Walk a wonder, but watch the tide

19:43, Feb 27 2013
Northland Walk
BIG SKY: The 11 km return walk along the coast includes various types of terrain, requiring some agility.

A hike along the exposed coastline between Waimamaku and Kawerua involves rock-hopping and stream crossings, placing this walk in the "adventurous" category.

You will see this section of the west coast at its most extraordinary, showing off its huge sense of space and biodiversity.

The walk is about five to six kilometres each way - 11km return and needs to be carefully timed to allow crossing of the Waimamaku River either side of low tide, at the start and at the finish.

It is hard to believe about 600 people once lived at Kawerua, now the site of just one derelict building shaded among old pohutukawa trees.

The isolated spot near Waipoua, now restored to Te Roroa, never was, and is still not, accessible from land.

Occupied by Maori for hundreds of years, Kawerua became the home of settlers in the late 19th century and in the early 1900s it comprised dwellings, outbuildings, a post office, store, a hotel and a race course.


The ruins of the old hotel are all that remain today - a sort of crumbling relic of the past, last used in the 1980s when a University of Auckland field club used it as a base for field trips, students studying middens, geology, plants, lichen, birds, insects, lizards, phytoplankton and crabs.

Kawerua is now a recognised surf spot and a treat for walkers, although the old DOC track that veered away from the beach is now closed.

With the Te Roroa land claim settled, the hotel is on private land, not open to the public.

DOC officer Tony Maidment says new signs will be going up and there are ongoing discussions, involving the landowners, Department of Conservation and the The New Zealand Walking Access Commission. The commission is a Crown entity that works to enhance walking access to the outdoors.

The present DOC sign at Kawerua is posted just off the beach a few metres from the old hotel. We stopped on the beach near here, took time for lunch and a swim and returned to Waimamaku, taking six hours total, timing our walk to span three hours each side of low tide.

Unexpectedly we were joined by a companionable dog - waiting for her surfing owner to return to shore. We called her Annie and she evidently enjoyed the walk as much as we did. The only thing she chased were flies and she was reunited with her owner that evening.

To get there, drive south of Omapere and look out for the turnoff to Waimamaku Beach. Park at the end of the road and follow the river to the sea where the crossing is shallowest. This is the start of the walk.


Generations ago Te Roroa occupied lands stretching from the Kaipara Harbour north to the Hokianga Harbour, including the kauri forest at Waipoua.

Kawerua is among a number of important wahi tapu sites - places of deep spiritual, cultural, and historical significance to Te Roroa because of their association with the tribe's ancestors. Wesleyan missionaries established missions in the Hokianga from the mid-1830s and there were early Pakeha residents who lived with Maori communities from this time.

In 1842 the Crown required some chiefs of the northern Kaipara to cede between 2200 and 3000 acres of land as punishment for plunder of a store, whose owner was believed by local Maori to have desecrated an urupa and removed human remains. No payment was made for the land and the Crown failed to consult with, or consider the interests of, Te Roroa groups that had significant interests at Te Kopuru.

Te Roroa offered to sell the Crown some lands in the vicinity of Waimamaku and Waipoua in 1874. During the series of negotiations that followed, the Crown failed to instigate and follow clear procedures to identify and exclude from its purchase all the lands Te Roroa indicated to surveyors they wished to retain. This led to the alienation of Te Roroa from some of their most treasured sites. Shortly after the sales were concluded in 1876 Te Roroa began protesting the Crown's failure to provide reserves they believed had been agreed to.

More recently, Te Roroa has agreed to explore the possibility of establishing the first National Kauri Park in Waipoua.

The Te Roroa website advises that the process will go through a number of stages. The first stage, and the one to which Te Roroa has agreed to, is the exploration of the opportunity and possibility.

An investigation team has been established by the Department of Conservation that includes members of the Te Roroa governance group - Te Roroa Whatu Ora Trust and Te Roroa operational staff.

For more information go to Te Roroa website teroroa.iwi.nz and the Waitangi Tribunal website: waitangitribunal.govt.nz.