The Hokianga Harbour is home to the Wairere Boulders, a private nature reserve with amazing rock formations. A network of trails have been carefully constructed under, over and sometimes through the boulders, allowing visitors to get up close to this unique landscape. Walking trails take from 40 minutes to 3 hours and you can even hire a kayak to explore the Wairere Stream and paddle out to the Hokianga Harbour. Kids activities and a cafe give the whole family a chance to explore one of Northland’s “hidden gems”.
So where did the boulders come from? Around 2.8 million years ago a volcano at the site of Lake Omapere erupted. This eruption was so huge that a basalt lava flow was spread across a massive area that extended to Horeke. In fact there may have been multiple eruptions that extended this far resulting in a deep basalt layer around 15m thick. This basalt lava flow started to crack as the ground beneath it was eroded over time by the action of rain. The Wairere stream formed, widening the gap between the basalt crust, so more and more chunks of basalt broke off. The boulders started to move towards the valley floor. The underlying soil was clay and as this washed away from the boulders they moved further down the valley, finally ending up at the valley floor in the river. It has taken the boulders 2.8 million years to get from the top of the hill to the position they lie in today. Wairere boulders exhibit an internationally unique geological phenomenon. The rocks originally sat under ancient Kauri forest. When rain falls through Kauri trees it becomes mildly acidic. Millions of years of gentle erosion by this rain resulted in the amazing rock formations we see today, with some of the rocks sitting over 30 metres high. Nowhere else on earth are basalt rocks carved by nature in this way.
William Webster of Wairere
William Webster was born in 1816 in Scotland. In 1839 he left for New Zealand and came on the “Arora” to the Hokianga Harbour.
With him he brought machinery for a saw mill which he erected at Wairere. This was New Zealand’s first water driven timber mill. Production started in 1845.
The “Aurora” loaded up spars for England. A flood damaged his saw mill. The timber business declined and he abandoned operations. He sold the mill and parts of the machinery was put at Mahurangi in a flour mill. The circular saw etc was sold to Thomas Henderson.
New Zealand’s First Timber Mills at Wairere
The first water driven timber mill in New Zealand was built on the river flats at Wairere. Production started in 1845. They soon had to realise that there was not enough water to run the mill in summer. Later the mill from the Heads got shifted to Wairere. The reason for this move was the sand that relentlessly bluntened the saw blades at the Heads.