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Abel Tasman National Park – History

Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and have lived in the Abel Tasman region for at least 500 years. The area is historically and culturally important to Maori, and Kaiteriteri was the site of an early ‘korero’ (discussion) between local Maori chiefs and colonial representatives to discuss land purchase.

The Park itself is named after the first-known European visitor to the area, Dutchman Abel Janszoon Tasman, who arrived with two ships on 18 December 1642 while trying to sail to Australia. The ships set down anchors, but a clash with local Ngati Tumatakokiri Maori ensued where four of Abel Tasman’s crewmen were killed, and the ships soon left the area without making it ashore.

The next visit was not until over 100 years later, when famous explorer Captain Cook sailed through the area in 1770. Cook also did not go ashore and named the area Blind Bay. Finally, on January 14, 1827, Frenchman Jules Dumont D’Urville sailed down the coast of what is now the National Park. Local Maori allowed the crew to come ashore and camp in the area, meaning they could explore more fully. D’Urville named many places in the area which remain today, including Watering Cove, Observation Beach, Separation Point, Astrolabe Roadstead (named after his ship), Coquille Bay, Cyathea Cove, Fisherman Island and Adele Island (after his wife).

As the 1840s saw European settlers arriving in New Zealand looking for a new way of life, there was interest in settling in the sunny Abel Tasman region. The ‘New Zealand Company’ brought colonists from England to New Zealand to establish a society based on the English way of life. Captain Arthur Wakefield is recorded as visiting the Kaiteriteri area in October 1841 while seeking potential areas for colonial settlers. The first European settlers to the area thus began arriving around 1855. This resulted in the clearing of forests for timber to build houses and ships and to make way for farmland. They also quarried the granite found in the area.

During the 1920s and 1930s, as roads into the area were completed, the area around Kaiteriteri became popular as a holiday spot. Farmer Syd Rowling owned land in the area and eventually created a public domain on 12 hectares of land near the beach. That concept of Public Domain expanded over time to include the beach, estuary and 250 hectares land around Kaiteriteri. It is today known as the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve.