Famous Firsts in Onehunga


Circa 800  – Toi Te Huatahi the great Polynesian navigator explores Aotearoa. Some of his descendants (called Te Tini o Toi or The Multitude of Toi) settle on the shores of the Manukau Harbour.

1600s   – The Tainui Canoe sailed down theTamakiRiver from the Waitemata to Otahuhu and then portaged across to the Manukau Harbour, thus finding an important route to the Waikato River. The Ngati Awa tribe established pas and villages at Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and Owairaka. The Waiohua tribe holds all of Tamaki under the leadership of Hua Kai Waka (Hua Who Unites People). Hua’s main pā is at Maungawhau, with Onehunga an important waka landing.

The Rev. A.G.Purchas claimed Onehunga was named about 1646 by the Waiohua tribe. Sir George Grey was told this story by the local Maori when he visited in 1846. The area was once gardened, but almost a wilderness at the same time of the arrival of the Europeans.

Circa 1670   – Puhihuia and Ponga elope to Awhitu and escape from her pursuing parents in waka tied up at Onehunga.

Early 1700s  – Hua’s grandson Kiwi Tamaki succeeds to the leadership and moves the main pā to Maungakiekie.

Mid 1700s  – Kiwi Tamaki is defeated in battle atMangereMountain. Mana overAuckland isthmus, including Onehunga, passes to Ngati Whatua, with Tuperiri replacing Kiwi atMaungakiekiePā.

1800–1840  – Onehunga is a major Maori settlement, occupied all year round.

1820 – Rev Samuel Marsden sights Onehunga and stays overnight with a party of Maori from a settlement in Onehunga accompanying him.

1820’s  – Small Maori Settlement known near the foot ofPrinces Street.

– Te Whero Whero of Ngati Mahutu resided on land overlooking Onehunga Beach to maintain his mana over the land.

1827             – Durville observed the area was neglected and overgrown.

1830’s          – Timber traders in Manukau Harbour.

1831             – Captain Smith sailed into theManukauHarbour

1835             – Tom Mitchell, a timber and flour merchant, traded toSydney. He was the first white settler and set up a sawmill atMillBay.

1840             – Hobson offered land by Ngati Whatua Chief Apihai Te Kawau and capital moves to Tamaki.

1840             – John Logan Campbell visits Apihai at Onehunga village and tries to buy land. Apihai declinesCampbell’s offers.

                        – On the 12th December, the following advertisement was inserted in the “New Zealand Gazette”

“A suitable reward will be paid to any person who may invent a machine to aid manuel labour in preparingNew Zealandflax or hemp, provided it complies with the following conditions”:

a. The machine, if it is to be used by one person, must not cost more than five pounds, and in any case must be durable.

b. It must be so easily applied, that one week’s instruction shall enable the most ignorant to work it.

                    c. It must enable one person to render fit for shipment, not less that 50lbs weight of flax daily.

                    d. It must be easily made and removed.

It would appear that Onehunga took up the challenge, because it produced for more world first patent machines for the flax industry;

The automatic flax catcher

The automatic flax washer

The automatic flax fibre scutcher

The automatic tow cleaner and saver.

1841             – Felton Matthew completes the first survey of Onehunga area. First noting of name Onehunga for the Maori settlement by the beach.

c. 1841         – John Logan Campbell and William Brown attempt trade with the Maori settlement at Onehunga.

1842             – Governer Hobson proclaims theCounty ofEden, including Onehunga

1843             – Bishop Selwyn stops at onehunga on an Expedition.

1844–45       – Governor Fitzroy waives Crown right of pre-emption. All Ngati Whatua land at Onehunga, including Onehunga village and Maungakiekie Pā, is obtained by the Crown and various settlers.

1844             – 7 May – Earliest recorded land sale to Thomas Jackson. Governor Robert Fitzroy had passed two land acts during this year allowing individuals to buy land direct from the Maori owners on payment of a small tax to the Government. The business section of Onehunga now stands on part of Jackson’s farm land.

Establishment of the beach trading area.

Robert Forbes purchases nine acres from three Maori chiefs, formerly Te Whero Whero’s land. First hotel established.

– 11 November Isabella Forbes – first white child born in onehunga.Forbes Streetwas named after this family.

1845             – Increasing numbers arriving on immigrant ships.

1846             – Governor Grey visited to assess Onehunga’s suitability as a defence outpost and decided to retain the name Onehunga Police force started in onehunga.

Site surveyed for military settlement.

