Pakiri is named after the Maori chief Te Kiri, this was later shortened to Pakiri. The great chief Te Kiri owned all of the land along the coast from Takapuna to Mangawhai, a distance of 100 kilometers.
The story is told that a number of Maori captured during the war in the Waikato were confined to Kawau Island. Chief Te Kiri, although not an active participant in the war, led a party from the mainland in canoes, rescued the captives and brought them back to Pakiri (m. (noun) pākiri, the pa of Kiri) and sheltered them.
Te Kiri also had possession of Hauturu-o-Toi (little Barrier Island) and all of this land was passed onto his only daughter, Princess Rāhui Te Kiri. Rāhui married Tenetahi Brown and lived on the land at Pakiri all of her life. Many stories have been told about her, particularly about her swimming prowess. The government commandeered Hauturu in the 1890’s to establish New Zealand’s first nature reserve. Rāhui was resentful for the loss of Hauturu and she returned to the island to re-establish her sovereignty three times – once swimming 39 kilometres from the mainland to do so. In the 2012 Settlement, the Crown acknowledged the long association of Ngāti Manuhiri with Hauturu and vested the Island to the Ngāti Manuhiri iwi, who then gifted it back to the people of New Zealand for its continuance as a nature reserve. Rāhui died in 1930 in her 100th year at the pā (common abbreviation) or pā tūwatawata (full term, (noun) fort defended by a stockade) near Leigh. She was survived by 2 daughters and 3 sons plus many grandchildren and great grandchildren all proud to be descendants of the great Chief Te Kiri.
Timber and Boat Building
In the early days Pakiri was one of the leading timber ports. At that time Pakiri River was navigable for boats of light draught and scows could venture inside the entrance and had to wait to take their load in off shore winds. Chas Septimus Clarke wrote in his diary “Pakiri valley was a Kauri forest………. there were nice patches of Kauri on the ranges, but only the odd tree on the lower land” The timber mills at the river junction were worked by runaway whalers. The Kauri grew so thick it had to be fallen in groups because the heads were entwined. George Scharpe commenced ship building along the river in 1870. The river was very deep in those days and wide. There was no sand on the other side of the river, trees grew right down to the river’s edge. Fire killed off the bush and a lot were chopped down to feed the bullocks.