Wai o Taiki Bay and the Glen Innes area can lay claim to a long and fascinating past, much of which has revolved around its rich coastal areas and central location. From early Maori settlers who enjoyed the fruits of the fertile volcanic soil and shellfish beds, to later immigrants who see the potential of the suburb as a new community and home, close to many of Auckland’s amenities.
Pre-European History: Ukutoia
The Māori name for Auckland is Tāmaki, and for centuries after the first Polynesian settlers arrived in their waka, and left settlers who stayed and put down roots, different groups have lived off the rich, fertile volcanic land and enjoyed the mild climate of the Auckland isthmus.
Located at the centre of a network of waterways between the Manukau and Waitemata Harbours, as well as on the route between north and south, these Tāmaki tribes flourished, trading delicacies, such as smoked eel from Manukau and smoked mullet from Mahurangi, with visitors who passed through, cohabiting and occasionally fighting each other and invaders from elsewhere.
The Tahuna Torea sandspit and mudflat area, today a beautiful, 25-hectare wildlife reserve close to the mouth of the Tamaki River, was a food-gathering site for the local people, who collected shellfish, fish and birds. Middens of pipe shells above the beach and fish dams at the head of the lagoon attest to these activities.
Between 1600 and 1750, the Tāmaki tribes terraced the volcanic cones of the isthmus, built pā, and planted around 2,000 hectares of kūmara gardens. In 1750, at the height of prosperity in this area, the Māori population is thought to have been in the tens of thousands. The Auckland area was pre-European New Zealand’s most wealthy and populous area.
In Glen Innes itself, Te Taurere, thought to have erupted about 32,000 years ago, is one of the many volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field. On the border between Glen Innes and Glendowie, its scoria cone, today called Taylor’s Hill or Te Taurere, is 56m high. It was once a strongly fortifed pā that held up to 2,000 people, and excavations in the area have uncovered the remains of a big pa in two periods of Maori history. Today, you can still see Maori earthworks such as kumara pits and terracing. A stone adze, made over two centuries ago, was discovered on the site. In more recent times, the lower slopes and scoria mounds to the east of the volcano have been quarried.
This area was known to the local Maori population as Ukutoia, referring to the sound of the waka being pulled ashore. Stories suggest that often hundreds of waka could be seen here, as it was well-known as a place where people were able to borrow canoes to travel further north or south.
By the early 18th century the Hauraki tribe, Ngāti Pāoa, extended up through Tamaki and as far north as Mahurangi, and between 1740 and 1750 Ngāti Whātua-o-Kaipara, from further north, moved south, invading the isthmus and killing the paramount chief of the Tamaki tribes. The conquerors intermarried with the locals and a period of relative peace followed this until around 1820, when the northern Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika acquired muskets, and attacked the Tāmaki region. After many of the settlements were destroyed the remaining people abandoned the isthmus and went south into exile.
By 1827, when French explorer Dumont D’Urville visited Tamaki, few people were living in the once-thriving and fertile isthmus.
Then, around 1836 the Ngāti Whātua came quietly back to the Manukau area but stayed away from the Ngāpuhi further north on the Tāmaki isthmus. One of the reasons, Ngati Whatua chief Te Kawau invited William Hobson – New Zealand’s first British governor – to site the colony’s capital on the isthmus in 1840 was for protection from the Ngāpuhi.
European Colonisation - and the Taylor Family's Legacy
In 1840, the Ngāti Whātua gifted the Crown part of the central Tamaki isthmus, expecting that Pakeha settlement would bring trade and protection from hostile tribes. In 1841 Governor Hobson resold this land to settlers, most from Britain and Australia.
Much of the suburb, now known as Glen Innes, was settled by William Innes Taylor, who came to New Zealand from Scotland in 1843. Taylor took up farming on land in west Tamaki owned by his father, General Taylor, a Scotsman who had had a military career in India. In the early 1840s, when the family arrived here, Tamaki was an area of scrub-covered hills and valleys, accessed from central Auckland by tracks along ridges through Newmarket and Remuera or by boat to the Purewa Creek.
Taylor and his three brothers established farms and built homes in this area: William Innes Taylor at Glen Innes, Richard James Taylor at Glendowie and Charles John Taylor at Glen Orchard (now Saint Heliers). The fourth brother, Allan Kerr Taylor, farmed land in Mount Albert, and called his home Alberton. Charles Taylor served in the first and second New Zealand Parliaments, representing the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and East Cape regions, and, later, Raglan.
Gradually William Taylor acquired around 760 acres, including the land between Taniwha Street and Riddell Road, and between Line Road and Sierra Street to the Tamaki River. He named his farm using the Gaelic word, Glen, meaning valley, and his middle name and his mother’s maiden name, Innes. The farm occupied about two-thirds of the residential area now known as Glen Innes.
Taylor was a successful farmer and a businessman but, coming home from Auckland one wet night in 1890, he caught pneumonia and died. Glen Innes, Taylor’s Hill and Glen Taylor School, which is on the site of one of his early homesteads, are all named after him.
A year later, his widow Anne went back to England for a trip with three of their 12 children. When they returned, Walter and Norman both went farming with their brother James in the Waikato and no other family member wanted the farm, so it was leased to John Massey for some years. His son, William Massey, was a Prime Minister of New Zealand, and two grandsons became Members of Parliament.
