Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Hunua Ranges - Years Before and After WWII

Kohukohunui Hunua Ranges 1930s - photo JM Stewart
Following the end of WWII, Jack Stewart moved from the city of Auckland, and became a ranger in the Otau - part of the Hunua Ranges - what is now in and known as Hunua Ranges  Regional Park and the Waharau Regional Park on the Eastern side of the Hunua ranges. 

Jacks home in the Otau Valley, Hunua Ranges  when a ranger in the late  1940's - photo JM Stewart
Hunua Hills in the late 1940's - photo JM Stewart
During the Depression years at the beginning of the 1930's. a thirsty Auckland was eying up the Hunua Ranges, again, for  a possible city water supply. The New Zealand Herald reported on the possibilities of two bountiful rivers  - the Mangatawhiri and the Mangatangi - with an estimated total discharge for the two of 40,000,000 gallons daily. ( NZ Herald 16/01/1930)  According to the article city councillors were also shown possible dam sites for storing water and given information on the possible water supply gathered by others. This presented to councillors by the city waterworks engineer , Mr. A.D. Meads and chairman of the water committee, Mr. A.J. Entrician.

A city water supply from the Hunua Ranges was by no means a new idea. As far back as seventy years previous, in 1860,  Jack Stewart's civil engineer grandfather won a prize for  water supply plans, bringing a supply to the city from Onehunga. At this time a supply from the Hunua Ranges was also mooted and continued to be suggested and the idea explored over the years.  Water supply - both the supply and issue - continued to ebb and flow throughout the following years, with a number of locations utilised. Still not enough supply to sustain a growing city. 

Auckland Tramping Club in Mangatawhiri River Gorge before water supply  in 1930s - photo JM Stewart
Mangatangi River in the 1930's - before water supply - photo JM Stewart
In 1930 , the same time as a suggested water supply from the Hunua Ranges, it was the Depression years. A  large unemployment relief works camp , said to be 100 men,  were going on with major road construction works in the Hunua Gorge.

BIG UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF WORK NEAR AUCKLAND CITY: ROAD CONSTRUCTION IN THE HUNUA GORGE. Left: One o... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, Volume, 8 February 1930, Page 10
Back in 1922, a water supply from Hunua Gorge was opened to supply the then township of Papakura. The New Zealand Herald reporting on the opening wrote :-

" Mr. McLennan said the scheme had cost £30,000. Owing to the Franklin County Council refusing to allow the board to lay the main on the road a pipe track had to be constructed alone: the precipitous and rocky face on the bush side of the gorge, at a cost of £2500, or £2000 in addition to the estimated cost of the original route. To meet this extra expenditure and also to reticulate the outer areas not originally included in the scheme, the board intended to raise a further small loan in the near future."

Prior to WWII Jack Stewart  enjoyed many a tramping trip to the Hunua's with the Auckland Tramping Club during the 1930's  Close to the  growing city of Auckland, the Hunua Ranges were in easy reach for the tramping club members.

Most members worked Saturday mornings,, including Jack Stewart, who worked in the Manchester Linen Department of Macky  Logan Caldwell , a manufacturing and wholesale merchant supplier.

The Papakura Train was caught to reach the Hunua Ranges, again from Newmarket, as with the Henderson or Swanson train to reach the club's Waitakere base .It was said that these train trips were noisy affairs with many tramping songs being sung with great gusto. Likewise the return and disembarking at Newmarket - not a quiet and orderly process. In 1936 -1937 the Auckland Tramping Club decided to build a hut ( named Te Hapua ,meaning sheltered hollow in the hills.) The hut in those days was of very simple construction made of corrugated iron and Boulders for the chimney.

