Mataka is one of the most historic properties in New Zealand. Mataka was home to generations of Maori for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand. Maori tradition places the Bay of Islands as one of the early sites of Maori settlement in Aotearoa.
A Tribute To The Past
On 28 November 1769 Captain James Cook’s Endeavour sailed past the mouth of the Bay of Islands and noted very large pa sites inland with “one of the largest we have seen”, believed to be Rangihoua Pa at Mataka.
Ngati Torehina, Ngati Rehia, and Ngati Rua have all held or shared mana over Mataka and Rangihoua at various stages of the last few hundred years. The current Waitangi Tribunal processes place Mataka and Rangihoua within the rohe (area) of Ngati Torehina.
Chiefs who lived at Mataka such as Te Pahi, Hongi Hika and Ruatara initiated many of the first meetings between Maori and Europeans. They were responsible for large sections of the initial dialogue between Maori and Europeans and a number of the more significant moments in that dialogue took place at Oihi Bay, previously within the boundaries of Mataka. The landing of the missionary Samuel Marsden on 22 December 1814 and preaching of the first Christian sermon on Christmas Day 1814 are widely recognized to be a key point in the contact between Maori and European. The missionaries brought with them “a stallion, two mares, a bull, two cows, a few sheep and poultry, the cattle being a present from Governor Macquarie [ the governor of New South Wales]”.
The mission station established at Rangihoua in 1814 was there for about 20 years before being relocated to Kerikeri. The missionaries also introduced Merino sheep, cattle and horses into New Zealand when they landed, with Samuel Marsden mounting one of the horses and riding it up and down the beach much to the astonishment of the local Maori. “To see a man seated on the back of such an animal,” wrote L.J. Nicholas in his book Voyage to New Zealand “they thought the strangest thing in nature and, following him with staring eyes, they believed that he was more than mortal.”
The owners of Mataka have sought to recognise the special historical and archaeological heritage of Mataka and its significance to Maori and European alike by identifying and preserving nearly 400 archaeological sites, including 7 pa sites (Maori fortified village sites) and preserving Oihi Bay and Rangihoua in a manner that respects the history of that land and the cultures and religions forming the history of the area. The majority of Oihi Bay is now within the ownership of a charitable trust established at the instigation of the developers of Mataka with the right for the public to have daylight access to the historic sites within the valley.
The valley is now the Rangihoua Heritage Park http://www.rangihouaheritage.co.nz/ containing the pa known as Rangihoua, a magnificent modern interpretation centre known as Rore Kahu (Soaring Eagle) and a 20ha outdoor museum populated by interpretation panels.
The property derives its name from the Maori word Mataka, meaning, “shining face”, because of the striking mirror-like effect created by the sun shining on the northern tip of the peninsula. Here the land rises suddenly and dramatically from sea level to 258 metres. From the maunga Mataka (Mount Mataka), the highest point of the property, there are stunning views out to sea, into the many islands which make up the Bay of Islands and back over gentler, rolling inland pastures.
In addition to being located in one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand, Mataka also has a colourful history. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, whalers used to drag captured whales into Whale Bay to be careened. Stonework associated with this process can still be clearly seen on the shoreline in this bay.
Samuel Marsden made a purchase of land in 1815, followed by various purchases or grants, but the majority of Mataka remained in Maori ownership until the 1860’s – 1870’s. At around that point Walter Clapham Mountain began accumulating land on the Pureura Peninsula, eventually owing around 12,000 acres, gradually being farmed and grazed without intensive cultivation. The majority of the property was sold to W.R. Paterson in 1948 and then to his sons in 1973.
In 1975 Bill Subritzky purchased Mataka from the Paterson family and embarked on a project to construct (13.6 miles) 22 kms of farm roads, remove invasive gorse and weeds and create a working sheep and beef farm with over 250kms of fences. The Subritzky family also fenced off in excess of (170 ha) 420 acres of regenerating native forest creating a nearly perfect habitat for kiwis.
In 1999 Bill Subtrizky commenced a process of marketing Mataka through an international tender, attracting controversy that a large unique property may fall into offshore ownership and not be managed in a manner reflecting local interests and the conservation and historic values of the property. At that point the real estate value and development potential of Mataka had greatly outstripped the farming value of the property. Mataka was purchased in late 1999 by a company owned by Evan Williams and Bill Birnie from Auckland through an offer which enabled Bill Subtritzky to offer the property to the New Zealand Government as a public park. That offer was declined and the Williams/Birnie offer proceeded to settlement. Williams and Birnie* created the modern day Mataka Station within a scheme which provided for:
- a maximum of 30 house lots within Mataka
- 5 miles (20 kms) of roads servicing 5 beaches a mountain and key owner assets
- permanent preservation and legal protection of 860 acres (350 ha) of covenanted conservation
- permanent protection as open space of over 1976 acres (800 ha) of farmland and coastal open space
- a legal structure to protect the above in perpetuity and allow common access to all key features
- a body corporate to protect owners’ interests and fund and manage key common infrastructure and facilities.