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Ōtaki history

The first people in Ōtaki were possibly moa hunters, and moa bones have been found in the district. They were replaced by a more warlike people, Ngati Mamoe, who in turn were conquered by Muaupoko of the Kurahaupo canoe, from Mahia.


Whalers settled here, working from Kapiti Island in the whaling season and the rest of the year living on the mainland on small properties granted them by the families of their Maori wives. Some whalers who later settled permanently in Otaki included James Cootes, William Jenkins and James Ransfield.


Ngati Toa, led by Te Rauparaha, migrated from Kawhia. From 1824, at the invitation of Ngati Toa, many members of Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa moved south to Kapiti. By 1830 Otaki had become firmly established as a Ngati Raukawa stronghold. On the south side of the river was Otaki pa and the Katihiku settlement, and on the north was Rangiuru pa, with Pakakutu further north again.


Tamihana Te Rauparaha, son of the great warrior, and his cousin, Matene te Whiwhi, travelled north to request a missionary for their district. Octavius Hadfield arrived in November 1839 and established a little church and school.


In May 1840 the Rev Henry Williams brought a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi to Otaki. It was signed by several important local people including Moroati Kiharoa, Te Rauparaha and members of Te Rauparaha’s family – his son Katu (Tamihana te Rauparaha), his nephew Te Rangihaeata, his niece Rangi Topeora and her son Te Whiwhi o te Rangi (Matene te Whiwhi).


The first postal service came through Otaki, carried on foot.


The first accommodation house was established – Mr Taylor’s. Little ships came into the river bringing goods in exchange for potatoes grown by Maori. One ship was built here.


A Catholic mission was begun by the French priest, Jean-Baptiste Comte, who was appointed by Bishop Pompallier. By 1845 he had a little church on the hilltop at Pukekaraka.


The Bevan children, including Thomas Bevan Senior, walked from Wellington to Waikawa to join their father. The family later settled around Manakau.


A new village was planned for Ngati Raukawa, to be named ‘Hadfield’, though this name never took hold. Major David Durie, stationed at Waikanae, was appointed Resident Magistrate for the area.


Death of Te Rauparaha.


Rangiatea Church was built. It had been planned in 1844 by Hadfield and Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha provided the timber, and later, the labour. The church was built under the supervision of the Rev Samuel Williams.


A water mill to grind wheat was built by Thomas Dodds on the Haruatai Stream; he also built one at Pukekaraka.


An Anglican mission school and boarding house were built beside Rangiatea.


Dr Charles Hewson was appointed doctor to serve the Otaki Maori; he remained until his death in 1881. Raukawa meeting house built on Mill Road.


Richard Eagar opened a store, and was postal agent.


Benjamin Gray opened the Otaki Ferry House on the south side of the river.


The Catholic church of St Mary was built below and to the south of the hill of Pukekaraka.


During the New Zealand Wars, Otaki was divided between ‘Kingites’ – who supported the Maori King – and Queenites, who supported Queen Victoria and the New Zealand Government. The Kingites raised their flag at Pukekaraka but there were no hostilities in Otaki.


Otaki had a few stores and hotels, and a simple court house and gaol. There were Maori constables, and a few Pakeha settlers.


William and Mary Small and their baby son Alexander arrived in Otaki. William built a store, house and blacksmith’s forge.


An accommodation house built by William Davis, opposite Rangiatea, was taken over by postmaster Frederick Martin. Another accommodation house, run by Thomas and Mary Dodds, burnt down.


A telegraph office opened in Rangiuru Road, later becoming a post office.


There were fewer than 200 Pakeha. In addition to stores and hotels, there were a few bootmakers, blacksmiths, butchers, saddlers and some settlers leasing land outside the town. A Working Men's Club, Racing Club, Athletic Club, Rifle Club, Tennis Club and a Harmonic Society had been established.


The Telegraph Hotel was opened by Frederick Martin, who transferred the licence from the hotel opposite Rangiatea. A library also opened.


William Small bought land, Waopukatea, south of the river on which he later built his home, Clifden – now part of Bridge Lodge.


The Telegraph Hotel was taken over by Frederic and Mary Ann Bright.


The Government began buying land for a railway line but then ran out of money.


An Otaki Road Board was established. Two ships wrecked off Otaki beach: the Felixstowe (four drowned) and the City of Auckland (no loss of life). The mast of the City of Auckland remained on the beach until 1936.


The first state school was opened in Rangiuru Road.


James Gear and Isabella Ling began acquiring land in Te Horo.


What is now the Family Hotel was built for Frederic Bright, taking over the licence from Langley’s in Te Rauparaha Street.


The Bank of Australasia opened an agency in Otaki. Possibly timber milling began for the proposed railway.


Horowhenua County Council was established, covering an area from Tokomaru to Waikanae and including Otaki.


The New Zealand Police provided a local constable. Timothy O’Rourke served 1888-1904. Raukawa meeting house was renovated. The Wellington-Manawatu Railway Company opened the line from Wellington-Longburn and the coach service ceased. The Otaki-Maori Racing Club was established.


First pharmacy opened by Alfred Sutton Dunn on corner of Aotaki and Rangitira streets.


Manakau School opened.


Jubilee Hotel built.


Chinese and European market gardeners in the area; many more sporting and community organisations.


Methodist Church built. Otaki branch of the Freemasons formed. Otaki Maori Brass Band established. Railway Hotel built.


The first Otaki newspaper began – The Horowhenua Times. Rangiuru House near the southern end of the beach opened by E Tudor Atkinson for holiday-makers; Otaki was now a holiday destination.


