The K2K walk crosses over diverse landscape with rich history.
According to Māori tradition, the name Kaipara had its origins back in the 15th century when the Arawa chief, Kahumatamomoe, travelled to the Kaipara to visit his nephew at Pouto. At a feast, he was so impressed with the cooked root of the para fern, that he gave the name Kai-para to the district. "Kai" means food in Māori language.
The Kaipara Harbour is a productive marine ecosystem, with diverse habitats. There are tidal reaches, intertidal mudflats and sandflats, freshwater swamps, maritime rushes, reed beds and coastal scrublands. The area includes 125 square kilometres of mangrove forest with subtidal fringes of seagrass.
The harbour head is a hostile place. Big waves from the Tasman Sea break over large sandbanks about five metres below the surface, two to five kilometres from the shore. The sand in these sandbanks comes mainly from the Waikato River. Sand discharged from this river is transported northward by the prevailing coastal currents. Some of this sand is carried into the Kaipara harbour entrance, but mostly cycles out again and then continues moving northwards along the west coast. The southern sandbanks at the entrance are constantly accumulating and releasing this sand.
These treacherous sandbanks that shift and change position are known locally as the graveyard. The graveyard is responsible for more shipwrecks than any other place in New Zealand, and has claimed at least 43 vessels—some say as many as 110. For this reason, the Kaipara is rarely used today for shipping, and no large settlements lie close to its shores, although many small communities lie along its coastline.
Māori settlements and marae have been scattered around the harbour margins for hundreds of years. The waterways of the Kaipara provided, and still provide, Māori with resources and a ready means of moving between marae.
Today most marae are associated with the Ngāti Whātua sub-tribes, Te Taoū and Te Uri-o-Hau.
The walk starts in the small village of Kaipara Flats. Named by early settlers of Warkworth, then called Mahurangi, Mr Henry Pulham and his brothers-in-law who used to come here hunting pigs, thought they had arrived at the Kaipara mud flats, around Kaipara Harbour.
Kaipara Flats is divided from the Kaipara Harbour by the Kaipara Hills. Several streams run through the valley, all of which are tributaries of the Hoteo River.
The first settlers arrived as early as 1858. They set about clearing Totara, Kauri, Rimu, Kahikatea, Manuka and scrub to establish farmland.
The village developed gradually with a school and library being established in 1878, a public hall and recreation ground in 1903 followed by a store, butcher shop and post office.
In 1905 the railway was extended north through the village, bringing with it various employment and business opportunities.
During WW2 the U.S. Army arrived by trainloads and occupied the district, setting up a camp in Kaipara Flats whilst on rest and recreation leave.
You will start your walk up one of the earliest blocks to be farmed in Kaipara Flats. The native bush you will pass as you climb up the hill are two of the few remaining stands of original bush in the valley.
The Hoteo River
The Hoteo River runs southwest from its source at Waiteitei and is tidal for 14 kms (8miles) up river. In the 1880s with an abundance of timber being felled, trade on the river was in full swing. Land from the Hoteo River to Ahuroa was Crown Land. It was later re-surveyed and cut up into blocks and sold off. Dams were built to hold back the water and logs were floated and chained together then anchored to the bank until they could be floated down river to the mill.
In 1917, heavy flooding caused many slips due to the hills being denuded of timber. The slips took the felled timber and everything in its path to the river. It is said that one chain on each side of the river was wiped out. The log boom burst and trees were washed out onto the harbor.
A lot of work has been done since then to restore the Hoteo River to its ‘mighty’ state. Auckland Regional Council is in the early stages of a project to restore the water quality of the entire catchment area.
Mt Auckland/ Atuanui
The Atuanui Scenic Reserve is a 615 hectare native forest reserve of mature mixed podocarp and hardwood forest just over 70 km north west of Auckland on SH16. It is the largest area of native forest between the Waipoua Forest and the Waitakere Ranges.
Highlights include some large kauri, rimu and puriri trees as well as a dominant taraire canopy and a rich variety of other native vegetation. Kereru, tui, fantail, ruru and tomtits are some of the birds seen and heard at Atuanui.
There are many niche areas of high biodiversity, including king fern, stalked adders tongue fern, and several species of orchid. A wetland area at the mouth of the Mangatutu Stream on the Hoteo River is another special feature.
There is archaeological evidence of extensive pa sites and fortifications (including defensive ditches, terraces, middens and pits), on the peak, on the north-western slopes of Atuanui, and beside the Hoteo River.
The reserve is also the setting for the Mt Auckland Walkway—one of the very first walkways gazetted in New Zealand.