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Bay of Islands, New ZealandPaihia History

Paihia | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Paihia has a rich natural and cultural history and is a focal point of New Zealand's early history.

Paihia History Overview

Paihia has a fascinating past as a focal point of New Zealand's early history. Paihia witnessed the coming of the first settlers, the birth of a nation through the Treaty of Waitangi and the Maori or New Zealand Wars.

Origin of the name

The origin of the name Paihia is obscure. One, possibly apocryphal, attribution is to Reverend Henry Williams. When Williams first arrived in the Bay of Islands he knew only a little of the Maori vocabulary, one of the words he did know being 'pai' meaning 'good'. When they came to the place now known as Paihioa, he told his Maori guide 'Pai here'.

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Maori carving at the Marae in Waitangi, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Maori Marae, Waitangi
Bay of Islands, Northland
Photographer: Ben Crawford
(www.bencrawford.co.nz)

Early History

Paihia's European history began in 1769 when Captain James Cook sailed into this harbour and named it Bay of Islands. He found it heavily populated by Maori and was impressed at their industry and intelligence. Later in 1793 the first whaling and sealing vessels, learning from Cook's maps, begin to visit the Bay of Islands. In 1814 Rev Samuel Marsden established New Zealand's first mission station and in 1819 he brought missionaries with him to Kerikeri to build the second Mission Station.

In the hostile Tohunga, Tohitapu placed a curse on Henry Williams an early missionary to the Bay of Islands. When Williams failed to die, Tohitapu then blessed Paihia village and Paihia was never again attacked.

By 1829 Paihia was a considerable village with dwellings for teachers, blacksmiths, carpenters, it had become the opposite of Kororareka (Russell) across the Bay, which had become a lawless base for seamen. Local Maori call Paihia heaven and Kororareka hell.

In 1833 James Busby was sent as British Resident to Paihia following increasing requests from Maori chiefs for some form of protection from possible French annexation of the area. Paihia Maori and missionary welcomed Busby with a large ceremony.

In 1834 William Colenso brought a printing press to Paihia. Together with William Williams, they began to print Maori Bibles.

In 1840 the important Treaty of Waitangi was signed in the nearby place of Waitangi. But by 1844 the local chief Hone Heke was enraged by broken treaty promises and in 1845 Heke cut down flagstaff for the fourth time and attacked Kororareka, burning it to the ground, leaving only the church and Pompallier house. The governor responded by bringing in British troops and the Flagstaff Wars began.

For all of Paihia's dramatic early history, by the mid-1800s Paihia became remote and forgotten as population centres like Auckland rose to pre-eminence.

During the Second War World in 1941 gun emplacements were built on Bay of Islands headlands because of the threat of Japanese invasion. Barbed wire entanglements were placed along all Paihia beaches and in 1942 American forces based in the Bay of Islands built a road from Paihia to Kawakawa.

Paihia Accommodation

Paihia is a popular tourist destination and offers a wide range of accommodation options:

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Useful Paihia Links

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Paihia Region Information

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