Author(s): Graeme Lay
Renowned for its beautiful white sand beach, its equally lovely neighbouring beach New Chums, and its sheltered harbour, Whangapoua today is a tranquill settlement on the eastern Coromandel coast. Yet its history was often turbulent. Whangapoua's Maori history goes back to the 13th century, its European settlement to the 1860s. Tribal Maori were followed by kauri millers, goldminers, gumdiggers and pioneer farmers. They came to the district by sea, or crossed the great Coromandel divide. The environment was a daunting one and the settlers often struggled against isolation, floods and an unforgiving landscape. Ancestral land to the Ngati Huarere people for seven centuries, Whangapoua also became home to the Pakeha who settled around its harbour and in the valleys of its hinterland. Later, foresters came, then campers, then the 'dune families' - the people who built holiday baches on their beachfront sections. The history of Whangapoua features a cast of colourful characters, including Hamiora Mangakahia, Maori politician; Martin Hawkeswood, pioneer farmer; Jack Clothier, Passchendaele survivor; Alberta McLean, English noblewoman; Len Colmer, 'rehab' farmer; and Bert Denzie, legendary landowner. Well-known New Zealand writer Graeme Lay documents the distinctive history of a place which holds special affection in the hearts of all who know it. Graeme Lay writes full-time from his home in Devonport, and also works as an editor and manuscript assessor.
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