The Awhitu Peninsula is a giant sand dune between the Manukau Harbour and the Tasman Sea.
It is the traditional land of Ngaati Te Ata. In pre-European times many thousands of Maori lived here, using the rich food sources of the Manukau Harbour, the Pacific Ocean, the streams, lakes and wetlands of the Peninsula, and the thickly forested land – puriri forest to the west and kauri to the east.
Ngaati Te Ata are mana whenua of the area, and currently have three marae on the Peninsula; many of their historic pa sites are clearly visible from the main road up the Awhitu Peninsula.
On Waitangi Day each year, the iwi hold a special ”Achievers’ Day” at Tahuna Pa to celebrate their young people who have achieved excellence in academic, cultural, sporting and community support activities. Visitors are welcome.
As well as the oldest Wharenui (meeting house) in the Manukau district, Tahuna Pa also has modern health and early childhood education centres.
Early Pakeha History of the Peninsula, and of earthtalk land
From 1840 on, some of the Peninsula was sold by Maori to early settlers; some was taken by the colonial government under the Wastelands Act for British settlers; some was confiscated by the government during the 1860s New Zealand Wars. Much native forest was logged or burnt, and pastoral farming became the predominant use. This resulted in much pollution of waterways and harbour, draining of wetlands, and soil erosion.
Our farm is part of a coastal block settled in 1860 by the Garland family from Quatt in Shropshire. At that time it was mainly manuka scrub, bracken and swampland. They established a small hotel as well as grazing cattle and growing food. Later the land was developed as part of a larger dairy farm, with various owners over time.
Our property comprises 11.4 hectares (28 acres) at the mouth of the Kauritutahi stream. About half the land is gently-contoured pastures and river flats, and the other half is steep hillsides, gullies and wetlands. We bought the land from Amy and Alf Jackson, a retired couple who had tended it lovingly for 12 years as a conventional dry-stock grazing unit.
We settled here in July 1992 “Our aim was to develop a diverse, sustainable property which provided fresh organic food for ourselves, family and friends, a healthy lifestyle and some income. We were committed to long-term protection of land, stream edges and native bush. We also committed ourselves to an ongoing working relationship with Ngaati Te Ata.”
When we arrived here the land was basically a bare block - pasture and grazed slopes – with household gardens and a few trees. We asked a well-known permaculture designer, Kay Baxter, to help us with a design plan.
Within ten years our land was transformed, and has become known for its abundance, diversity, interest and beauty – hundreds of visitors come each year.
In 2000 we established a small business, earthtalk@awhitu, which offers fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables and preserves, self-guiding walks and guided group visits, farmstay accommodation, placements for WWOOFers and other learners, workshops, and assistance in exploring the unique Awhitu Peninsula..