Whangarei is one of the oldest areas of New Zealand. The history of Whangarei dates from the early 1800s when it was a whaling base.
The first European settler to the Whangarei area was a Scotsman named William Carruth, a trader who arrived in 1839 and was later joined by Gilbert Mair and his family. For the most part, relations between the settlers and local Maori were friendly, but in February 1842, all settler farms were plundered in revenge for transgressions of tapu.
In April 1845, during the Flagstaff War, all settlers fled from Whangarei. Most of the original settlers never returned, but by the mid 1850s there were a number of farmers and orchardists in the area. From 1855, a small town developed, driven by the kauri gum trade. Today's 'Town Basin' on the Hatea River was the original port and early exports included kauri gum and native timber followed later by coal from Whau Valley, Kamo and Hikurangi. Coal from the Kiripaka field was exported via the Ngunguru River. By 1864, the nucleus of the present city was established.
Fire bricks made from fire clay deposits near the Kamo mines supported a brick works over several decades. Good quality limestone was quarried at Hikurangi, Portland, and Limestone Island, and initially sold as agricultural lime and later combined with local coal to produce Portland cement at the settlement of Portland on the south side of the harbour. Local limestone is still used in cement manufacture but the coal is now imported from the West Coast of the South Island.
Whangarei was the most urbanised area in Northland towards the end of the 19th century, but grew slowly in the 20th century. The district slowly exhausted most of its natural resources but was sustained by agriculture, especially dairying. Shipping was the main transport link until the North Auckland railway line reached the town in 1925, and the road from Auckland was not suitable for travel in poor weather until 1934. These terrestrial travel routes forced a rapid decline in coastal shipping but stimulated Whangarei to become the service centre for Northland.
The population was 14,000 in 1945, but grew rapidly in the 1960s, incorporating Kamo and other outlying areas. In 1965, Whangarei was declared a city. Its population the following year was 31,000.
The second half of the twentieth century brought the establishment and expansion of the oil refinery at Marsden Point on Bream Bay and the adjacent development of timber processing. A container port could follow, linked by rail to Auckland.
Information cited from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whangarei)
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