A Brief History of Otaki

The first people in Otaki were possibly moa hunters, and moa bones have been found in the district. They were replaced by a more warlike people, Ngati Mamoe, who in turn were conquered by Muaupoko of the Kurahaupo canoe, from Mahia.

1822 
Ngati Toa, led by Te Rauparaha, migrated from Kawhia. From 1824, at the invitation of Ngati Toa, many members of Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa moved south to Kapiti. By 1830 Otaki had become firmly established as a Ngati Raukawa stronghold. On the south side of the river was Otaki pa and the Katihiku settlement, and on the north was Rangiuru pa, with Pakakutu further north again.

Late 1820s 

Whalers settled here, working from Kapiti Island in the whaling season and the rest of the year living on the mainland on small properties granted them by the families of their Maori wives. Some whalers who later settled permanently in Otaki included James Cootes, William Jenkins and James Ransfield.

1839 

Tamihana Te Rauparaha, son of the great warrior, and his cousin, Matene te Whiwhi, travelled north to request a missionary for their district. Octavius Hadfield arrived in November 1839 and established a little church and school.

1840 
In May 1840 the Rev Henry Williams brought a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi to Otaki. It was signed by several important local people including Moroati Kiharoa, Te Rauparaha and members of Te Rauparaha’s family – his son Katu (Tamihana te Rauparaha), his nephew Te Rangihaeata, his niece Rangi Topeora and her son Te Whiwhi o te Rangi (Matene te Whiwhi).

1841 

The first postal service came through Otaki, carried on foot.

1842 

The first accommodation house was established – Mr Taylor’s. Little ships came into the river bringing goods in exchange for potatoes grown by Maori. One ship was built here.

1844 

A Catholic mission was begun by the French priest, Jean-Baptiste Comte, who was appointed by Bishop Pompallier. By 1845 he had a little church on the hilltop at Pukekaraka.

1845 

The Bevan children, including Thomas Bevan Senior, walked from Wellington to Waikawa to join their father. The family later settled around Manakau.

1847 

A new village was planned for Ngati Raukawa, to be named ‘Hadfield’, though this name never took hold. Major David Durie, stationed at Waikanae, was appointed Resident Magistrate for the area.

1849-51 

Rangiatea Church was built. It had been planned in 1844 by Hadfield and Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha provided the timber, and later, the labour. The church was built under the supervision of the Rev Samuel Williams.

1849 

Death of Te Rauparaha.

1850 

A water mill to grind wheat was built by Thomas Dodds on the Haruatai Stream; he also built one at Pukekaraka.

1852 

An Anglican mission school and boarding house were built beside Rangiatea.

1853 

Dr Charles Hewson was appointed doctor to serve the Otaki Maori; he remained until his death in 1881. Raukawa meeting house built on Mill Road.

1854 

Richard Eagar opened a store, and was postal agent.

1857 

Benjamin Gray opened the Otaki Ferry House on the south side of the river.

1859 

The Catholic church of St Mary was built below and to the south of the hill of Pukekaraka.

1860-65 

During the New Zealand Wars, Otaki was divided between ‘Kingites’ – who supported the Maori King – and Queenites, who supported Queen Victoria and the New Zealand Government. The Kingites raised their flag at Pukekaraka but there were no hostilities in Otaki.

1860s 

Otaki had a few stores and hotels, and a simple court house and gaol. There were Maori constables, and a few Pakeha settlers.

1862 

William and Mary Small and their baby son Alexander arrived in Otaki. William built a store, house and blacksmith’s forge.

1866 

A coach service began, carrying mail and passengers from Wellington to Wanganui, later to New Plymouth. The route ran along the beach from Paekakariki to Foxton. It turned off the beach along what is now Old Coach Road, Rangiuru Road, Te Rauparaha Street, Convent Road and Old Coach Road again to the beach. Otaki was a major stop.


An accommodation house built by William Davis, opposite Rangiatea, was taken over by postmaster Frederick Martin. Another accommodation house, run by Thomas and Mary Dodds, burnt down.

1869 

A telegraph office opened in Rangiuru Road, later becoming a post office.

1872 

The Telegraph Hotel was opened by Frederick Martin, who transferred the licence from the hotel opposite Rangiatea. A library also opened.

