Waitākere Ranges

  (Redirected from Waitakere Ranges)

The Waitākere Ranges is a mountain range in New Zealand. Located between metropolitan Auckland and the west coast of the former Waitakere City and Rodney District, the ranges and its foothills and coasts comprise some 27,720 hectares (68,500 acres) of public and private land. The area, traditionally known to Māori as Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa (The Great Forest of Tiriwa), is of local, regional, and national significance.[1] The Waitākere Ranges includes a chain of hills in the Auckland Region, generally running approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) from north to south, 25 km west of central Auckland. The ranges are part of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.[2]

Waitākere Ranges
Waitakere Ranges from Scenic Drive.jpg
View of the Waitākere Ranges from Scenic Drive
Highest point
PeakTe Toiokawharu
Elevation474 m (1,555 ft)
CountryNew Zealand
Age of rockMiocene

From 1 May 2018 the forested areas of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park were closed, with some exceptions, while Auckland Council upgraded the tracks to dry foot standard protect the roots and to prevent the spread of kauri dieback, bacteria that affect kauri trees and prevents them from getting nutrients, effectively killing them. There is no cure.[3] But many are now marked as permanently closed, and their future is uncertain.


The name Wai-tākere originally came from a rock located in Waitākere Bay near Te Henga (Bethells Beach).[4] In Māori the name Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa ("The Great Forest of Tiriwa"), referred to all of the forested areas south from Muriwai and the Kaipara Harbour portage to the Manukau Harbour, while the name Hikurangi referred to the central and Western Waitākere Ranges, south of the Waitākere River.[5]


The rugged upstanding topography is formed from erosion-resistant ancient volcanic conglomerate and lava flows laid down in eruptions from the large Waitākere volcano to the west 12–25 million years ago.[6] The Waitākere Ranges and land south from Muriwai are the eastern slopes of the volcano, which were uplifted from the sea floor between 3 and 5 million years ago.[7] Much of the rock that forms the ranges, such as the Piha Formation and Nihotupu Formation, are volcanic and marine conglomerate rocks.[7] Many of the features of the ranges, such as Karekare, Te Toka-Tapu-a-Kupe / Ninepin Rock and Pukematekeo, are remnants of volcanic vents and plugs.


The western coastline of the ranges consists of cliffs exceeding 300 metres (980 ft), interspersed infrequently with beaches. The ranges are covered in native forest, most of which is in the process of regeneration since extensive logging and farming in the mid–late 19th and early 20th centuries. The highest point in the Waitākere Ranges, at 474 metres (1,555 ft), is Te Toiokawharu, in the southern part of the ranges, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) north-east of Huia. The Scenic Drive follows a ridge of high points along the eastern ranges, connecting the communities of Titirangi, Waiatarua and Swanson. Along this ridge are some of the more notable peaks of the ranges, including Ruaotuwhenua, known for its radome and adjacent television mast, and Pukematekeo, the northernmost of the ranges which looks out over metropolitan Auckland.

Early historyEdit

Typical forest in the Waitākere Ranges

A number of Tāmaki Māori are associated with the early settlement of the Waitākere Ranges. In the creation legend of the Auckland volcanic field, the Waitākere Ranges was home to a tribe of supernatural beings known as Tahurangi (called patupaiarehe in other traditions), who battled with the patupaiarehe of the Hunua Ranges.[8][9] The Māori language name of the Waitākere Ranges, Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa, refers to Tiriwa, a chief of the Tūrehu patupaiarehe.[9] The coastline of the ranges and the Manukau Harbour is traditionally thought to be guarded by the taniwha Paikea, while the Waitākere River and northern ranges were the home to Te Mokoroa, a malevolent taniwha.[9] The ranges were visited by Rakatāura, the senior tohunga (priest/navigator) of the Tainui migratory canoe, who named many of the locations along the west coast.[10]

The area is within the traditional rohe of the iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki, whose most intensive settlements were traditionally around the Waitākere River and Te Henga / Bethells Beach being major focal points for settlement.[11][4] Much of the coastline and river valleys were settled due to the resource-rich forests and coastline, with over 550 recorded archaeological sites recorded in the area.[11][12][13]

The warm, sheltered valleys of the west coast streams were well suited for growing crops such as kūmara, taro, hue (calabash) and aruhe (bracken fern), and were the cause of many early wars in the area.[14] Te Kawerau ā Maki benefited from the abundant seafood found on the coast, as well as resources found deeper within the Waitākere Ranges, such as birds, seasonal berries, eels and crayfish.[14] Over 50 were located around the Waitākere Ranges, and many caves and rock shelters were used as refuges during times of war between the 16th and 18th centuries, including Lion Rock in Piha, which was the location of Whakaari pā, and the caves in Whatipu.[12][11] The Waitākere Ranges sites have a large number of wood and fibre artefacts due to the weather conditions of the area.[11] Surveys in the early 1900s uncovered traditional textile fragments such as fishing nets, baskets, cloak fragments, from locations such as Anawhata, Piha, Takatu Point, Karekare and Whatipu.[15] In 1853 and 1854, the New Zealand government acquired around 100,000 acres of Te Kawerau ā Maki land, purchased from other iwi without consultation of Te Kawerau ā Maki.[16] Reserves were created at Piha and Te Henga (Bethells Beach), however by the 1950s almost all Te Kawerau ā Maki land in the Waitākere Ranges had been partitioned and sold.[16]

