Hamilton’s Gap / Waimatuku

“It is essential that we the guardians, have spiritual and cultural authority over our traditional lands, waters, and resources. Our hope is to give you a glimpse of our history, region, cultural resources, and caretaker responsibilities.

Nga Tohu Kaitikai Charitable Trust, Indigenous Arts Charitable Trust, Auckland Council.

(Info board onsite)

Leaving Graham’s Beach at the top, we drove a little south and stayed a night at Hamilton’s Gap on the west coast of the Awhitu Peninsula.

The Māori name for this place is Waimatuku, meaning ‘water of the brown bittern.’

The information board onsite states:

Ngaate Te Ata Rohe: The Awhitu Peninsula.

“… The whole Awhitu Peninsula was once heavily populated and settled by our people. Harbour headlands and promontories were settled, some as waahi nohoanga (temporary fishing camps), highly valued for their access to the Manukau food bowl. The coastal plateau was strategically used to establish defensive Pa Taua (fighting pa), and Pa Whawhai (buffer pa), their remnants still evident today.

“… There has been more than a thousand years of Māori occupation and use in this region. It is pointless to view parts of this waahi taonga in isolation, as separate. They all interconnect and interrelate to form a bigger picture, a networked settlement of occupation and use. That is why it is crucial for us to re-establish these connections through heritage and environmental linkages.”

I’ve quoted this because for me it’s important to know the history and respect what has gone before when we visit places.

As a fifth-generation New Zealander, my ancestors came here in 1841, but I’m only now learning, and seeking to understand the history of my country, what the Treaty of Waitangi actually meant and what it means today for New Zealand.

I guess it’s become important to me to respect what has gone before, in Aotearoa, my country of birth. And showing that respect has to start with me learning about the places I visit.

The board goes on to tell of Kupe, the great navigator, travelling up the west coast, stopping at Mokau and Kawhia harbours on his way to the Hokianga, and travelling up and exploring the Waikato River, naming many places as he went.

Hamilton was the name of the dude who originally farmed the land, and the area became known as Hamilton’s Gap.

James and Margaret Hamilton arrived in the area from Scotland in 1863. He and his brother formed a cheese factory in 1899, producing ‘Awitu’ brand cheese between 1900-1920, using the boiler from an old flax mill.

There were a number of flax mills operating in the area. They produced rope and twine and were a source of income for early settlers.

Flax was sourced mostly from the sand hills and pulled up the beach by horses.

We parked by the stream and made a cuppa.

This is freedom camping for fully self contained vehicles, though there are toilets and a (cold) shower there.

It has a large grassy area and a picnic table.

We were entertained by some people who appeared to be learning to paraglide.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I was excited to explore the black sand beach.

I grew up in South Taranaki and this place immediately reminded me of the beaches of my childhood.

We waded through the shallow stream…

… and admired the huge golden cliffs …

… and sandhills …

They are an amazing sight.

Looking back inland through the ‘Gap’ you can just see our caravan parked there …

Looking out to sea from inside the ‘Gap’ …

It’s seems to be a popular spot for fishing and walking. And exercising dogs.

I was disheartened to see a lot of plastic and rubbish washed up on the sand.

This is what we picked up …

Actually, sad.

Let’s look after our taonga.

The sunset that evening from this west coast beach was spectacular.

The sunrise the next morning tried to rival it, but failed miserably…

The wind was tunnelling through the Gap the next morning and was pretty unpleasant. I’m sure it can get pretty nasty here at times. It started through the night, so we weren’t really surprised.

It was time to leave anyway.

And we’re glad we came. There’s nothing like a black sand beach for an ex ‘Naki-ite.

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