1874 

William Small bought land, Waopukatea, south of the river on which he later built his home, Clifden – now part of Bridge Lodge.

1870s 

There were fewer than 200 Pakeha. In addition to stores and hotels, there were a few bootmakers, blacksmiths, butchers, saddlers and some settlers leasing land outside the town. A Working Men's Club, Racing Club, Athletic Club, Rifle Club, Tennis Club and a Harmonic Society had been established.

1875 

The Telegraph Hotel was taken over by Frederic and Mary Ann Bright.

1876 

The Government began buying land for a railway line but then ran out of money.

1878 

An Otaki Road Board was established. Two ships wrecked off Otaki beach: the Felixstowe (four drowned) and the City of Auckland (no loss of life). The mast of the City of Auckland remained on the beach until 1936.

1880 

The first state school was opened in Rangiuru Road.

1881 

James Gear and Isabella Ling began acquiring land in Te Horo.

1882 

What is now the Family Hotel was built for Frederic Bright, taking over the licence from Langley’s in Te Rauparaha Street.

1884 

The Bank of Australasia opened an agency in Otaki. Possibly timber milling began for the proposed railway.

1885 

Horowhenua County Council was established, covering an area from Tokomaru to Waikanae and including Otaki.

1886 

The New Zealand Police provided a local constable. Timothy O’Rourke served 1888-1904. Raukawa meeting house was renovated. The Wellington-Manawatu Railway Company opened the line from Wellington-Longburn and the coach service ceased. The Otaki-Maori Racing Club was established.

1887 

First pharmacy opened by Alfred Sutton Dunn on corner of Aotaki and Rangitira streets.

1888 

Manakau School opened.

1890 

Jubilee Hotel built.

1890s 

Chinese and European market gardeners in the area; many more sporting and community organisations.

1891 

Methodist Church built. Otaki branch of the Freemasons formed. Otaki Maori Brass Band established. Railway Hotel built.

1892 

The first Otaki newspaper began – The Horowhenua Times. Rangiuru House near the southern end of the beach opened by E Tudor Atkinson for holiday-makers; Otaki was now a holiday destination.

1893 

The school burnt down. A Town Hall was built for auctioneer Byron Brown. A cordial factory was opened by Thompson Lewis & Co. Central Hotel built. Te Horo School opened. Horowhenua Times ceased; several months later bought and became The West Coast Mail and Horowhenua County and West Coast Advertiser; sold and renamed the Otaki Mail in 1896.

1894 

New state school built in Mill Road. Catholic School (now St Peter Chanel) and convent opened.

1895 

Land subdivided and sold for the township of “New Otaki” – always referred to as Otaki Railway.

1897 

A creamery (dairy factory) opened in Rahui Road. Moutere House near the railway built as a boarding house for summer visitors.

1898 

Otaki Horticultural Society formed. Otaki Cemetery consecrated.

1899 

The Cottage Hospital opened, for the Wellington Hospital Board. Boer War began; Otaki sent a contingent in 1900.

1901 

The first road bridge over the river was opened by Premier Richard Seddon. Otaki Golf Club opened.

1902 

The Maori school (now called a college) and boarding house, built in 1852, burnt down. Boer War ended. Otaki-Manakau Co-op Dairy factory built near railway (western side). New railway station built; burnt 1910.

1905 

Imposing new Post Office built, often featured on postcards.

1906 

Hector Nicolson appointed journalist on the Otaki Mail.

1907 

The Otaki Sanatorium for tuberculosis patients built, the second in New Zealand. Anglican Church of All Saints built to serve the Pakeha congregation. Hautere Rifle Club established.

1908 

Otaki Bowling Club opened.

1909 

A new Maori Boys’ College (sometimes called the Native College) and boarding house opened. Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) opened.

1910 

Masonic Lodge building constructed.

1911 

new (existing) Otaki Railway Station built.

1912 

Otaki Town Board established, replacing the old Road Board, and taking over the Otaki Cemetery and Domain.

1913 

Bright’s Theatre built for Horton and Arthur Bright.

1914 

World War I began; Patriotic Committee established in Otaki. First troops went overseas.

1917 

The Government took over the hospital and sanatorium.