In the late 19th century, the Waitākere Ranges area became popular for sightseers, especially the Waitākere Falls.[9]

Regional ParkEdit

The Waitākere Ranges Regional Park, protected at local, regional, and national levels, is an area of some 17,000 ha, established over a period of 110 years through gifts, grants, purchases, and vestings (including legislation promoted by Auckland City Council in 1941 to create the Auckland Centennial Memorial Park, commemorating the centenary of the Metropolitan District of Auckland).[1]

In 1894 a group led by Sir Algernon Thomas (the first professor of natural sciences at Auckland University College, now the University of Auckland) persuaded the Auckland City Council to preserve 3,500 acres (14 km2) in the Nihotupu area of the ranges as a bush reserve. In 1895 the national Government vested the land, and several other smaller areas of the ranges, in the City Council as "reserves for the conservation of native flora and fauna". The Waitākere Ranges Regional Park now contains about 39,500 acres (160 km2).[17] The area is also protected under the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act of 2008.[18]

The Waitākere Ranges Regional Park covers about 60% of the area protected by the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act of 2008. The act protects approximately 27,700 ha of both public (the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park) and privately owned land.[19]


Lion Rock, Piha

Some of the ranges' main attractions are: the four popular surf beaches, Piha, Muriwai, Te Henga (Bethells Beach), Karekare; an extensive network of bush walks and tracks;[17] and panoramic views of the east and west coasts and the city. A road, aptly named Scenic Drive, runs a good portion of the length of the ranges from Titirangi to Swanson. Auckland City Council operates an information centre on Scenic Drive, called Arataki Visitor Centre.[20]

The beaches are typical of west coast beaches north of Taranaki in that they are all black sand beaches. They have a reputation of being dangerous for swimmers due to rips and large swells. Surf Life Saving Clubs patrol designated areas of the four most popular beaches during the summer months. Piha Surf Life Saving Club is the oldest of these, being founded in 1934.

On 11 January 2010, the Auckland Regional Council opened the Hillary Trail, a 77 km trail running roughly south–north from the Arataki Visitor Centre to Muriwai through the Waitākere Ranges, named in honour of the New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary.[21] The Hilary Trail is regarded as one of or maybe the best multi day hike in the north of the country.[22]


Five reservoirs within the ranges supply water to the Auckland region, including the Waitākere Reservoir and the Lower Nihotupu Reservoir.[17] Combined, the reservoirs supply approximately 26% of Auckland's potable water demand. The ranges receive an average of over 2,000 mm (78.75 inches) of rainfall annually while the corresponding rate in the city is less than half that.[23] As weather systems approach across the Tasman Sea, their path is blocked by the ranges causing a small uplift sufficient to trigger orographic rainfall.


The area is home to kauri snails, glowworms and native long-tailed bats. Long-tailed and short-tailed bats are New Zealand's only native land-based mammals. At the northern end of the ranges, Otakamiro Point is the site of one of New Zealand's few mainland gannet breeding colonies. In the bush are many indigenous invertebrates, including kauri snail, wētā and oviparous velvet worms with 14 pairs of legs, and ovoviviparous species of 15 and 16 pairs of legs in the genus Peripatoides.

The Ark in the Park conservation initiative, a partnership between Forest and Bird and the Auckland Council, is working to reintroduce some of the species made extinct in the Cascades Kauri Park section of the ranges. The project was started in 2003 and now covers 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres).[24]


The statistical areas making up Waitākere Ranges, which include the populated areas of Huia and Karekare but not Piha or Te Henga / Bethells Beach, cover 188.35 km2 (72.72 sq mi)[25] and had an estimated population of 2,500 as of June 2021,[26] with a population density of 13.3 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [27]

