Blast from the Past

Mairangi Bay

Mairangi Bay started from humble beginnings, originally known as Little Murray, with Big Murray being the larger settlement. Since 1906 when Mr Pond opened his first shop, Mairangi Bay has developed into a safe, convenient boutique shopping centre surrounded by good quality, well developed homes. The schools are all decile 10 with excellent reputations and there are churches of all denominations. The following excerpts are taken from the Blast from the Past column in the monthly Village News. All the photographs used in the Blast from the Past series are from the archives in the East Coast Bays Library in Browns Bay. A brief history comes with each photograph and copies of the photos can be ordered from the library for $20 each for an A4 size.

Mairangi Bay in the 1960s

Fifty eight years on and Mairangi Bay Village certainly looks a little different to this photo, taken in 1952. It is a view from the corner of Ramsgate Terrace and Beach Road, looking back into what is now our village centre. The dairy you can see to the right also has a petrol sign and this is actually the site of the present garage, where petrol is still sold. This is around the time that permanent homes were built in Mairangi Bay. Once the harbour bridge was built in 1959, it opened up the whole of the North Shore to development and slowly the first homes and baches were replaced with family homes.

Mairangi Bay’s first home

In 1880 Joseph Murray bought the land we know as Mairangi Bay from a Maori called Tommy, a mussel fisherman, who owned it. Originally the land would have been covered with kauri trees, felled long ago by Maori. Joseph Murray’s original homestead was on the site of Montrose Terrace. Joseph farmed corn and wheat here until 1912 when he sold the land to a land syndicate for 50 pounds an acre. The developers subdivided the land to make holiday home sections. Joseph Murray died on the North Shore at the age of 98. Originally Mairangi Bay was known as Little Murrays Bay and what we know as Murrays Bay was called Big Murrays Bay and was the larger settlement. It was renamed Mairangi Bay to avoid confusion.

From Waipapa to Mairangi Bay

The Maori who first arrived at the strip of land between Mairangi and Murrays Bays named the area Waipapa. The meaning of this was “water over wood” which referred to the stumps and logs (remnants of an ancient forest) that were often found embedded in the sand in this area. This name was stripped away in 1881, much in the colonial tradition as the bay was renamed for the original expat Joseph Murray. While Murray worked the land between the two bays they became known as Big and Little Murrays Bays. However upon Murray’s retirement to Northcote the entire situation was deemed too confusing and so a petition was drawn up by a local solicitor Mr Rennie. He wanted Little Murrays Bay renamed “Awatea Bay.” This choice speaks volumes for the isolation prevalent in early 20th century New Zealand, as it was only upon further investigation that the name was discovered to already be in use in the South Island. Mairangi Bay was decided upon instead. “Mairangi” is a name with varying meanings the most popular of which is “the sheltered arm” one judged apropos for the small, though growing community.

The Northern Gold Rush

Joseph Murray collected Kauri gum from his 174 acres of land however he was not the only gum digger and nor was he the first. While the Kauri gum industry had its strongest roots in the northern regions, the bays of Auckland’s North Shore were not to be denied a share in the profits. The areas of Mairangi Bay and Campbells Bay exist on the buried bones of an ancient Kauri forest and the evidence can still be seen today in the stumps and logs embedded in the sands of the beaches. There is also the remnants of a gum digger’s shack in Centennial Park.

The value of Kauri gum was in its export for the production of furniture polish mainly for export to England. Kauri gum had around fifty years of boom until in the early twentieth century dwindling resources and growing disquiet over poor conditions saw it slowly bleed into the recesses of history.

Old ways of transportation

This photograph was taken in 1923. It shows the beach with the bullock teams hauling the pine logs. Notice that entire families are assisting in this. All transportation in and out of Mairangi Bay was by sea and the transport bullocks pulling carts. The logs were then rafted into Auckland to service the building industry’s demand for timber. This is at a time when Auckland was still a new development and there were many buildings being erected.

Place for a holiday

This photograph was taken around 1925, eighty five years ago. The one unchanging feature of course is Rangitoto Island whereas there is little else that you could recognise. It is in fact near Brighton Terrace looking down into Mairangi Bay Village Centre. The few buildings you can see are holiday baches. Until the Harbour Bridge was built 50 years ago there was very little here as it was not convenient to Auckland and only viewed as a holiday area. If you know the history of any of these baches please write and let us know.

Joseph Murray’s farm

Joseph Murray bought the land we know as Mairangi Bay from the Maori Tommy, who owned it in 1880. Originally the area was known as Little Murrays Bay because at the time Big Murrays Bay was the larger settlement. The Maori originally called the area Waipapa Bay, which means water over wood. This is his homestead which was in Montrose Terrace pre 1916. Joseph Murray lived to be 98 years old. He sold the farm in 1912 to a land syndicate and he was paid 50 pounds an acre. The developers subdivided the land for holiday home sections.

Murrays Bay

This photograph, taken in 1927, shows Mairangi Bay beach. At this time Murrays Bay was known as Big Murray and Mairangi Bay as Little Murrays Bay, hence the handwritten “Murrays Bay” on the photo. (The name Murray came from Joseph Murray the Pakeha owner of the land). This obviously led to a lot of confusion and so it was decided to rename Little Murrays Bay to Mairangi Bay.

East Coast Road in the 1950s

This is a photo of the original East Coast Road and was taken in the 1950s. The site is between the rose garden and Rangitoto College. This is before the road was re-aligned to its present position.

This is the last of the photos that I have. If you have anything over 30 years old you would like to share please email Gabrielle Sheddan at with the photo and an explanation about the photograph.

Times have changed. Do you know that in 1920 Mairangi Bay was advertised as being “only one hour’s walk from Takapuna steam tram stop at Milford”.