The school burnt down. A Town Hall was built for auctioneer Byron Brown. A cordial factory was opened by Thompson Lewis & Co. Central Hotel built. Te Horo School opened. Horowhenua Times ceased; several months later bought and became The West Coast Mail and Horowhenua County and West Coast Advertiser; sold and renamed the Otaki Mail in 1896.


New state school built in Mill Road. Catholic School (now St Peter Chanel) and convent opened.


Land subdivided and sold for the township of “New Otaki” – always referred to as Otaki Railway.


A creamery (dairy factory) opened in Rahui Road. Moutere House near the railway built as a boarding house for summer visitors.


Otaki Horticultural Society formed. Otaki Cemetery consecrated.


The Cottage Hospital opened, for the Wellington Hospital Board. Boer War began; Otaki sent a contingent in 1900.


The first road bridge over the river was opened by Premier Richard Seddon. Otaki Golf Club opened.


The Maori school (now called a college) and boarding house, built in 1852, burnt down. Boer War ended. Otaki-Manakau Co-op Dairy factory built near railway (western side). New railway station built; burnt 1910.


Imposing new Post Office built, often featured on postcards.


Hector Nicolson appointed journalist on the Otaki Mail.


The Otaki Sanatorium for tuberculosis patients built, the second in New Zealand. Anglican Church of All Saints built to serve the Pakeha congregation. Hautere Rifle Club established.


Otaki Bowling Club opened.


A new Maori Boys’ College (sometimes called the Native College) and boarding house opened. Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) opened.


Masonic Lodge building constructed.


new (existing) Otaki Railway Station built.


Otaki Town Board established, replacing the old Road Board, and taking over the Otaki Cemetery and Domain.


Bright’s Theatre built for Horton and Arthur Bright.


World War I began; Patriotic Committee established in Otaki. First troops went overseas.


The Government took over the hospital and sanatorium.


Tasman Road extended by Byron Brown to the beach; The Otaki Seaside Resort (also known as The Kiosk and The Capitol) was built for him. The BNZ built a neo-classical two-storeyed building in the town. Otaki Volunteer Fire Brigade formed. World War I ended 11 November 1918. Spanish flu killed more than 50 in Otaki 1918-19.


Rahui (Wellington Municipal Milk Department) dairy factory built. Otaki Branch of RSA formed.


Moutere House became a private hospital. Otaki Brass Band re-formed. Frank Penn sold theOtaki Mail to Kerslake & Billens; Hector Nicolson appointed manager.


Sale of sections in the beach area, roads formed.


Otaki Borough Council established; first Mayor was James Poole Brandon, previously chairman of the Otaki Town Board. Part of Mill Road was renamed Main Street. For six months the Otaki Picture Company operated, making three films, two of which survive: Historic Otaki andCharlie’s Capers.


Attempts were made to provide a sewerage scheme, which failed, leaving the borough council heavily in debt. Three commissions investigated affairs of the borough.


High pressure water supply from Waitohu Stream provided by Otaki Borough Council. A beach store and tearooms opened.


Edhouse’s store opened by Harry Edhouse.


Electricity available in Otaki from the Mangahou power station near Shannon. The War Memorial at the “Rest Resort” (designed by Harold Small) was opened on Anzac Day, and the “Bubble Fountain” memorial was opened at the State School on 31 October.


The sanatorium and hospital returned to the Palmerston North Hospital Board; the hospital now included a maternity ward.


New All Saints’ Anglican Church opened. Presbyterian Church opened. New rail bridge constructed.


Most devastating of the Otaki River’s floods, at Easter; one woman died.


Otaki Health Camp opened on land donated by Byron Brown. Public Works camp established for unemployed men in Te Horo, housed in tents and picking up ‘Hautere turnips’ (stones). Otaki Hospital became solely a maternity one.


Railway Theatre/Hall built for Doug Webster opened at Queen’s Birthday weekend. Bank of Australasia closed.


Bright’s Theatre (also known as the Lyric and the Cosy) burnt down on Christmas morning.


Municipal Chambers opened. Raukawa Meeting house rebuilt.


New ramp constructed over railway line at northern end of what is now State Highway One (formerly County Road), and road re-aligned.


Otaki Borough Council built the Marine Pavilion at the beach, and the Civic Theatre in the town. Tasman and Rangiuru Roads linked by Marine Parade. Moutere Hospital closed.


Beginning of World War II. Maori Boys’ College closed and buildings later used for a variety of purposes including a ballroom and factory.


Home Guard formed – aged between 17 and 70, they often used home-made equipment.


US Marines stationed at Paekakariki, spending recreation time in Otaki. Otaki District Commercial Gardeners’ Society formed.


Curtis P40 Kittyhawk crashed near the beach; pilot died.


End of World War II


First girls marching team formed in Otaki. Otaki Players’ Society began.


Wesley Youth Hall (now Rotary Hall) built. Australia & New Zealand Bank (ANZ) opened.


Otaki Surf Life Saving Club re-formed (first attempt had been made 1922).


New road bridge constructed.


Otaki Memorial Hall opened.


Otaki District High School (later Otaki College) opened.


Sanatorium closed; became Koha Ora (part of Kimberley Hospital in Levin) until 1984; then Naumai sheltered workshop until 1987.


New BNZ built; closed 1998.


Otaki Borough Council takes over old Bank of New Zealand for Council Chambers.


Te Wananga o Raukawa opened, using the former boarding house of the Maori Boys’ College.


Re-organisation of local government. Otaki Borough Council disappears and Otaki becomes part of Kapiti Coast District Council.


Otaki Maternity Hospital closed; became a 48-hour birthing service until 1995; then became a community health centre.


Former sanatorium demolished.


New library built.

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