1847             – Arrival of the first Fencible soldiers in the Ramilles, Berhampore and Oriental Queen, till 1849. These men were recruited inGreat Britain from the military pensioners and discharged soldiers. They had to be under the age of 45, able bodied and of good character. They were given an acre of land and a rent-free cottage.

First Catholic mass held in Onehunga.

First school built by Reverend Purchas next to St Peter’s church

1848          – Onehunga becomes a unit of Local Government in theCounty ofEden.

First Anglican Church of St Peter’s completed.

Royal Hotel opened. Start of commercial development alongPrinces Street.

First postal service established

1849             – Onehunga became a Hundred – one of six inAuckland

–  Sophia Bates was New Zealand’s first postmistress in 1849.

–  Berhampore fencibles (second force) and Oriental Queen fencibles arrive.

                    OnehungaVillage surveyed

1850             – First Methodist chapel built.

First post office shipped from Russell and re-erected inQueen Street.

1851             –Church of St Mary’s built

1852             – A horse omnibus ran from onehunga toAuckland and back every Monday in the summer, there was a regular service by 1860.

1853             – October 2 – Edward Gibbon Wakefield visited Onehunga to talk about colonisation.

William Powditch first onehunga representative to the Auckland Provincial Council (for the Pensioner Settlements)

1854             – First established industry: John Bycroft’s flour mill,Princes Street

1855             – First subscription library and free reading room in Onehunga opened next to St Peter’s Church.

1857             –New Zealand’s first Caesarian delivery was performed in Onehunga by Dr Weeks, assisted by Dr McGaurin and Dr Curtis and in the presence of the Rev. Dr Purchas, “who kindly gave assistance” This took place because the mother’s death was inevitable in an circumstances. A “fine healthy female was extracted.” The mother, a Mrs. Filmer, was under chloroform. The reason for her inevitable death was not given.

Second school erected next to St Peter’s church

1858             – First wharf built.

1860’s          – Commercial development expands alongQueens Street.

1860             Building of the Blockhouse was begun for the protection of women and children. The Land Wars had started and the authorities were afraid that the Maori would attack the settlers in Onehunga. The Blockhouse was built on Green Hill Reserve, nowJellicoePark, and still stands today.

Onehunga becomes separate electoral district. George O’Rorke first Member of House of Representatives for Onehunga.

Captain Henry Hardington starts first horse omnibus service to onehunga from Auckland.

                    – Congregational Church built inPrinces Street.

1861             First onehunga custom house built first sub-collector of customs appointed.

1862             First Presbyterian Church built.

1863             – Refugees were brought into Onehunga from the outlying districts and housed in an old customs building, near one of the wells. Because of their plight the Onehunga Ladies’ Benevolent Society was started, and this is still operative today.

                    – First in NZ “Orpheus” disaster. Some dead buried in graveyard at St Peter’s church.

1864             The Swiftsure and Thomas Fletcher arrived at Onehunga from Melbourne with the militia for the 4th Waikato Regiment.

They were accommodated in tents at the Captain Springs Reserve.Captain Springs Road is still there.

                    – First convent school opened in the parish

                    – The Onehunga institute founded,

                    – First bank in Onehunga, Bank of Auckland,Princes Street

                    – First locally built steamer the blue Nose launched

1865            – Second wharf completed.

                    – The catholic institute founded.

1867             – Onehunga Highway Board was set up and rates were collected in 1869

1868             – Highway Board for the District of Onehunga formed.

1871             – Onehunga Courthouse opened.

1873             – Branch railway line betweenAuckland and Onehunga completed – Boat train to New Plymouth only transport toWellington

1874             – Onehunga Railway Station completed

Onehunga Perpetual Land Building and Investment Society begun.

1875             –First Mangere Bridge opened.

1876             – Third school built, Selwyn Street

1877             – Onehunga Borough Council formed.

                    – Second Methodist church formed.

1878             – First Water reservoir built atCaptain Street springs

                    – Railway wharf completed.

1879             – Crown Grant of 47 acres forWaikarakaPark and Cemetery

                    – Auckland Savings Bank opens in house onQueen Street

1880             – First Onehunga Racing Club meeting was held in Waikaraka Park

                    – Onehunga-Waiuku Steam Navigation Company formed

1881             – Onehunga Borough Council gain ownership of Green hill Reserve (JellicoePark) and “The Farm” (WaikarakaPark)

                    – Northern Steamship Company began Onehunga service

1883             – First horse race meeting of Onehunga Racing Club atWaikarakaPark.

1886             – First gas street lights in Onehunga

                    – Auckland Savings Bank erect building inQueen Street

                    – Woolen mill started, later Onehunga Woollen Mills Limited

1887             Volunteer Fire Brigade was inaugurated

1888             –First street lighting by gas

Onehunga’s first water pumping station opened.

