Great Barrier Island

Originally named Aotea after "The canoe that came to New Zealand with the Chief Turi"

The Island has a rich human history dating back a thousand years to the time of the great Polynesian explorer Kupe.

The Island became heavily populated with Moari and legends of great feats and grand battles abound.

In November 1769 Captain James Cook sighted Aotea. Master mariner that he was, Captain Cook quickly recognised the role it played in sheltering the waters of the Hauraki Gulf from the excesses of the Pacific and named Hauturu (Little Barrier) and Aotea the "Barrier Isles".

The tough pioneering history of logging and mining on Great Barrier has taught the locals valuable lessons about respecting the environment. Today over 60% of the Island is protected as conservation estate or reserves for future generations to enjoy. Look for the kaka, tui, wood pigeon and brown teal duck, the rata, pohutukawa and kauri; all these things have survived without possums, deer, stoats, hedgehogs and ferrets.

Specific varities of Fauna and flora are genetically unique as a result of evolving on the Island in the isolation from the rest of New Zealand.

In 1841, the largest sailing ship to be built in Australasia, the three masted barque, "Sterlingshire" was launched from the beach where it was built at Nagles Cove in Port Abercombie.

Eerie holes are all that remain of attempts to mine copper in the 1840's from forbidding sea cliffs on the Northwest  Coast in an area still referred to as Miners Head.

The discovery of gold within the White Cliffs, (Te Ahumata) in 1892 saw a "boom and bust" gold rush. Little can be seen of the once thriving town of Oroville (population 500) that sprang up to service the stamping battery but much history can unfold to the observant tramper.

In 1897 saw the introduction of the first airmail in the world with the advent of the "Original Great Barrier Pigeonmail Service". This service became redundant with the arrival of the telephone in 1908 but has recently resurfaced as a novel method of sending mail in the form of "Pigeongrams" to the mainland.

In 1909 the Kauri Timber Company built a sawmill at Whangaparapara which soon became the largest producer in the southern hemisphere. Logs were brought from far and wide for milling and the finished product was exported. The remains of the huge Kauri timber dams still stand as monuments to the engineering skills of the time.

Great Barrier, the largest Island in the Hauraki Gulf, has only a small population, who survive with out reticulated power or water. The pioneering spirit and conservation ethic are strong here where many residents choose to extract their power from the sun, wind and water and in so doing have built up an enviable reputation in the field of alternative energy.

Taken from the brochure produced by Great Barrier Island Business Association

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