The Story of "Kairakau"

Kairakau Beach Prior to 1989 Compiled by Joan Sarah Orr, 1991-93

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'I am writing these memories of my times at Kairakau Beach, as some of my family felt it would be of interest to them if I recorded my experiences and the changes that have occurred there over the years.'

Five generations of my family have enjoyed a summer holiday at Kairakau Beach. I  have spent almost all of  my life (1916 - 19..) there.Both my grandmother,Sarah Cheer and my mother ,Alice Mackay also took summer holidays  there.So too ,my children ( Helen, Robert and Donald) and my grandchildren ( Kate and Nicola, Graeme, Elizabeth and Bobbi, and Simon). This covers a span of almost  100 years.

  My recollections of Kairakau go back to the beginning of 1920. I remember it as being a Maori settlement, but there were already a few cottages along the beach front at that time.

  About 1914, the first hut was built at Kairakau by Bert Kenerdine,head sheperd at Te Apiti Station.In those days wool was stored in a big shed at Kairakau,to await loading onto boats(lighters) out in the bay to go to Napier.   FIG.1 Photo.

This hut was replaced by a beach cottage on the same site about 1920,and soon after baches began to appear along the beachfront.Kairakau, translated,means tree food and one of the outstanding features of the area are the Karaka trees (New Zealand laurel),the berries of which were used by the Maoris for food.

Two notable physical features of Kairakau are the rocks in the bay and the limestone cliffs which form a backdrop to the settlement.

The Rocks,(Hine Mahanga)are reputed to be 36,000,000 years old.The Northern most being the Three Bears( 800  yards offshore),Punch and Judy  in the centre (1000 yards offshore),and Waterfall Rock in the South (1200 yards offshore).On a calm day one can take a boat into a sheltered area off Punch and Judy and land on the Punch Rock.

  There is a Maori legend concerning the rocks and cliffs which is written up in Pat Parson's notes, In about 1824  it is recorded that there were raids on a Maori  Pah on the bank of a tidal creek (Mangakuri) at Kairakau.These fortifications are still evident and can be seen clearly by air.

William Colenso also made reference to the area and the Maori settlementin his journal dated 11 February 1846."Native pig hunters had set fire to the fern.The fire spread widely and burnt the Pah at Kairakau".Such events were frequent at the time.

  Derek McCroskey relates  that Te Kooti passed through the Kairakau settlement and Mrs Witherow fled to the bush for 5 days. About 1930 after she related this story to him, he found a musket hidden under the bridge which spanned the waterfall in the gorge area.

My grandfather ,William Cheer (1858-1914)drew a farm in the Elsthorpe subdivision in 1896 and he moved there with his wife Sarah Ann  (1862-1950) and their family from Patangata.Six of their children were foundation pupils at the Elsthorpe  School. The farm was named "Kokatewai"after the stream Kokahatewai that flows through the farm. Kokatewai originated  from the story of a Maori girl named Koka being drowned in te (the) stream (wai/water).

 My mother Alice Elizabeth was born at  Patangata in  1884 but she never attended the Elsthorpe School because she was considered to be delicate.  Alice went to live with her mothers parents William and Ann Crayford at Otane and she attended the Otane School until Standard  6.

Sarah and William Cheer shifted from Kokatewai to live in Otane in about 1912. William died two years later in 1914,aged 56 years and Sarah died many years later in 1950 in her 88th year - both at Otane.

 My mother Alice Cheer was married at the Elsthorpe Church to Alexander Mackay on  20 July 1910,and  their first home was at Motere Station on Longrange Road, to Cattle Station Omakere,where my father was a shepherd.

Fig.2 -Photo(copy)- Map of Elsthorpe Station Sub - division 1896.

Fig. 3 -Photo(copy) -1899 First school photograph and school roll 1898 - 1973.

