Upper Hutt derives its name from an English Member of Parliament, Sir William Hutt, who was a director of the New Zealand Company (formed in the late 1830s) that organised the settlement of the Wellington and Hutt Valley areas beginning with the arrival of the first immigrant ships from 1840. Early Maori names for the river were Te-Awa-Kairangi and Heretaunga.
Upper Hutt was settled right at the beginning of the European colonisation of Wellington. Richard Barton, its first resident, arrived in 1840 on the “Oriental”, the second of what is known as the first four ships. He made his home at Trentham in 1841 in the area now known as Bartons Bush. The first town settler was James Brown in 1848.
Upper Hutt was originally part of the Hutt County, constituted in 1877. On 24 April 1908, it was proclaimed a Town Board and the first seven Commissioners were farmer GI Benge (first chairman), milkman RH Williams, farmers A Martin and JT Craig, butcher WR Keys, builder J Harrison and painter FH Wilkie. The first secretary was AJ McCurdy, an outstanding character in this areas local politics. He became first Mayor when Upper Hutt became a Borough on 26 February 1926.
On 28 May 1966 it was proclaimed a city. The northern areas of Rimutaka Riding of Hutt County were brought into the city on 1 April 1973 to give Upper Hutt the second largest land area of any New Zealand city. It grew in size again on 1 November 1988 when the former Heretaunga-Pinehaven Riding was incorporated upon the abolition of the Hutt County Council. Exactly a year later the City of Upper Hutt as it is today was constituted with the abolition of the Heretaunga/Pinehaven District Community Council.
Mythological history tells of two taniwha, Ngake and Whaitaitai who lived in Wellington Harbour when it was just a lake. The lake eventually became too small for the taniwha and they longed to escape into the ocean to the south. Ngake positioned himself on the northern edge of the lake and using his tail as a spring thrust himself towards the southern shores, smashing a passage way through to what is today known as Cooks Strait.
The force of the release of Ngake’s coiled tail carved Awakairangi – the Hutt Valley. Awakairangi – river of food from the sky. As the name suggests, the Hutt Valley was once densely forested and abundant in bird life. Seafood formed a staple part of the diet of local Maori and until the early 1940s eel, crayfish and watercress were harvested from the Waiwhetu River.
Orongomai is the old Maori name of the area where Upper Hutt now stands. It means “the place of Rongomai”. He was an ancestor and patron of the tribes whose ancestors came in the Kurahaupo canoe. According to their traditions the captain was Whatonga, ancestor of the Ngai Tara and Rangitane tribes. By his first wife Whatonga had a son, Tara-ika and his descendants, the Ngai Tara, were the first people known to live in the Wellington/Hutt Valley area and the harbour was named for Tara.
The Ngati Rangi came and were defeated by the Ngati Ira, who in turn were defeated by Tamiti Waka Nene of Ngapuhi and Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa at Pa-Whakataka across the bank from what is now Te Marua. Eventually the Taranaki people, Te Atiawa, occupied all of the Hutt Valley shortly before the Europeans came, with villages at Te Hau-Karetu (Maoribank) and Whirinaki (Silverstream).
Early Maori names for the river were Te-Awa-Kairangi and Heretaunga.
Orongomai Marae is to the south of the modern city centre. The heritage of the city is essentially evidence from the past that has become the inheritance of present day Upper Hutt. Many buildings, structures, sites and features within the city are significant because they possess historical, scientific, spiritual, architectural, cultural or other values.
The Coat of Arms for the City was granted by the Royal College of Arms (London) in 1978 by Letters Patent. This means that the coat of arms is protected and cannot be used without Council’s authority which must be in terms of the laws of arms.
The arms are made up of a shield, a crest, supporters, and a motte scroll. In front of the rock in the Crest, a New Zealand Falcon is portrayed. The New Zealand Falcon (Bush Hawke – Karearea) was very prevalent in the Upper Hutt Valley in earlier times and some still survive in the area. It preys on the forest birds including the pigeon depicted in the Arms and is described as probably the most fearless of all this country’s native birds.
The two birds in the Shield are Pigeons (Hemiphaga Novaeseelandiae) also representing the early bird life in the Valley’s bush, also in existence. The wavy band is a representation of the Hutt River and indicates its importance in the City of Upper Hutt.
The bottom portion shows a Totara tree (Podocarpus Totara) which symbolises the original vegetation that abounded on the Valley floor. Some are still preserved in Trentham Memorial Park and in early days many of these trees in the valley measured in metres across the butt and were a hundred feet in height before a branch appeared from the trunk.
Finally, the Motto translated into English means “Nothing higher nor more beautiful”. This was chosen to record that the City has special physical features and a lovely setting.
The mountainous nature of some of the terrain (the City boundaries extend to the top of the Rimutakas and Akatarawas), the presence of the hills and trees that form so many of the views, the close affinity of the City and farm, and the varied beauty of the river valleys, form a combination within the City boundaries which is most unusual and could well be unique in the context of world Cities.
The Council’s advisors on the question of the adoption of the Motto felt that it was not appropriate to indulge in superlatives, and what has emerged is not an extravagant claim but a simple justified statement.
The Royal College of Arms also granted a City badge. The badge is placed on property of the Council and used for less formal situations. It consists of a New Zealand Pied Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa) tail erect and expanded and perched on a twig within a circlet of gold chain.
The City in 1982 produced, with the consent of the New Zealand Herald, a flag to be flown on appropriate occasions. One is on permanent display in Council Chambers and another is flown outside the Civic Administration Building during office hours. It consists of the City colours (gold across maroon quarters) with the shield in the middle.
UPPER HUTT RECOLLECT is the free interactive database for the Upper Hutt City Library Heritage Collections. It provides easy online access to a rich store of heritage material relating to Upper Hutt City, its people, and events.
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