The wider Manukau area has a long Maori history, being one of the earliest settled areas in New Zealand. About 1350AD the Tainui canoe passed nearby, sailing up the Tamaki River, before being portaged across the Otahuhu isthmus, then passing through the Manukau Heads. At this time the Manuka or Manukau Harbour was given its name. (Naming the Manukau (Manuka) Harbour)
From as early as the fifteenth century, extensive food gardens were developed in the light, fertile soils surrounding the volcanic cones of the region.
There is today little remaining evidence of Maori settlement in the immediate vicinity of central Manukau. However, archaeological surveys have uncovered signs of intensive settlement towards the southwest, along the banks of the Puhinui Creek and inland as far as the volcanic cones of Matukutureia and Matukutururu, although the exact date of this settlement has been debated.
According to a traditional story related by George Graham, these two mountains gained their names during the seventeenth century, when two Wai O Hua pa on the mountains were attacked by Ngati Whatua led by the warrior chief Kawharu. One of them was saved from destruction by the watchfulness of its commander; the other was lost because its chief had gone fishing and fallen asleep. The former thus became known as Matukutureia (‘the watchful bittern’), the latter as Matukutururu (‘the careless bittern’), and the wider area encompassing the mountains as Nga Matukurua (‘the two bitterns’).
Matukutureia has particular significance for Ngati Te Ata, being the birthplace of that tribe’s eponymous ancestor Te Ata I Rehia. However, because of quarrying over the last few decades, little remains of either mountain today. Matukutururu, or Wiri Mountain, has been dug away almost completely, while only a portion of Matukutureia, or McLaughlin’s Mountain, has been preserved by the presence of a water reservoir on its peak.
Aerial view of Wiri Mountain and vicinity, 4 April 1961, showing the effects of quarrying. Roscommon Road is in the middle foreground, Wiri Station Road to the left, and the railway line in the background. (White’s Aviation, no. 55258, copy courtesy of Ian Lawlor)
View of McLaughlin’s Mountain in 1962, showing Papatoetoe Borough Council’s pumphouse and water reservoir. (Photographer, Trevor Penman. Manukau Research Library, PAP: II, 3, no. 13)
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