Waitākere Ranges had a population of 2,385 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 234 people (10.9%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 348 people (17.1%) since the 2006 census. There were 873 households, comprising 1,206 males and 1,179 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.02 males per female, with 456 people (19.1%) aged under 15 years, 396 (16.6%) aged 15 to 29, 1,230 (51.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 300 (12.6%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 92.3% European/Pākehā, 12.5% Māori, 4.2% Pacific peoples, 3.6% Asian, and 1.6% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 20.8, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people chose not to answer the census's question about religious affiliation, 69.6% had no religion, 19.5% were Christian, 0.3% had Māori religious beliefs, 0.6% were Hindu, 0.1% were Muslim, 0.8% were Buddhist and 3.1% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 552 (28.6%) people had a bachelor's or higher degree, and 216 (11.2%) people had no formal qualifications. 477 people (24.7%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 1,038 (53.8%) people were employed full-time, 354 (18.4%) were part-time, and 57 (3.0%) were unemployed.[27]

Individual statistical areas
Name Area (km2) Population Density (per km2) Households Median age Median income
Waitakere Ranges North 86.77 1,281 14.8 426 40.7 years $40,400[28]
Waitakere Ranges South 101.56 1,104 10.9 447 43.4 years $38,800[29]
New Zealand 37.4 years $31,800


  1. ^ a b "Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act".
  2. ^ "Regional Parks Management Plan" (PDF). Auckland Council.
  3. ^ "Kauri Dieback Disease Auckland Council Park Rangers". Stuff. 27 July 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Te Kawerau ā Maki Deed of Settlement Schedule" (PDF). New Zealand Government. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  5. ^ Murdoch, Graeme (1990). "Nga Tohu o Waitakere: the Maori Place Names of the Waitakere River Valley and its Environs; their Background History and an Explanation of their Meaning". In Northcote-Bade, James (ed.). West Auckland Remembers, Volume 1. West Auckland Historical Society. p. 18. ISBN 0-473-00983-8.
  6. ^ Hayward, Bruce W. (1979). "Eruptive history of the early to mid miocene Waitakere volcanic arc, and palaeogeography of the Waitemata Basin, Northern New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 9 (3): 297–320. doi:10.1080/03036758.1979.10419410. ISSN 0303-6758.
  7. ^ a b Hayward, Bruce (2009). "Land, Sea and Sky". In Macdonald, Finlay; Kerr, Ruth (eds.). West: The History of Waitakere. Random House. pp. 8, 10, 13–14. ISBN 9781869790080.
  8. ^ "Mataaho". maori.org.nz. Archived from the original on 1 December 2020. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d Waitākere Ranges Local Board (October 2015). "Local Area Plan: Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and the Waitākere River Valley. Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area" (PDF). Auckland Council. ISBN 978-0-908320-17-2. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  10. ^ Taua, Te Warena (2009). "He Kohikohinga Kōrero mō Hikurangi". In Macdonald, Finlay; Kerr, Ruth (eds.). West: The History of Waitakere. Random House. pp. 23–48. ISBN 9781869790080.
  11. ^ a b c d Lawrence, Joan (1990). "Combs from Rock Shelters in the Waitakere Ranges, West Auckland". Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 27: 61–71. ISSN 0067-0464.
  12. ^ a b McKendry, Lisa (2017). "Māori Cordage from Te Wao Nui a Tiriwa, Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand". Journal of Pacific Archaeology. 8 (2).
  13. ^ Mckendry, Lisa (2020). "Maori archaeological textiles: a structural analysis of Maori raranga 'woven' basketry from the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland Museum". Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 55 (55): 19–28. doi:10.32912/ram.2020.55.2. ISSN 0067-0464. S2CID 229659991. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  14. ^ a b Diamond, John T.; Hayward, Bruce W. (1990). "Prehistoric Sites in West Auckland". In Northcote-Bade, James (ed.). West Auckland Remembers, Volume 1. West Auckland Historical Society. pp. 33–41. ISBN 0-473-00983-8.
  15. ^ McKendry, Lisa (2017). "Māori Kākahu (Cloak) Fragments from Piha: Whakaari Pā". Records of the Auckland Museum. 52: 59–70. doi:10.32912/ram.2017.52.4.
  16. ^ a b "Te Kawerau ā Maki Deed of Settlement Summary". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  17. ^ a b c Our parks – Waitākere Ranges, Auckland Regional Council. Accessed 13 April 2009.
  18. ^ Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 (PDF)
  19. ^ Council, Auckland. "Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area". Auckland Council. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  20. ^ Arataki Visitor Centre
  21. ^ "The Hillary Trail". Auckland Council Regional Parks.
  22. ^ "Hillary Trail Auckland". New Zealand Experience.
  23. ^ "Rainfall". Auckland Regional Council.
  24. ^ Pratt, Ciara (13 January 2013). "Waitakere Ranges Sanctuary To Re-Introduce Kiwi". Western Leader. Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  25. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application". statsnz.maps.arcgis.com. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  26. ^ "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  27. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Waitakere Ranges North (117100) and Waitakere Ranges South (128000).
  28. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Waitakere Ranges North
  29. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Waitakere Ranges South

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 36°58′S 174°31′E / 36.967°S 174.517°E / -36.967; 174.517