The first context I have chosen to expand on that influences my practice is the physical environment in which I feel most comfortable. For me that means focusing on the West Coast of Auckland where I have spent most of my life. I am aiming to map the history of the West Coast and the history of Te Henga as this is the beach I have been closest to. The West Coast has a long and complicated history. I want to deliver a informative history without entering some of the more complicated tribal relations. I will also explore how this has influenced my practice and who I am as a practitioner.
History of West Auckland Coastline:
- Thirteenth Century: The first tribes from the Pacific had started to migrate into the west Auckland area. The two main groups who migrated to the area were the Ngaoho from the North and the Ngariki from the South.
- Fourteenth Century: The Ngaoho from the North were in control of the area. In the middle of the fourteenth century the famous Tainui waka was dragged across the portage between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbour. Once the Canoe had crossed into the Manukau some of the tribe settles in the West Coast while the Tainui continued up the coast.
- 1600’s: A tribe from Taranaki conquered the West Coast.
- 1650: The tribe had been established as the Kawerau and now they held all the land from south Kaipara to Manukau Heads including the Waitakere Ranges.
- 1700’s: Ngati Whatua, a tribe from north Kaipara began challenging Te Kawerau a Maki, and despite a lot of intermarriage between the two tribes the Kawerau tribe were pushed southward in their territory and subjected to a long-time period of domination. These wars lasted until the 1740’s and involved some very bloody and violent encounters.
- 1740’s: The Kawerau tribe were left alone in the ranges and Ngati Whatua left to conquer other arears of land. A peace was established on the cliffs of Te Henga and Kawerau lived in peace for a century.
- 1790: Kawerau had their first encounter with European culture when their northern neighbours introduced them to pigs and potatoes from visiting whaling ships. They also suffered an outbreak of Influenza brought by the Europeans.
- 1820’s: Te Kawerau a Maki were subjected to the Ngapuhi Raids. The Ngapuhi raiding parties were armed with muskets and seeking revenge on Ngati Whatua. Because Kawerau was aligned with Ngati Whatua this put them in harm’s way. They fought Ngapuhi at Karekare and Te Henga but did not fare well against modern weapons. The remaining survivors fled south to the Waikato and left the coast from Whatipu to Te Henga deserted.
- 1835: It wasn’t until this time that Te Kawerau a Maki returned to the coast. First, they returned to the shores of the Manukau before moving back to Te Henga, where they stayed and built a Pa to protect them against further musket attacks or raids.
- 1840’s: By the 1840’s most of the Kawerau tribe had had their first contact with the Europeans and majority of the tribe had been converted to Christianity.
- 1854: By 1854 the Kawerau numbered less than 100 people and owned only 3,000 acres between Piha, Te Henga and the coast towards Murawai.
- 1870: The tribe remained in possession of this land until the 1870’s. Happily having access to the benefits European civilisation bought.
- Next Twenty Years: Over the next twenty years the railway arrived and majority of the kauri forests of the ranges were milled. More land was sold off and the Kawerau were left with around fifty members at Te Henga.
- Modern Day: In modern times Kawerau now only own around four Hectares of land on the coast.
History of Te Henga (Bethells Beach):
Bethells Beach has been the most influential beach to my person and practice over the years as I have spent a lot of time there and in the Waitakere Ranges. This is a timeline of how the beach has evolved over the years.
- Te Henga was formed by the explosion of the volcano Waitakere. The combined explosions of Waitakere and Kiapara formed most of the West Coast and the Waitakere Ranges. Before the volcano exploded Te Henga was part of the undersea foothills of the volcano. After the explosion, the area was about a kilometre underneath the water. Over time sea levels dropped and the beach emerged to where it is today. After a while copious amounts of sand built up, trapping some fresh water sources and creating three lakes around Te Henga, Wainamu, Kawaupaku, and Waiataru.
- The name ‘Te Henga’ comes from how the beach looks from at sea as the dunes look very different from that viewpoint compared to on land. The shape of the dunes was said to resemble an upturned Waka and the word ‘Henga’ refers to the gunwale of a Waka.
- Te Henga was the main beach on the west coast that was occupied by Te Kawerau a Maki. They lived in the area for many years as shown in the above timeline about the West Coast.
- 1900’s: One of the major changes that happened to the beach was when the Waitakere dam was built in the early 1900’s. This meant the Waitakere river that flowed out at Te Henga became mainly a wetland and was no longer a navigable river.
- 1860’s: In the 1860’s European families began to settle in Te Henga. Most of the families that first lived at Te Henga still have family living there.
- Most of the land at Te Henga was owned by the Bethells family. In the last 100 years they started to offer holiday accommodation to friends and family and the occasional group pf tourists. Te Henga started to become more and more popular and the nickname of Bethells Beach stuck.
- 1976: The council made the name of the beach official, Te Henga (Bethells Beach.)
- 1930’s: From the 1930’s onward small parts of land at Te Henga were sold for housing. From this time, onward parcels of land have been sold. However, Te Henga has remained a very small community with a limited number of housing and has managed to prevent people from subdividing the land.
Bethells and the West Coast has been a personal influence on me since I was small. Growing up on such a wild coast and being able to experience the beaches and the bush in such a natural and untouched environment has made me appreciate nature in a very profound way. I often find myself drawing upon my environment as and influence for my work and have always been very influenced by water and I think that these influences stem from being able to experience these environments all of my life.
Arrival of The Tainui Waka – Canoe. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from http://www.kawhia.maori.nz/tainui-waka.html
backgroundrpt-part2-humanheritage.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.waitakere.govt.nz/abtcit/ne/pdf/2011/backgroundrpt-part2-humanheritage.pdf
Discover West Auckland. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from http://westauckland.net.nz/
History of Te Henga/Bethells Beach. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from http://www.tehengabethells.co.nz/history-of-te-hengabethells-beach.html