                    – Church of the Assumption consecrated.

1889             – Water reticulation started and a pumping station and reservoir were built

1890             –WaikarakaCemetery was consecrated and the first burial took place.

                    – Second Presbyterian Church built.

1892             – Borough Council Chambers built at Corner of Queen Street (now the mall) andPrinces Street

First National Bank opens in new Borough chambers.

1893             – Elizabeth Yates elected as first woman mayor in theBritish Empire.

1894-1897    The first native born New Zealander to become Mayor in NewZealand was Mr D.A Sutherland

& 1901-1904

1899             – Auckland volunteers, 1st NZ contingent, leave for the Boer War from Onehunga.

1901             – Main school opened, November

                    – Onehunga Racing Pigeon Club established.

1902             – Second post office built.

1903             Electric tram services to onehunga wharf fromAucklandCity.

                    – First high school in the district established. Closed 1911.

                    – San Souci Tea Kiosk opened.

1906             – First fire station built onPrinces Street

1907             New Fire Station built for volunteer Fire Brigade

1908             Seddon Memorial tram shelter and drinking fountain unveiled atRoyal Oak junction

1911             – Big Forester’s Hall built. Later destroyed by fire.

c. 1911         – Little Forester’s Hall built,Grey Street.

1912             – Opening of the Carnegie Free Library.

Boyd’s Zoo opened inSymonds Street. This zoo was closed in 1922 and the animals sold to the Auckland City Council for the Zoo in Grey Lynn.

Church ofChrist chapel built inTrafalgar Street.

1913             – New pumping station and reservoir – twenty miles of sewers now in operation and being discharged into theManukauHarbour.

Auckland Harbour Board take over administration of Onehunga port and wharves.

Te Papapa school opened.

1915             –Second Mangere Bridge completed.

1918             – Influenza pandemic; 59 die in Onehunga.

1920’s          – Onehunga Bible Chapel erected inInkerman Street.

1922             – Green Hill Reserve renamedJellicoePark, with a main entrance archway erected as a memorial to the servicemen who lost their lives in the 1924-1918 war

Concrete highway through the borough commenced.

1923             –JellicoePark opened.

Third convent school erected

1925             – Strand Picture Theatre built. Closed 1964.

1926             – Second Onehunga Fire station opened.

1927             – Installation of electricity throughout the borough completed

New ferro-concrete wharf completed.

FirstSeventhDayAdventistChurch built inMt Smart Road.

1928             –GeddesBasin became rubbish tip, but in 1934 the name was  changed toGloucesterPark

1930             – Foundation stone laid for second St Peter’s church

Onehunga Ex-Servicemen’s Club formed.

1933             – Onehunga Fire Brigade amalgamated with Auckland Metropolitan Fire Board.

1934             –GeddesBasin crater sealed off, filled in, and renamedGloucesterPark.

1935             –WaikarakaPark upgraded and concrete grandstand built.

1937             – Onehunga Business Association incorporated.

1940             – Floral Clock installed atJellicoePark forNew Zealand’s centennial.

1943             –ManukauIntermediateSchool opens.

1947             – Rotary Club of onehunga chartered.

1950             – Last passenger train between Onehunga andAuckland.

1955             – John Park Memorial Fountain installed inJellicoePark.

1956             – Last tram leaves Onehunga in December.

Onehunga War Memorial swimming pool built and opened next toJellicoePark

Three bridges over Manukau to Mangere

1958             – Senior Citizens Service Club, the first inNew Zealand

1959             –FirstOperativeDistrictTown Planning Scheme

Onehunga Mayoress’s Welfare Committee was founded

‘Journey’s End’ was opened on Mrs Soar’s property inNormans Hill Road. When Mrs Soar died in 1968 the Council bought the cottage from the estate and the family donated the valuable collection of items it contained. “Journey’s End’ was moved toJellicoePark in 1969.

1960’s          – Reclamation of foreshore begins. Pikes Point established.

1960             – Garside Village Built – 40 units.

1961             –FirstGloucesterPark stockcar championships held

                    – Onehunga repertory Society formed.

1962             – Reclamation commenced of 75 acres of industrial land.

                    – Old railway Station moved toAlfred Street, becomes clubrooms for Railway Enthusiasts Society.

1963             – First substantial loan approved by ratepayers.

New National Bank building opens

1964             – Onehunga Borough Council assumes control of Fergusson Domain andGloucesterPark.