" Kokatewai", Grannie Cheer's property, was situated 3 miles from Elsthorpe and 6 miles from Kairakau Beach where she went to campwith her children in the summer. The original road to Te Apiti  went along the  Kairakau foreshore and up through the gorge to TeApiti Station,and it was in the gorge area that Grannie first set up camp for her family's summer hoilday.These summer holidays at Kairakau were to  become an annual migration for her family (see footnote  1)

Fig.4 -Photo(copy) -Picture taken prior 1910 from gorge above Waterfall Beach.

Later the campsite was made under the Marcrocarpa trees bordering the present road to Te Apiti about 200 yards up the  road from its junction with the Mangakuri Stream.   (see footnote 1 )

 Many families camped at the Macrocarpa trees  site.Often,the winds were so strong that the campers were blown out  and they had to move their camps to shelter on the woolshed on the foreshore. A notable landmark until early 1930. Te Apiti Station owned this woolshed, where the wool was stored  awaiting shipment to Napier. Loaded onto horse drawn or bullock wagons it was taken out through the surf,off  loaded onto Lighters, which then took it out to the ship at  anchor in the Bay.Bert Kenderdine, once head shepherd at Te Apiti Station also built one of the first  3 beach cottages at  Kairakau.  The others belonging to  Ryan  Mc Gaffin and Witherow.

  I recall staying with my grandmother ( Sarah Cheer)in a large old house belonging to Gillies which was next door to the macrocarpa trees. This house was part of  a Maori settlement of several houses, and the other houses ther belonged to  Waaka, Rapaea, Mahima ,and McGrath. Ialso remember there being two meeting-houses,and a store- house,up near the big house of Gillies.

Fig 5.-Photo(copy)-The two meeting-houses, with Stanley Baker in the foreground.

 Fig. 6 -Photo(copy) -Gillies with Grannie Cheer and family.

Grannie Cheer knew all the maoris and referred to Mr.Waaka  as  "Waaka"(sounded like  walker) who lived with his wife Rangi and their children Polly and Wi. Rangi was very shy and terrified of Waaka but would sometimes to visit Grannie at Gillies. Wi and Polly rode their horses  the nine miles from Kairakau to Elsthorpe to attend school.There was also, Pipi, an old lady who lived in a lean-to at the back of Waaka's house.

The next house  down was Joe Repaea's,also known as Joe Hora.He lost several children from tuberculosis and they are buried in the cemetery at Kairakau. We were never allowed to visit  Repaeas as the children were always sick and Grannie was sure we would catch TB if  we did visit.

 Next to this was Mahima's, where two brothers,Charlie and Dowsey ,lived with Charlie's wife Wiki ( Wikitoria named after Queen Victoria ) and Joe (Takopa Kimihunga) . He was always to be seen with Charlie and Dowsey. Wiki (makereta Wikitoria ),was born at Kairakau on 5th October 1882 to Hariata  Horikiokio who owned land there.Wiki was bought up by  Rawiri Ereataria and Tima. Tima had a moko (tattoo) on her chinWiki's influence over her family was very strong and she is remembered for this as part of the history of Kairakau. She did not have any children of her own but had many children living with her. Those I remembered were Margaret ,Ruth ,Hariata Mohi ( later adopted by Wiki ),Julia Morrell (Margaret's baby ) and Boy.

After Wiki and Charlie were married  they lived at Pourere where Charlie was a  carpenter and he helped "Shorty" nation to build the woolshed at  "Puna  Waitai"

In 1927 - 1928, when Wiki was 45, they returned to Kairakau where Charlie built the house by the stream in which they all lived. He later became blind , and I recall him with a white stick finding his way about. Wiki came back to Kairakau to  be buried in 1959 aged 77.

Fig.7 Photo(copy)- Ruth Mahima.          - Fig.8- Photo.(copy) -Wiki Mahima.

