Whitford was once occupied by the Maori Ngai Tai tribe before the first European explorers arrived. The area was called Turanga in the early years. After people found it easy to confuse with Tauranga in Bay of Plenty, the locals held a meeting in the Whitford Hall and decided to change the name to Whitford in 1900, named after Mr Richard Whitford (1850-1896) who was the postman and a flaxmill owner.

Water transport was the preferred method for early Whitford settlers. All products produced in this area, such as charcoal, firewood, bricks, flax and farm products were carried by boats to the city to exchange for daily commodities. Waikopua Creek, which means deep water in Maori, runs along the bottom of the Zen Garden was a very significant transportation channel in the 1850s. Many early Whitford settlers, mostly from England, set their feet in the Waikopua area; these families include Broomfield, Curries, Churches, Doidges, Ray, Ross, Trices, Turners and Watt.

George and William Trice were the first European settlers on the Waikopua. They camped on the Clifton Peninsula and met Chief Te Moananui, who showed them the routes through the area. They bought 600 acres in 1843 and named their farm “Poplar Farm”.

A hand-drawn map completed in around 1865 showed the Trice brothers were the first owner of the Waikopua Valley. The land was later subdivided and sold to William Broomfield. The original hand-drawn map is now held by Howick Historical Village.

According to Mr Alan La Roche who wrote in his book – The History of Howick and Pakuranga, published in 1991, “The Broomfields built a cottage at the Waikopua probably in 1858. They buried their valuables before retreating to Howick late in 1863 fearing a Maori attack. When they returned a slip had come down, covering the valuables never to be found again…” The valuables are believed to be still buried somewhere on the site today. (The treasure could be anywhere on this 75-acre property, anyone interested in treasure hurting may rent a pick and shovel from our office for fifteen dollars a day. Flowers and seedlings are provided to help you mark spots where you have dug.)

The Waikopua Dam

The property was very rich in timber. The locals called this property the “Beauty Bank” in the past because of the great number of magnificent trees grown on the slope. A Kauri Dam was built at the bottom of the property in 1870’s to help carry logs to the sea. The dam formed a reservoir where all Kauri logs were dumped into. When the dam was filled with water, they opened the gate and washed the logs into the Waikopua Estuary where they were made into rafts and towed to sawmills in Auckland City.

The Waikopua Dam was built on a narrow corridor between two hard calcareous sandstone and limestone cliff. Works on the cliff are still visible nowadays during summer when the water level is low. The Kauri Dam site can only be accessed by walking along the stream at the moment, but our staffs are working on a walking path which allows our guests to walk to the Kauri Dam from the Zen Garden in the future.

The bridge on the main road in front of the entrance was only a small wooden one-way bridge in the past. During WWII, about hundred American soldiers camped on the flat beside where the Kennel is now located; they were there to guard the bridge. The plan was to take the bridge down, chop the big pine trees down and block the road if they find any Japanese tanks. Fortunately, the Japanese never invade New Zealand and the wooden bridge remained untouched till 1953; the bridge was upgraded to a two-way concrete bridge.

Mr. George Whye bought the property from the Broomfield family around 1956. He later subdivided 10 acres at the end of Waikopua Road from the original lot and sold it to Mr. Rod Smith. He took the money and a new house on the top of the hill in 1964.

George Whye’s House (1960’s)

Photo taken from the Manager’s House

This house is now known as The Manager’s House; the structure and the layout of the house have never changed since it was completed. The Broomfield family moved to Turanga Peninsula after they sold the property, at the end of what now called the Broomfields Road.

Paddocks between the George Whye's house & the Pole House

The paddocks between the Manager’s House and the Pole House were grazed by sheep and goats when George owned the place. The peacocks and the turkeys flocking around this property were introduced by George. The peacocks nearly extinguished in 2006 when the last peahen passed away. Three new peahens were brought in in 2007 in an effort to continue the breed. The male peacocks stopped running away from the property after they found the new females, and with bless, the population is increasing again.

George cleared most of the valuable timbers from the slope in the 1950s and replaced them with Radiata Pines. Most of the mature pines found on this property were planted by George.

Mr. Kevyn Male, a rugby player, a retailer and an author, used to work on the Waikopua farm when he was a teenager. After a rugby trip to Malaysia in 1967, a NZ High Commissioner’s home in Kuala Lumpu inspired young Kevyn, he also wanted to build a Japanese house for his family one day. He thought the farm was the ideal place for his Japanese House and he told George, “Mr. Whye, one day if you want to sell this land, I want to buy it!” When George decided to move to Papakura in 1970s, he sold the property to Kevyn.

An aerial photo of the property

The farm was full of gorse when Kevyn took over, it took him about 10 years to clear and tidy the property. The opposite bank of the Waikopua Creek was all covered by Ti Trees and small bushes, Kevyn cleared the bush and replanted about 55 acres of pine trees. He renamed the property to “Kevyn Male’s Waikopua Tree Farm”. He built the Pole House and the tennis court at the end of the paddock in 1977 and the house only took his construction team two days to finish.

The construction of the Japanese house started in 1992 and was completed just prior to Christmas 1993. The Guest Wing was built in later years, finished in 1998. Designed by Noel Lane, the architect of Auckland Museum, construction materials were being sourced from around the world:

  • 20,000 ceramic custom-made roof tiles sourced by Kevyn directly from Kyoto, Japan;
  • Cedar rafters and crossbeams were from British Columbia, Canada
  • Lawson’s cypress sarking timber from Hokitika, South Island
  • The timber floor was laid with American Oak and Australian Jarrah
  • Bamboo floor in Guest Wing from Central China
  • The window and door frames were made with New Zealand Rimu and covered with Japanese Cedar
  • Italian granite floor in the flyer and bathroom
  • 300 tonnes of blue-stone rocks scattered around the property came from East Tamaki

The house soon became home of several celebrities from town. It was later marketed as a holiday home on the market in around 2001. The Manager’s House section was subdivided and sold to Steven and Denitta Morris at around the same time.

A private trust bought the property from Kevyn Male in March 2004 and the Manager’s House from Steven and Denitta Morris in November 2005. The residential retreat underwent a four year renovation programme after the take-over, which outlined today’s new outlook.

New features added onto this property include:

  • Three new ponds were built beside the Main Lodge, the Guest Wing and the Pole House with 120 tonnes of river stones and pebbles from Kaiaua, Coromandel and Waitaha, South Island West Coast
  • New Theatre with under floor heating and surround sound audio system
  • New Meeting Lounge
  • New en suite room in Guest Wing
  • Two new interlinked Tree Houses in the pine forest
  • New single rooms converted from Old Train Carts
  • New Stone and Sleepers Entrance
  • New aggregate concrete driveway stretches 1.5 kilometres from the bottom entrance to far top end.
  • New landscaping

Reference: La Roche, Alan (1991); “The History of Howick and Pakuranga, Whitford, Bucklands and Easern Beaches and Surrounding Districts”, The Howick & Districts Historical Society, Auckland.