Te Hapua Hut Hunua Ranges in progress 1936 - 1937 - photo unknown photographer

The Hunua Ranges were seen by the Auckland Tramping Club then, to be  first class tramping area - wide streams, gorges and fine flora including tawa. Earlier years in 1933, the Auckland Star thought this too about the when it reported:-

" A long valley pushes its pretty head eastward from Hunua right to the peak of Kohukohunui, near the Firth of Thames. This is the Valley of the Moumoukai. Its forested sides are superb, and, especially across to the east, this country is the birthplace of clear, sweet, swift-running streams singing their way southward over everwidening' beds. The forest is mainly tawa, with its charming light and shade, but on dry ridges clinker beech may also occur. Just now. in this tawa forest, hinau is in full bloom. I doubt whether there is another area of bush in the country to "compare with it in abundance of hinau. Anyway, in November and December, its huge crowns of creamy Mowers are an unforgettable sight. "
( Auckland Star 16/12/1933) 

Auckland Tramping Club on track beside Mangatawhiri River  before water supply  in 1930s
- photo JM Stewart

It seems that several also took interest in the physiology and geology of the Hunua Ranges area in the 1930s and into the early 1940s. Law wrote and read a paper to the Otago Institute in 1930 and Brown to the Wellington Institute in 1941  ( Transactions  and Proceedings Royal Society NZ )

Auckland Tramping Club crossing stream Mangatawhiri River  before water supply  in 1930s
- photo JM Stewart
Auckland Tramping Club on track beside Mangatawhiri  River before water supply  in 1930s
- photo JM Stewart

Following the war in 1946 the Hunua Ranges were seen as superceding the Waitakere's for tramping. Tramping in the Waitakere's  was considered becoming less isolated by some members than the Hunua area.

Auckland Tramping Club on track beside Mangatangi river before water  supply  in 1930s
- photo JM Stewart
By 1961 the end was tolled for the Te Hapua hut. Dismantled and carried out to make way for the city water supply. A quick look at the Watercare website records five dams in the Hunua Ranges in 2016:-

  • Mangatangi Dam completed 1977
  • Mangatawhiri Dam completed 1965
  • Cossey’s Dam completed  1955 
  • Wairoa Dam completed  1975
  • Hays Creek Dam completed 1967
Mangatangi river before water  supply  in 1930s - photo JM Stewart

The Regional Parks of the Hunua Ranges in 2016 continue to be used for tramping and other recreational activities. The Hunua Falls are a popular place in the summer months. The YMCA Camp Adair ( named for Mr. George W Adair who supervised the annual camps for many years)

Started in 1913, the YMCA camp run for boys was popular during the 1930's. In 1939 - the beginning year of WWII  - saw Camp Adair mark their silver jubilee with a renaming of the YMCA Camp to Camp Adair and the dedication of a new gateway to mark the occasion. 

Jack Stewart's sojourn as a ranger in the Hunua Ranges after the war was only a couple of  years. By 1950 he had moved from Otau to running a country general store at nearby Hunua, then a farm  and another era in his life. Tramping continued, particularly on retirement. Tramping friendships made in those early years of the 1930's were continued throughout life.


Called tramping in New Zealand this recreation is known as hiking in some countries.

The photos used in this blog item were taken over 80 years ago by Jack Stewart, my father. They are a record of an area for that time. With his love of tramping and climbing in New Zealand went a love of photography too.

Reference Source:
  • Furkert, F.W. Early New Zealand Engineers. Wellington: Reed, 1953.pp 271-272
  • The Auckland Tramping Club Inc., 1925 – 1975 50 Years Tramping, The Auckland Tramping Club Inc.,1975
  • Geology of the Papakura-Hunua District, Franklin County, Auckland. By C. R. Laws, M.Sc., Dunedin Training College., from Volume 62, 1931-32 Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961
  • Geology of the West Coast of the Firth of Thames. By D. A. Brown, from Volume 72, 1942-43 Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961
  • Lyons, R. R., 1932. Notes on Geology of Mangatangi-Mangatawhiri District, Auckland, N.Z. Journal Science and Technology, vol. 13, pp. 268–77
  • Water Supply . Daily Southern Cross,  13 April 1860, Page 3
  • WATER FOR PAPAKURA. New Zealand Herald, 20 September 1922, Page 6
  • BIG UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF WORK NEAR AUCKLAND CITY: ROAD CONSTRUCTION IN THE HUNUA GORGE. Left: One o... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, February 1930, Page 10
  • Native Wild Flowers. Auckland Star, 16 December 1933, Page 2
  • NEW ENTRANCE GATES AT BOYS* CAMP DEDICATED The new entrance gates which were dedicated yesterday at ... [truncated] New Zealand Herald,, 9 January 1939, Page 6