When Rangi Waaka died,Waaka moved away ,and Joe and Dowsey shifted over into Waaka's house. The house nearest to the beachwas  McGraths and Mylee McGrath who was pakeha , had a Maori wife.  This was situated  behind  Tinning's present cottage.

In 1924 - 25,Sarah Cheer bought a house on the foreshore which belonged to Charlotte Sinclair..(this house was built of white pine ,wide weatherboard and was tarred black. I remember it hgaving shutyters and no glass windows.) Charlotte Sinclair was Sarah's first cousin (Aunt Cordell's daughter.

Fig. 9.-Photo(copy)- Grannie Cheer's first cottage.

 Great Aunt  Elizabeth  Cordell and Great Grandmother Ann Crayford were sisters and immigrated to  New Zealand on the ship  'Hudson " in 1875  with their children.Sarah (my grandmother ) and Charlotte were 1st cousins.

 Grannie only had the black house for 6 years at the most when she had it pulled downas it had rotted and had a new house built in 1929 - 30 by Henry Hickmott & Sons ( Salvationists), builders from Hastings.This house remained in the family until about 1950 when it ,and Kokatewai,were sold at auctionfollowing the death of Sarah Cheer.

 Grannie Cheer's family all shared  this house  with her for their summer holiday,coming at different times but their was always quite a crowd there.Those I remember having hoildays with her were:

 Fig 10 -Photo(copy)  -Bell,Doll,Mum,Beatrice, Peg ,Meg,Joan.

 Fig -11 Photo (copy)  -Group behind Grannie Cheer's house.

 Auntie Jessie Tickner and sons  Jack, Charlie,Lewis and Freddie.

Auntie( Florence) Floss Moriaty  and family Mollie, Betty, Dan and Brian

 Auntie (beatrice) Jude Baker and  family APeter and Judith

Uncle Louis Cheer and his family of ten children.

 Auntie  (Doris) Doll Sigglekow and family Peg, Meg, Beth and Brian.

My Mothewr Alice and sister Belle.

 The journey to Kairakau was always one to remember as we ,my mother,Belle and I,travelled by train from Woodville to Otane where we met by Grannie Cheer .Then we wqere drivben by car to Kairakau.As children we had to open gateson the Patangata Hill and then again on the Patea Hillgoing down from Waipuna Station  (see footnote 2 )

 I have various memories of my childhood holidays with Granni,my Aunts and cousins and I'll relate some of those that stand out in my memory. It is interesting what one recalls from childhood

 The cottages in those days all had shutters over the windows, or window spaces,and these were propped open with a piece oif wood,secured when the house was locked up.I remember Grannie's obsession for locking up and she had a key for everything that opened and shut !

 As children, we were sent with a Maori kete or hessian sugarbag, to collect driftwood for the wood stove and to heat the water.We also had to walk 1 1/2 mile  to the Mangakura corner by the Kairakau Station woolshedonce a week to to meet the coach and collect  mail and stores that had been ordered from Otane. The coach drivers were local characters and at that time it would  have been either Percy Pilcher or Sealey Irwin. We also had to collect homemade butter from Mrs.Boese at Kairakau Station to take back to Grannie. To keep it coolshe put it on a wet brick in a hole in the ground, covered with wet muslin and then put  a lid over the hole.

 There were no flush toilets then and one of mother's jobs was to empty the kerosine tin from the" longdrop" into a hole in the paddock. It was always done after darkand without torches and they often had the embarrasment of meeting someone else at the hole doing the same task. There were always a good supply of kerosine tins as kerosine was used in the lamps for lighting.Dishwashing was done on the table in a shallow pannikan filled with hot water from the tap off the  hot water jacket on the stove. One thing vivid in my mind was Grannie tapping the rainwater tank with the broom-handle  to check how the water supply was holding out - something she did every day and woe betide us if it was getting low !.

