Te Awamutu hub - history of the area
South-looking map of the Waipa delta, circa 1864
Tainui Māori first explored and settled the Waipa area as early as the 14th Century. Initially pā were established along navigable waterways, on prominent ridgelines and around lake margins.
Prosperity and trade
By the early 1800s, several pā were established in the Te Awamutu area (then known as Ōtāwhao) due to the excellent growing conditions and river access.
Pā were constructed at many points along the entire course of both the Mangaohoi and Mangapiko streams. The streams were used for travel and fishing purposes.
Prior to the Waikato Land Wars, the tangata whenua of Te Awamutu had evolved a prosperous style of farming. Māori were industrious, they quickly adapted themselves to European crops and farming technologies.
After every harvest the local rivers were busy with canoe transport taking their goods to the Auckland markets and further afield to both Australia and the Californian goldfields. These goods included flour, dressed flax, pigs and potatoes.
The name Te Awamutu refers to the end of the navigable river. Canoes could navigate from the Waipa River up the Mangapiko Stream as far as Te Awamutu to the confluence of the Mangaohoi Stream. From there travel had to be across land because both streams were blocked by snags and unsuitable for navigation by canoes.
Arrival of missionaries
Pupils of the Ōtāwhao Mission School, with Rev. Morgan standing at the right, 1877
In 1841 Rev. John Morgan was appointed to the Ōtāwhao Mission which occupied the present day Selwyn Park opposite the site where St. John's church now stands. Morgan established a school and encouraged the use of European styles of agriculture and horticulture.
By 1864, conflict between the British and Māori Kingitanga movement had escalated and land wars erupted. The Mission Station and surrounding land was used by troops as a base camp for the next three years.
All of the land around the township was confiscated with 3000 military settlers given sections ranging in size from 50 to 400 acres. Many of these men did not continue to farm the land, and the Mission Farm returned to grass from the spectacular wheat fields of previous years.
The Mission Farm was sold in 1907, to allow for further growth. It was used as a camping ground before becoming the reserve we have today, known as Selwyn Park.