20. Otuataua & Stonefields

Visited on 3 June

When I first peered into this crater I was pretty impressed by it’s size, but it was only when I started writing this post that I realised Otuataua used to be a 64 metre high scoria cone. A CONE!!! What happened?! Well, it wasn’t known in the 1930’s as Quarry Hill for nothing.

Otuataua crater surrounding the blue marker (lower right), the dark green quadrilateral is an avocado orchard. Pukeiti volcano on far right

Otuataua crater surrounding the blue marker (lower right), the dark green quadrilateral is an avocado orchard. Pukeiti volcano on far right

First we drove down Ihumatao Road to take a look at the coast and the Southern side of the reserve but we didn’t see much.

Charming beach access at the end of Ihumatao Road

Beach access at the end of Ihumatao Road

Stonefields viewed from the walkway at the end of Ihumatao Road

Stonefields viewed from the walkway at the end of Ihumatao Road

Then we drove to the proper official entrance…

The entrance to Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve

The entrance to Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve

…and found the proper official sign.

Information sign by the entrance to the reserve at the end of Ihumatao Quarry Road

Information sign by the entrance to the reserve at the end of Ihumatao Quarry Road

The avocado orchard

The avocado orchard

First stop: Avocados! Anyone is welcome to enter the disused avocado orchard and permitted to take up to 5 each. Avocados don’t fruit in Winter so of course we weren’t expecting to find anything. My Summer foray, when they are in season, was hardly more productive as I only came up with 2 tiny wind fallen avos after scouring the whole orchard.

Looking back into the avocado orchard from the Northern slope of Otutaua

Looking back into the avocado orchard from the Northern slope of Otuataua

Second stop: Otuataua, the volcano itself.

Otuataua in Winter

Otuataua in Winter

Looking across Otuataua in Summer; the huge basalt blocks stand out against the dry grass

Looking across Otuataua in Summer; the huge basalt blocks stand out against the dry grass

Small remnant patch of native forest

Small remnant patch of native forest as seen from Otuataua

Typical sight at Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve

Typical sight at Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve

Outcrop of lava in field. Puketutu Island in distance (right)

Outcrop of lava in field. Puketutu Island in distance (right)

There are so many wonderful vistas to behold and there’s nothing quite like first-hand experience. My photos here really don’t do the place justice.

Escarpment

Escarpment

Hilly underfoot

Often hilly underfoot

The Ihumatao area is a place of great historical and cultural significance. According to the SOUL website, “This is the birthplace of Auckland. Within this one area, it has been said, can be found the “spirit” or “essence” of Aotearoa, New Zealand.” Near the stream backing onto the Eastern side of the reserve is Ihumatao papakainga; it is the oldest continually occupied papakainga (village) in Auckland. That’s some serious history for a young nation like New Zealand.

Remnants from a farmhouse. Maybe old mill stones?

Remnants from a farmhouse. Maybe old mill stones?

In addition to Maori cultivation of the land for 800 or so years, Europeans also farmed here for about a century, building higher stone walls to keep in their sheep and cows. The 1920’s & 30’s saw baches popping up along coastline as the area became a popular holiday spot. The wastewater treatment plant at Mangare soon put an end to that idyllic lifestyle in the 1960’s by polluting the air, water and seabed with Auckland’s sewerage. etc. Most of the foreshore was restored in 2001 Hooray!

P1060183P1060184

There were various quarries operating within the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve, not just at Pukeiti and Maungataketake. Scoria was carted away to build up Auckland Airport’s runway and roads.

Hot lava flowed over wet, clay-rich ground, the heat baked the clay into natural brick which has cracked and fallen away in parts

This looks like lava flowed over scoria which was then quarried

I liked this volcano enough to return twice with two different people, ok ok, maybe I was just looking to scab some free avocados but maybe not. There’s definitely a pull that draws me back here. Maybe it’s all the history and the feeling that one visit is nowhere near enough time to discover it all. Maybe I just love sharing all the volcanic jewels I find. This is definitely one of them and I’m so grateful this was bought for a reserve in 1999 for the people of Auckland to enjoy. My one regret is that I never made it out as far as the coastal walkway.

Otuataua in 1930 -Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Volume 61 Plate 15

Otuataua in 1930 -Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Vol. 61, Plate 15

Edit: It looks like the Mangare Gateway project is no longer going ahead now 😦 Instead it looks like a 480 residential development will be put in the Ihumatao area. How abysmally short-sighted. I am not impressed. Still, it’s not without opposition.

Auckland council information brochure with walking tracks found here

One thought on “20. Otuataua & Stonefields

  1. […] to. On the sea-ward side of the lagoon the track joins up with Ambury Farm in the Northwest and Otuataua Stonefields in the […]

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