 As time went by a cow was driven down the 6 miles from Kokatewai to the beach so we could have a supply of fresh milk and cream. One of our mothers did the milking. Meat was also sent down from the farm on the coach car. We then had to carry it back from the corner. Grannie used to have young roosters in a coup to kill for eating. She would have raised from chickens in Otane.

 I recall there was a woolshed situated on the rise where the swings and seesaws are now. This woolshed was quite a landmark until the early 30's.

Fig. 12 - Photo(copy) Woolshed

Fig.13 -Photo (copy) - Strang's house.

 Up until 1920 the shed was used to store wool until the weather and tide was suitable to take it out to the lighters to be loaded on board ship. The wool was taken into the waves by waggons pulled by horses or bullocks. It was then transferred to the lighters. Another old loading area was that at the far end of Waterfall  Beach,referred to earlier. In 1920 road transport took over the transport of the wool.

 By this time (1930 there were about 26  houses on the foreshore, those I remember were:-

 Kenerdine, Harry Cheer,Corskey, Firminger,White,Ryan/McGaffin,Shield,Grannie Cheer,Simpson, Bibby,Ma Clark,Leigh,Witherow,Arthur Rathbone,Gray,McLeod, Roach, Clark,Howard,Scrimger,Nan Bibby, Ted Bibby, Wedd, Gray and Strang.

  Kairakau is often referred to as Bibbyville as so many descendants have aquired properties as they have come up for sale. Nan and Ted Bibby,brother and sister were probably the earliest settlers, that i knew of,to come to Kairakau.They would take the coach to Mangakuri,to visit friends,and would need to cross the Mangakuri Stream as there was no bridge. They visited their friends the Miss Howards and Miss Clarks from Otane who camped ata Kairakau and who were some of the earliest settlers to build there. Both Bob and Nan were over 90 when they died in 1990.

 I think special mention must be made of the Scrimgeour family of Otane who had 11 children. Jean and Frank would camp in the woolshed in the early days with Jean"s sister Susan  Weddwho helped with the large family.Susan relates she was the daughter of a saddler,Charles Wedd, who leased Maori land in Elsthorpe.When he was at the Coastal Stations he would stay with the Maoris.Susan recalls taking a Rapaea to live with them so as to attend school at Otane. The Scrimgeours drove their small herd of cows to the beach for the 6 weeks summer holiday and the family sold milk ata 1/- per billy-families with a baby were always served first. Frank Scrimgeour would be remembered as having gathered agar seaweed and bringing it back on horseback.

 In 1934 after the sea had entered Sammy Strangs,whichwas the eastyern most house, he negotiated a 21 year lease of a section of Eriha's land across the roadway from the foreshore.( Marice Eriha was Wiki Mahina's half brother).

Fig.14. Photo Strangs before being moved.

 This lease had no right of renewal, but the right to remove all buildings,so when my parents Alice and Alex Mackay bought Steangs house in December 1942 there were 13 years of the  remaining of tthe lease.

 The Strangs shifted their cottage onto this section.The cottage was originally built in 1929 by Harry Cheer from Elsthorpe and Fred Kingston at a cost of 168 pounds. Mr.Pilcher's traction engine moved it along to the new site on 26 June 1934 at a cost of 36 pounds ten shillings and sixpence. It was the only house in the back paddock. My parents were living in Woodville at the time and wanted  a beach cottage to give their grandchildren a summer holiday.

Fig.15 .Photo -

Fig.16-Photo- 4 Generations 1943.Outside the cottage- Sarah Cheer-grandmother,Alice Mackay  mother,Belle McKean,sister,Winston and Warwick - Belle's twin sons.

 The annual migration was quite a marathon,with trailer and car loaded to the hilt. Included were a few young roosters to fatten ,The provisions and freshly killed meat  which would hang in the Ngaio trees behind the house.My father was always in charge of our holiday and the cottage.He was a great provider.

 My husband Ron, would bring ouyt a cow in the horsefloatand this was grazed  in the back paddock and milked every day so that we had fresh milk.We also provided milk for othewr families and the children would be sent along with billies at milking time to collect their supply.

