner from the Wairarapa

Pits/terraces at Baring Head
Four or five terraces, also pit on ridge parallel to top lighthouse access road just south of the saddle. There are also features spread over about 300m along the foot of the cliffs - the northern end lies just beyond the swampy ground south of the road, which comes down onto the coastal platform. This may also be part of the village of Parangarahu.

Reportedly a female buried with adzes.

Parangarehu Pā / Parangarahu
This was given by Best as the older name of Pencarrow Head and the site of the pā of Tautoki. Te Rae-akiaki - Pencarrow Head, at the entrance, east side, of the Wellington Harbour. The meaning is given as ‘the headland where [the sea] dashes up or pounds’.

Kōhanga-te-rā Lagoon
‘The second lagoon east of Pencarrow Head’, about three-quarters of a mile beyond Kōhanga-piripiri. These two lagoons are of identical origin but Kōhangate-rā is the larger sheet of water; there Gollans Stream is a ponded watercourse. In supposed contrast to the basin of Kōhanga-piripiri, the hollow occupied by Kōhangate-rā is taken to be a sheltered place, again linked to a ‘nest’, but one basking in the sun (te rā), and the literal meaning is given as ‘nest basking in the sun’.

With thanks to the Tupoki Takarangi Trust, the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and the New Zealand Archaeological Association for information supplied on this page