The Māori settlement at Haukaretu, circa 1880, at the bend in the river where Totara Park is today. Note whare and fields, as well as the waka tied up on the bank.
James Bragge, c1880, Upper Hutt Libraries Heritage Collections.
Māori began to resettle the Upper Hutt valley (which they had eventually vacated after the raids of the 1820s) around the same time Pākehā began arriving there, re-establishing themselves on sites previously occupied by Māori at Whirinaki and Haukaretu.
The former became a base for the Ngāti Tama chief Te Kaeaea. Originally from North Taranaki, he and his followers had led a peripatectic existence during the inter-tribal conflicts of the 1820s and ‘30s, migrating between Taranaki, the Wellington region and the Wairarapa. By 1839 they had settled at Kaiwharawhara where Te Kaeaea became one the chiefs to receive payment for the Port Nicholson Purchase and also signed the Treaty of Waitangi. However he subsequently came into dispute with settlers whom he believed were intruding on his land and cultivations in the lower Hutt Valley and became a significant figure of resistance during the troubles of the early 1840s.
In 1857 Te Kaeaea and his Ngāti Tama followers purchased land at Whirinaki where they established a kainga on the site where St Patrick’s College stands today. In 1859 they built a small chapel there at their own expense, the first church in the Upper Hutt valley. They also cultivated grounds at a Native Reserve further up the valley where the Wallaceville Estate housing development is today. Te Kaeaea died in 1871 and his Ngāti Tama followers eventually returned to Taranaki.
In 1853 a group of Māori, linked to Ngāti Tama, also purchased land at Haukaretu, in an arrangement facilitated by Governor Sir George Grey. They had been dispossessed from their land in Taitā and had spent time under Grey’s patronage in Wellington before being resettled in Upper Hutt. They established a small community at the end of the point of land on which the suburb of Totara Park would come to be built, containing several whares along with fields for cultivating potatoes and other vegetables. A well known feature of Upper Hutt life during the second-half of the nineteenth century, this small community is where the suburb of Māoribank (located on the other side of the river) gets its name from. However, in the early 20th century a fractious legal dispute with a local farmer, who claimed this land, eventually led to the Māori still living there being forced out and relocating elsewhere.