The island group of Motuketekete, Moturekareka, Motutara, and Kohatutara or the Rocky Islets island areas are a group of connected islands south of Kawau Island, which you see when looking out from Martins Bay.There are the remains of a 309ft long wreck of a Barque named the “Rewa” built in 1889, in a bay on Moturekareka.
The three islands are now Scenic Reserves managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and are composed of Waipapa group greywacke rock. A shingle area connects the south-western side of Moturekareka with Motutara except for about 1.5 hours either side of high tide and has a shingle beach around much of the shoreline. There is a low saddle between two hills near either end of Motutara, and there is a collapsed trig station on the eastern hill top.
Archaeological surveys of Moturekareka and Motutara were carried out by DOC in 1994/1995 and on the flat land adjacent to the “Rewa” hulk was found to be the main area of both Maori and European settlement.
Archaeological evidence suggests that these islands were not permanently inhabited prior to European settlement. The three islands, Moturekareka, Motuora and Motuketekete were purchased by John Long Haydon on 18 March 1845 from NgatiPaoa chiefs for a total of 18 pounds sterling and twelve blankets.
In 1848 the old Land Commission ruled that these islands were part of the ‘Mahurangi and Omaha Purchase’ and paid compensation of 90 pounds 15 shillings to Haydon. The Crown later sold Moturekareka to one Theophilus Heale, who was involved in working the copper deposits on Kawau Island. Frederick Whittaker and Theophilus Heale had been involved since 1845 with the setting up of a copper mining company at Kawau Island, and apparently their efforts were opposed by the company already there at Kawau. “The original company were deeply hostile to the newcomers, and refused to allow Whittaker’s miners to live on Kawau, so they had to camp on Motuketekete, an island a few miles south, and be ferried back and forth each day to the mines.”
There have been many owners of these islands over the years, but perhaps the most documented of owners/residents on the island of Moturekareka are two eccentric hermits, Charlie P. Hansen, a fine-looking, big, jovial Scotsman and Snow Harris. In the early 1920s Hansen, a retired sheep farmer, purchased Moturekareka, Motutara, Kohatutara and Motuketekete.
The western third of Motutara was taken from Hansen for quarry purposes in 1929 under the Public Works Act to supply road metal for the main highway upgrade between Auckland and Whangarei.
The quarry operation primarily in the 1930s and 1940s removed a lot of rock from the western end of the island where the remains of an old wharf rock walls and building sites are still present.Also present are old tracks and tunnels (which were probably explosive stores. In 1968 the quarry reserve was transferred to the new HGMP for recreation purposes. In 1980 both Kohatutara and Motutara were reclassified as Scenic Reserves.DOC purchased Moturekareka as a Recreation Reserve in October 1993. On 21 May 1996, it was gazetted as a Scenic Reserve.
(Contributed by Anne Murphy & Nigel Hayman)