1918 

Tasman Road extended by Byron Brown to the beach; The Otaki Seaside Resort (also known as The Kiosk and The Capitol) was built for him. The BNZ built a neo-classical two-storeyed building in the town. Otaki Volunteer Fire Brigade formed.

1918 

World War I ended 11 November 1918. Spanish flu killed more than 50 in Otaki 1918-19.

1919 

Rahui (Wellington Municipal Milk Department) dairy factory built. Otaki Branch of RSA formed.

1920 

Moutere House became a private hospital. Otaki Brass Band re-formed. Frank Penn sold theOtaki Mail to Kerslake & Billens; Hector Nicolson appointed manager.

1921 

Otaki Borough Council established; first Mayor was James Poole Brandon, previously chairman of the Otaki Town Board. Part of Mill Road was renamed Main Street. For six months the Otaki Picture Company operated, making three films, two of which survive: Historic Otaki andCharlie’s Capers.

1922 

High pressure water supply from Waitohu Stream provided by Otaki Borough Council. A beach store and tearooms opened.

1920s 

Sale of sections in the beach area, roads formed.

1923 

Edhouse’s store opened by Harry Edhouse.

1924 

Electricity available in Otaki from the Mangahou power station near Shannon.


The War Memorial at the “Rest Resort” (designed by Harold Small) was opened on Anzac Day, and the “Bubble Fountain” memorial was opened at the State School on 31 October.

1921-27 

Attempts were made to provide a sewerage scheme, which failed, leaving the borough council heavily in debt. Three commissions investigated affairs of the borough.

1929 

The sanatorium and hospital returned to the Palmerston North Hospital Board; the hospital now included a maternity ward.

1930 

New All Saints’ Anglican Church opened. Presbyterian Church opened. New rail bridge constructed.

1931 

Most devastating of the Otaki River’s floods, at Easter; one woman died.

1932 

Otaki Health Camp opened on land donated by Byron Brown. Public Works camp established for unemployed men in Te Horo, housed in tents and picking up ‘Hautere turnips’ (stones). Otaki Hospital became solely a maternity one.

1934 

Railway Theatre/Hall built for Doug Webster opened at Queen’s Birthday weekend. Bank of Australasia closed.

1935 

Bright’s Theatre (also known as the Lyric and the Cosy) burnt down on Christmas morning.

1936 

Municipal Chambers opened. Raukawa Meeting house rebuilt.

1937 

New ramp constructed over railway line at northern end of what is now State Highway One (formerly County Road), and road re-aligned.

1938 

Otaki Borough Council built the Marine Pavilion at the beach, and the Civic Theatre in the town. Tasman and Rangiuru Roads linked by Marine Parade. Moutere Hospital closed.

1939 

Beginning of World War II. Maori Boys’ College closed and buildings later used for a variety of purposes including a ballroom and factory.

1940 

Home Guard formed – aged between 17 and 70, they often used home-made equipment.

1942 

US Marines stationed at Paekakariki, spending recreation time in Otaki. Otaki District Commercial Gardeners’ Society formed.

1943 

Curtis P40 Kittyhawk crashed near the beach; pilot died.

1945 

End of World War II

1947 

First girls marching team formed in Otaki. Otaki Players’ Society began.

1952 

Wesley Youth Hall (now Rotary Hall) built. Australia & New Zealand Bank (ANZ) opened.

1953 

Otaki Surf Life Saving Club re-formed (first attempt had been made 1922).

1955 

New road bridge constructed.

1956 

Otaki Memorial Hall opened.

1959 

Otaki District High School (later Otaki College) opened.

1964 

Sanatorium closed; became Koha Ora (part of Kimberley Hospital in Levin) until 1984; then Naumai sheltered workshop until 1987.

1965 

New BNZ built; closed 1998.

1967 

Otaki Borough Council takes over old Bank of New Zealand for Council Chambers.

1984 

Te Wananga o Raukawa opened, using the former boarding house of the Maori Boys’ College.

1989 

Re-organisation of local government. Otaki Borough Council disappears and Otaki becomes part of Kapiti Coast District Council.

1992 

Otaki Maternity Hospital closed; became a 48-hour birthing service until 1995; then became a community health centre.

1997 

Former sanatorium demolished.

1998 

New library built.

 

Address: 

Otaki Historical Society, P O Box 50, Otaki 5512