 Dinner was cooked at mid-day on a small Dover stove,then it was compulsory rest time on our beds.About 3 pm we would rise and go down to the river.This was a great gathering  place with mothers with young children and very safe.

 The tide had a great bearing on  life at Kairakau with nets and pots set around the rocks.(see footnote 3 ) Part of the daily programmeat low-tide, was to go around the rocks, gather pauas and reset the crayfish pots as crayfish were very plentiful then..So were pauas,and one wouldn't dream of putting them in a craypot as these days.Extra pauas were bought home to be  made into fritters,which were very popular with everyone.

 Fig 17 Photo--Warwick, Mac ,Ron,Robert,Helen, Bruce Johnston,Winston.

  In the mid 1940's - 1950's each Saturday night over the six week summer holiday, a dance was held in the Kapiti Woolshed. Unsliced bread would come out on the coach and the beach ladies would prepare a babies bath filled with sandwiches for supper. My father and Ralph Scrimgeour would light the copper in  Dick and Lorna Brodie's wash- house to boil hot water for tea, and to wash dishes after the dance.  ( See footnote 4). Dick Brodie,manager of Kapiti Station,and his wife Lorna, were most hospitable and we have memories of wonderful New Year Eve parties held in their home. They had the only telephone at the beach. 9Now we have a public call box outside the hall).

 I recall the time when Donald and Robert Carpenter (aged 12 - 13) needed rescuing from "Punch and Judy", after being forbidden to row out to clear their crayfish pot because of the strong westerly wind. Thewty found themselves stranded out there unable to row home. Imagine my surprise , on seeing Derek McCroskery going past with his boat and two other men in life jackets heading for sea to rescue these two kids, in a westerly gale.

 Both boys remember this experience very vividly !!!. When a westerly gale gets up  it fairly screams down the river and along the cliffs. It is strong enough to overturn caravans and deroof houses. This occurs at least once during the summer season.

 I remember my daughter Helen getting badly sunburnt, necessitating a visit to the doctor and no swimming .Also the summer Robert,aged 7, was confined to bed for three months with Rheumatic Fever.We pushed him around in Donalds pram,even down to the beach to see the sunfish which had been landed on the beach by a surf - caster.

 It seems i took over the lease of our cottage on 18 December 1954,with one year of the lease remaining. A  the same time Dick  Brodie was negotiatingto purchase the Eriha paddock,so as to sub-divide  and make more sections available. When this was finalised  I secured the freehold title for 260 pounds in 1960.

 This house ,along  with the Hut , served the family well. In 1957 Bob Tinnings put in a septic tank . We had the power supply connected and the house reroofr\ed.

 It was January 1976 , after Robert returned from Australia, that we decided to build a new house. Ron and Robert pulled down the old cottage and completely built our new house in eleven months, so that we didn't miss our summer holiday.

 Since the Waipukurau Council took over responsibility for Kairakau,our rayes have increased from $41 to $941. An alarming increases.To offset this,we gather agar seaweed  at low tide from both Kairakau and Mangakuri beaches,dry it and sell it.

 Agar gathering has always been part of our beach holidays and my sister Belle,,staying with Winston  and Warwick at Kairakau for three months during thr polio epidemic, picked up enough agar at 1/- a  lb  to buy the boys their first bicycle.

 Ron's first boat was called "Kairakau".It was a plywood open boat, and was built by Fred Northey a boat builder at  Westshore. The boat was powered by a Seagull and later  a Johnson outboard.About 1970 he upgraded to a fibreglass boat,from which a 76 lb groper was caught by Jim Nelson off Te Apiti Bay - it was the biggest fish we have ever landed.

Fig.19 - Photo - copy.  Ron and Jim.