By about the beginning of the 20th century, the Taylor family began selling off parts of their land. In 1912, the subdivision of the estate to the south of the West Tamaki Road began. Then, in 1924, James and Norman Taylor decided to subdivide another 100 acres, including two areas that they offered as public reserves – a nine-acre lot around what is now Taylor’s Hill, and almost six acres at Point England.
Eventually, around 1945, the Taylors sold the remainder of their land to the government for state housing, although the Pt England Reserve was left as farmland.
The Taylors, although prominent in the area, weren’t the only landowners, and between Pt England Road and Panmure were several other large farms, such as Pilkington, and market gardens and orchards, which thrived on the rich volcanic soil. Gradually most of this land, too, has been subdivided and absorbed into Glen Innes and its surrounding suburbs.
After World War ll
Following the end of the Second World War, the land between West Tamaki Rd and Panmure town centre was subdivided and Glen Innes was given a purpose-designed town centre to service the newly emerging eastern suburbs. Like many other government-initiated suburbs of that time, many of the sections were allotted by ballot to help returned servicemen back into society.
Glen Innes has for the most part been a low-income, working class area with around 1,500 state houses, and a rich ethnic diversity with Pacific, Maori and Asian as well as Iraqi, Iranian, Fijian Indian and European families all represented.
During the 1950s and '60s, in an effort to improve the quality of state housing in Glen Innes, the government began building higher density housing, with a number of apartment-style blocks, such as Talbot Park. Many of these blocks fell quickly into a poor condition and often the sites had security and social problems as well.
Glen Innes Town Centre - The Early Days
In 1955, Auckland City Council approved the Ministry of Works’ plans to build a town centre in Glen Innes, on farming land.
Glen Innes was the first comprehensively planned centre of its size, and it included space for 40-50 shops, a post office, a hotel, a rear laneway to provide access for trade vehicles to the back of all buildings, and underground power and telephone lines.
Planning the new suburb and town centre included ensuring the new residents of Glen Innes would have schools for their children. Glenbrae School was established in 1955, Tamaki College in 1957, Glen Taylor School in 1958 and Glen Innes Intermediate School in 1959. In 1992 Glen Taylor School expanded to incorporate the intermediate school. Glen Taylor School is built on the site of the Taylor family’s original Glen Innes Homestead, and the large 200-year-old Morton Bay Fig tree at the entrance to the school is one of the few remaining trees that were in the garden of this home. In 1991, Taurere Kohanga Reo opened in the grounds of Glen Taylor School.
By 1958, the first shops were built and; Samuels is now the Salvation Army, and there were a forgery, hotel and hardware store. Until 2007, the descendants of R.J. Pain ran the family hardware store, which their grandfather had built.
By 1960, Glen Innes had 20 shops and another 16 in the pipeline. The Community Library was built in 1965, and a supermarket. The vehicle testing station in Line Road Testing Station has been there since 1964 and Marsic Brothers Fish Shop opened its doors in 1967. In 1970 the community hall was moved to Line Road and Ruapotaka Marae was built in 1978/1979.
Glen Innes was a thriving village during the 1950s and 60s, with ladies and men’s fashion and footwear, jewellers, clocks, tearooms and dairies doing a brisk trade. In fact, popular high street women’s clothing store Max traces its roots back to one of Glen Innes’s original dress shops, Estelle Rose.
By the 1970s, however, traditional town centres were beginning to suffer as the new phenomenon of the “shopping mall” began to spring up around the country. When the Pakuranga Town Centre, as it was known then, first opened in 1965, the shops of Glen Innes began to suffer.
The centre was given a facelift in about 2003 Today, Glen Innes still has about 150 businesses and shops, mostly food, hospitality, automotive services, vintage shops and health care services. Quite a number of the original shops are still trading, some run by the original owners or their families, for example, Marsic Brothers Fish Shop, Bruce Gemmell Tyres, Avon’s Butchery, the GAS Service Station and John Pearce Shoe Repairs.
Only nine kilometres to the east of Auckland’s CBD, with good access via buses and the new railway station, a recently redeveloped town centre, community facilities, art centre, modern library, parks, and nature reserves along the edges of Wai O Taiki Bay and the Tamaki River, the suburb of Glen Innes has a wealth of positive attributes. It’s also close to the beaches of the eastern suburbs, a few minutes from motorways going north and south, and has a rich and diverse cultural mixture.
With Auckland’s population continuing to increase, creating a need for well-built, healthy housing, the advantages of suburbs such as Glen Innes have become even clearer, leading to programmes of urban regeneration such as recent developments now under way around northern Glen Innes, on possibly the last piece of undeveloped coastline on the Auckland Isthmus. Here, some of the older, outdated houses in areas such as around Wai O Taiki Bay have been demolished to make way for better-quality, better-designed homes that suit the requirements of modern living and lifestyles. Auckland developer and builder Creating Communities has taken a lead in this drive to address the issue of housing shortages by making better use of the land and creating comfortable, sustainable, affordable homes for both Housing New Zealand tenancy and for private sale.
Wai O Taiki Bay, with its proximity to the Tamaki Estuary and extensive water views across to Farm Cove and Bucklands Beach, offers great opportunities for home buyers such as young couples and families looking for a home close to the city and local amenities, but who also appreciate the peaceful ambience of the area. Houses being built here are architecturally designed with quality interiors and fittings, in a variety of sizes and styles from terrace to stand-alone homes. New developments like these recognise the changes in the way people live today, providing homes with flexible spaces and smaller, easily maintained sections. Built around local amenities such as parks, reserves and walkways, the aim is to create strong community connections for the families moving into these areas.