HISTORY OF THE LANDING

The Landing, located at the southwestern tip of the Purerua Peninsula, takes its name from its history as the place of arrival of New Zealand’s first European settlers, in the early 1800s. The Landing stands on some of New Zealand’s most historically significant land and has been developed with the blessing and contribution of the local iwi (Maori tribes).  

Maori have lived in this place for around 700 years. Rangihoua and Wairoa Bays were home to Maori settlements for centuries, before the first contact with European settlers. In 1807, the Maori Village of Te Puna – then located at The Landing – was described as ‘the capital of the country’.

The Bay of Islands is the place where The Treaty of Waitangi, modern New Zealand’s founding document, was signed by the Maori people and the British Crown in 1840, making New Zealand a colony of Great Britain.

The story of The Landing is a fascinating one. It begins with a senior Maori chief named Te Pahi who held a pa (fort) in the early 1800s on what is known as Motuapo, or Te Pahi’s island, situated just off shore from where The Boathouse sits today.

Te Pahi of the “clear, strong and comprehensive mind”* was the first influential Maori leader to visit Australia when he sailed to New South Wales in 1805 to meet with Reverend Samuel Marsden and Governor Philip King.

The vessel Te Pahi sailed on was called the Venus and what happened aboard would put the wheels of history in motion. The master of the Venus threatened Te Pahi and ill-treated the passengers, and in retaliation, four years later, a ship called the Boyd was taken by Maori at Whangaroa. Its crew were massacred, and the ship looted and burned.

Accounts of Te Pahi’s role in this revenge attack are contradictory, with some saying he helped orchestrate it and others saying he was simply there, unaware of what was about to unfold. His role will probably remain unclear.

More certain is his significance in relations between the Maori people and British colonial officials. Te Pahi so impressed the latter with his keenness for trade and his shrewdness in all respects that, despite the Boyd episode, colonial confidence in the possibility of mutually advantageous relations with Maori was maintained.

When Te Pahi died, his nephew Ruatara took his place and was instrumental in improving life for his people. Like his uncle, Ruatara also visited Australia, and brought back the first missionary leader, Reverend Marsden, who landed at Hohi Bay – a short walk from The Landing – in December 1814.

Marsden’s arrival marked the beginning of European settlement in New Zealand. He played a vital role in the settlers’ arrival, preaching the country’s first Christian sermon at Hohi Bay on Christmas Day that same year. The event is permanently commemorated by the Marsden Cross, situated within Rangihoua Heritage Park, which neighbours The Landing.

Marsden is also credited with planting New Zealand’s first grapevines in 1819, after recognising the potential of the land’s clay-rich soil and long sunshine hours. Northland would go on to become the foundation for New Zealand’s successful wine industry.

Also aboard the brig Active that delivered Marsden to New Zealand was a young man named Thomas Hansen II. Arriving on December 22, to help establish the first Church Missionary Society station at Hohi Bay, Hansen disembarked to become New Zealand’s first permanent non-missionary settler.

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To earn his keep, Hansen worked for the missionaries, helping with building projects, bush and cattle work, and breaking in the land. Hansen and his wife acquired a small four-acre plot of land at Hohi Bay, at the base of Rangihoua Pa. There, they would raise 11 children. Their first was a daughter, whom they named Hannah King Hansen.

* From a comment made by Samuel Marsden, found at teara.govt.nz.

Hannah King Hansen was born on January 11, 1817, at Hohi Bay and was baptised by Reverend Marsden. Legend has it that the tall Norfolk Pine that still stands at The Landing today was planted to commemorate her birth. She was the second European girl to be born in New Zealand, and the first to live most of her life here.

Like her brothers and sisters, Hannah was brought up in a bi-lingual and bi-cultural community. English was their first language, but they were also fluent in Te Reo Maori. At 20, Hannah married Captain George Clapham, a whaler, and together they had three children: Maryann, Thomas and Hannah Elizabeth.

Many years later, Hannah’s daughter Hannah Elizabeth and her husband, George Mountain settled on the Purerua Peninsula, close to Te Puna, where the elder Hannah’s father Thomas Hansen II still lived. The elder Hannah lived on the Peninsula until her death in 1907, aged 90, and is buried at Russell Cemetery.

Hannah’s daughter, Hannah Elizabeth, would give birth to a son – Walter Clapham Mountain.

Local legends paint Walter C. Mountain as “one hell of a man, in anyone’s language.” As a youth from a hard-working background, he developed a hard-driving, charismatic persona and became well-known in the community.

His home was the Purerua Peninsula. The population, in 1880, had grown to over 800 and it was a thriving area. Walter took over his father George’s store and canning factory and began selling alcohol and other much-needed supplies.

When the law then came down on alcohol sales and suppliers, Walter decided to go underground. With his distillery hidden in two coastal caves on the Peninsula, he supplied most of the East Coast of Northland with illegal rum and spirits. He was very successful with this liquor operation, was known to have the fastest rowers in the bay operating for him, and was never caught.

“Walter Mountain was a man of action, vision, and charisma. He was also a man of the community, both Maori and Pakeha,” said a Northland newspaper when Walter died in 1930. The newspaper published a Maori verse read at his funeral, part of which translates as follows:

“This is a tribute of sorrowful regard for our beloved friend Walter Mountain, who now sleeps his long sleep. This man was a loyal friend of our parents and a loyal friend of ours. We considered him as our father, in connection with our affairs. Our father was deeply versed in the Maori language and our ways. Depart hence, o friend of ours, to thy place of rest.”

Walter C. Mountain was a father to 16 children: 15 daughters and a son, who was named Walter Jr and who continued to live in the area until 2008.

In 1999, Peter Cooper purchased land from the Mountain family, which would become The Landing.