Proximity to Manukau Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf for plentiful fishing, good waterways with rivers, streams and springs, fertile volcanic soils for cultivation, a mix of flat and scrubby land and forested highlands and a good climate, combined to make the area of South Auckland desirable for early settlement.
Many hectares of fertile land was gardened around Manurewa’s nearest major cones, Matukutureia (McLaughlin’s Mountain ) and Matukutururu ( Wiri Mountain ) both now almost quarried away. The gardens were mostly undefended settlements and food stores. In pre-European times, this prized area created warfare between tribes of Thames and Waikato, which concerned the early missionaries. On 22nd March 1838 Messrs Fairburn, Maunsell and Hamlin met at Otahuhu for the two-fold purpose of examining the school children and establishing peace between the tribes. Subsequently at their request Fairburn bought 40,000 acres of land from the Maori for 400 pounds. The land lay between Otahuhu and Papakura and was bounded on the east and west by the sea. The Maori remained in occupation as before and in time
Fairburn returned one third of his property free of charge. By 1842, in accordance with requirements of the Land Claims Commission, his holding reduced still further to 5,495 acres in Otahuhu, Pakuranga and Manurewa.
10,000 acres of Fairburn’s original holding was granted by the government to James Reddy Clendon on 18th October 1842 in part exchange for land he owned in the Bay of Islands. Clendon’s Grant was bounded by Puhinui Road, Boundary Road, Brookby, back along Alfriston Road, Weymouth Road and Palmer’s Road to the coast. Unknown is how long Clendon kept the land but at least 2,000 acres were taken over by the Bank of New Zealand sometime prior to 1859.
In 1859 Robert and Margaret Martin and their 5 sons set sail from the Isle of Man to New Zealand and on arrival, Robert Martin purchased 2,000 acres of Clendon’s original grant from the Bank of New Zealand for one pound per acre. This tract is outlined by Orams Road, Browns Road, the Manukau Harbour, Weymouth Road, Alfriston Road and Claude Road.
Manurewa was constituted a Highway District in 1867 and by 1874 boasted eleven houses and four mud huts. It was on the major coach route south with the Raglan Hotel at Woodside ( Wiri ) being the half way stop between Otahuhu and Drury.
The coming of the railway in 1875, which bypassed central Woodside, caused the population of Manurewa to rise to 81 by 1879 and the Martins could see Manurewa’s potential for development. After their father’s death in 1894, the Martin brothers decided to subdivide part of their land and by 1920 the family had left Manurewa.
Names of landholders, farmers and entrepreneurs among the early settlers are recognised in street names and parks of the area, including; Martin, Brown, Clayton, Collie, Corin,Coxhead, Dreadon, Finlayson, Holmes, Lupton, Mc Dougall, Nathan, Nield, Holmes, and Russell among them with names other notable residents added to the list with development over the years.
Manurewa was consititued a Town District on 1 April 1916, uniting portions of the former Manurewa and Papakura Road Districts. It became an independent Town District in 1920, the new Town Board carried out a vigorous policy of improvements.
Electricity was a major advancement 1921-1922.
In the early 1920s Manurewa began to be promoted as a convenient commuting suburb, having advantages of uncrowded country living but the facilities of a town, and being only 50 minutes from the city by regular train service.
The slumps of the 1920s and 1930s hit some residents hard as they struggled to earn and provide, however, most of the shops weathered the worst of the depression years.
In 1937 Manurewa’s population had reached more than 1,500. A Proclamation dated 20th October 1937 saw the Town District constituted a Borough.
Manurewa felt the impact of the Second World War 1939-1945, with many men away for service and rationing lasting until well after the war ended. Army Camps sprang up in Hill Park, in the Nathan property and another camp in the Orford property. American Marines and soldiers and New Zealand troops spent rest periods there before despatch to the Pacific.
Post WWII land was bought off Weymouth Road to make reasonably-priced sections for returning servicemen and some smallholdings and farms came up for subdivision, despite increasing urbanisation, much of Manurewa still retained a rural aspect for many years. The population grew considerably between the mid 1950s and 1960 bringing the need for further subdivisions and services. The Southern Motorway construction of an alternative route to the Great South Road began in 1949, by 1955 it had reached Redoubt Road, Takanini by 1963 and to Runciman by 1965.
The total land area of the Manurewa Borough fluctuated with some extension of its boundaries until 1964 when it was 1,803 acres in size. On 3 September 1965 after some years of debate by local bodies, Manurewa joined with Manukau County to form the new Manukau City.
The Norfolk pine that stands outside Southmall alongside Great South Road was one of two planted by a Mr Dalton on what was then his front lawn. One was later removed as being too close to the house, but the other survives today to serve as Manurewa’s Christmas tree.
Summarised timeline by Maryanne Walker, Manurewa Historical Society, 30.11.2017
References: “ A Brief History of Manurewa” Manurewa Historical Society 1990 project booklet. “Soaring Bird” A history of Manurewa to 1965. Gwen Wichman, Manurewa Historical Society 2001
World War Memorials
The Manurewa First World War memorial obelisk inscribed with the campaigns in which New Zealand took part and names of 26 men of the district area who gave their lives, is on the corner of Great South Road and Hill Road outside Manurewa Central School and was unveiled on the 2nd January 1921. The men are remembered in a book launched 14th November 2015 with research done at the Manukau Research Centre; “Manurewa Soldiers, Manurewa During the First World War 1914-1918”, stories of more than 180 men and one woman with connections to Manurewa who enlisted during WWI, most serving overseas. 52 who didn’t make it back, have their names on cenotaphs and rolls of honour in Wiri, Manurewa and Alfriston.
Plaques were added to Manurewa Central School 4 gate posts behind the cenotaph to commemorate the great war and later wars.
A commemorative row of 17 trees was planted in Hall Road, Manurewa on 21 July 1919 as part of the town’s peace celebrations to honour 15 young men of the district who had given their lives, also 1 in honour of nurse Edith Cavell and other nurses and 1 as a ‘peace tree’. The ceremony on the day was followed by afternoon tea in the hall for 300 children, later a banquet for more than 500 adults with a public concert and a ball then held in the evening.
Over the years most of the trees died or were removed with the last probably lost when Hall Road was extended to Claude Road. Hall Road was later renamed Halver Road after becoming part of Manukau City.
During the WWI centenary commemorations 2014 – 2018, a peace tree ( Plantanus Hispanica / hybrid London Plane ) was planted at Arline Schutz Park in Halver Road on 4.7.2015 to take their place.
A dove tree was planted outside the Manurewa Library in Hill Road on 14.12.2016 to commemorate the sacrifices of the women of Manurewa and surrounding districts during the first world war.
Manurewa War Memorial Park was dedicated on 3 December 1955.
Updated by Maryanne Walker, Manurewa Historical Society 30.11.2017