1966             –ManningvillePensionerVillage completed – a further 96 pensioner Units were built.

Little Dolphin Theatre established.

1968             – Vehicle Testing Station was built inPrinces Street.

1969             – First meeting in the new Council Chambers inChurch Street.

                    – Founding of the CongregationalChurch ofSamoa.

1970             – Opening of the new council Chambers, Library and Sir William Jordan Memorial Hall.

New municipal chambers and library opened.

1972             – Onehunga had one of the oldest houses and one of the most travelled. This was the oldMission house that was inGrey Street, where it served as a manse for the Presbyterian Church and later, in 1972, was returned to Mangungu from where it originally came.

                    – Northern Steamship company closes it’s offices.

1973             – Pensioner housing built on unused railway land.

Queen Street renamed Onehunga Mall and closed to through traffic.

1974             – Onehunga Fencible and Historical Society formed, incorporated in 1975

Onehunga Parish Council formed.

Coronation Hall moved toWaikarakaPark.

Comprehensive Urban renewal (C.U.R.A) introduced.

1975             – New plunket rooms.

Third post office building, The Mall.

New Onehunga Police Station built.

1976             – The oriental fruit moth – Cydia molesta – was first recorded from Mangere and Hillsborough home gardens.

‘Morton Court” (own your own) pensioner flat scheme.

Opening of Community Aid Bureau (C.A.B)

1977             – Onehunga celebrates CENTENNIAL YEAR.

1979             – New covenant Fellowship start to lease the old Onehunga post Office for their meetings.

1981             – Work on newOnehungaPrimary School begun.

1982             – Full container service begins fromOnehungaPort.

1983             –ThirdMangereBridge completed.

                    –SecondSeventhDayAdventistChurch built.

1984             – The cluster fly – Pollenia pseudorudis – was first discovered in Onehunga in 1984

1985             – Laishley House donated to the Council and shifted fromPrinces Street toJellicoePark. Laishley House was opened to the public on6 November 1988 and is part of our historical reserve.

Hugh Watt Drive officially opened.

1987             – Council decided to save the Carnegie Library building and up-grade it as a hall for hire to interested groups.

1988             – Carnegie Library building re-opened after renovations.

                    – First heritage Week held.

1989             – Amalgamation of boroughs made Onehunga part of Auckland City Council – became Maungakiekie Ward.

Heated swimming pool added to the Memorial Pool complex, October

1992             – Onehunga Mainstreet programme started.

1993             – Onehunga celebrated Elizabeth Yates being first woman to be voted Mayor in theBritish Empire 1893-1993.

1995             – Dress-smart outlet centre opened.

1996             – Onehunga Mall reopened to traffic.

Onehunga Co-operating Parish inaugurated.

Onehunga high School marae opened, known as Te Haerenga.

2002             – New Onehunga Library completed.

2003             – Onehunga Community Centre opened.

                    – New Onehunga Fire Station completed.

2004             – Oranga Community Centre opened, Fergusson Domain

2005             – Onehunga Community House exterior restoration completed.

                    – impending closure announced of Pikes Point Airpark.

 Other interesting facts about Onehunga

Dr. Logan Campbell carried out the first commercial transaction on the beach at Onehunga, just prior to the settlement ofAuckland.


Onehunga was the first to produce iron from our own sand. There was a fine factory alongside the railway station, which manufactured pig-iron etc, until a shooting, which caused a near murder, stopped the industry and closed the factory down.


Onehunga was the first in the flax fibre industry, with the world’s first machine for stripping the flax leaf for fibre. The principle of the machine was never altered, although improved upon for producing a larger out-put.


Onehunga first manufactured a machine that wiped out the reaper and binder, this machine was patented and built in Onehunga by Mr James McIntyre and sent toAmerica.


The first Government-owned and operated railway in the northIslandfor the conveyance of the public, was the 8-mile section of line betweenAucklandand Onehunga.


Messrs. Price & Co built the first railway carriages in Onehunga. The firm later moved toThames.


The Senior Services Club (now Senior Citizen’s club) was the first inNew Zealand.


Onehunga had the first naval base inNew Zealand.


The first Zoo inAucklandwas situated in Onehunga and the first lion to escape was also in Onehunga.


The first steamship inNew Zealandwas built by Captain Grundy’s two sons on theManukauHarbourat Onehunga.


St John’sNurses’ Division first operated in Onehunga.


TheOnehungaPrimary Schoolheld the first Parent Teachers Association meeting in theAucklandarea.


Oranga Primary School was the first in New Zealand to receive an award for being a smoke free area.

Comments are closed.