 My nephew Warwick McKean , who spent his childhood holidays at Kairakau,asked to have his ashes scattered there,and this was done 22 February 1986.A memorable and sad day for all his family.

 Fig 20 - photo- copy. Warwick.

 From 1970 - 1987 the front row of cottages were the subject of much public debate. The cottages were ordered to be removed once   the Town and Country Planning Act was passed as they were found to be on the strip. Because of this the council could no longer rate the owners and they were given notice of 15 years to remove their cottages ferom the beach front. In fact they stayed for 19 years without paying any rates.

 In 1987,following a long battle with the Central Hawkes Bay CouncilKairakau Holdings purchased the back paddock to accommodate all the front cottages when they were removed from the beachfront. This area has since been subdivided and  roads and services put in. The houses have subsequently moved to their new location. Names of roads include Mananui Street,Brodie Place (after Dick Brodie),and Kapiti Place (after "Kaoiti "Station which Dick Brodie managed for many years).

 In 1990 there was still no shop at Kairakau,although,twice weekly  a small truck laden with fresh vegetables ,fruit and fresh bread. Mr Wimpy also pays an occasional visit with his expensive ice creams. The Elsthorpe Institute Shop day  held annually in mid January was eagerly looked forward to years ago - sadly no more.

 To my knowledge no one has ever been drowned at Kairakau,although there are stories of near drownings, and now there are surfies out there winter and summer.W e are also treated to hang-gliders taking off from the cliff tops and landing on the beach, helicopter sight - seeing rides, jet skis and surf skis riding the waves, and catamarans with their bright coloured sails crossing the bay.The launching of boats out through the surf  provides those on shore with many anxious moments.Quite often the risk is too great and the boaties are tipprd out,causing great excitment.Kairakau Boat Club members are very active and concerned for their mates.They are quickly to the rescue when the necessity arises.

 Awhite - out fog on Boxing Day 1991 had forced the boaties to stay on - shore until mid-day. As the sea was dead calm I said to my son-in-law Jim Nelson that I would like to have my first  trip around the Rocks in his boat. Along with Kate ,Lizzie, Bobbie and Robert we set off. When we returned 1/2 hour later Iwas able to say I had seen the far side of those rocks for the first time,after all these years.

 It is noticeable that nearly all present day residenrs are descendants are those of the past.It seems that having spent their childhood ata Kairakau,they are drawn back to this very special place.

 In 1992, at 76 as I write this story Iwonder if any member of my family will ever want to carry on after me. I hope you will enjoy reading this account of my recollections over 70 years.

 This page has a diagram of situations of homes prior to 1989.


 (1)   Te Apiti Station used this road to bring its wool down to be loaded on to Lighters to go out to ships anchored off Kairakau.

These trees are still standing and so must be in the vicinity of 100 years old.

 The car being either a Buick ,Essex or Dodge as Grannie liked a nice smart car.

 Grandfather ,William Cheer,bought his first car in 1904,one of the first Three in Elsthorpe..

 (2) The big hill - Patea(named after Maori) -down to the beach from Waipuna to Mangakuri corner was realigned in 1950, removing the Hairpin bend and corrogation and many dangerous corners.

 (3)  Although most householders have a boat in the 1990's,the trek around the rocks still holds a lot of interest for all ages.

 (4)  In this way, enough money was raised to get the Kairakau Hall built with voluntary beach labour. It was proved quite an aquisition to the community and Fancy Dress dances are still held each summer for the children,along with the annual Sand Castle and Beach Races.

Note:  In photograph  Fig.12 the woolshed is still standing,Maori settlement on the right.

          : In photograph Fig 13 dated 1937 - one year after Strang moved his house into the back paddock - the woolshed has gone.!

 Patrick Parsons reported Legend is of interest and I have referred to the earlier.The house on the foreshore taken just before removal and the driftwood over Camping Area shows how high the seas can get in a winter storm.

 Photos of the area and an article written by Patrick Parsons.







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