Items of Interest - Porirua Central

Maori oral traditions and tribal whakapapa passed down for hundreds of years recall the names of some of the explorers and iwi that have lived in Porirua.

Although the names and stories of all of the first generations of people are not known, Ngai Tara and Ngati Ira were among the tribes who occupied Porirua.

By the 1800s, Maori society was changing. The arrival of the Pakeha led to increased trade in flax and especially muskets. Before 1820, Ngati Ira were the major tribe living in the Porirua region having displaced Ngai Tara.

However, Ngati Ira were then forced to leave their lands by the arrival of musket armed led by Te Rauparaha, Ngati Toa’s ambitious chief.

When the land wars broke out in the area in 1846 the Ngati Toa chief Te Rangihaeata built a Pa at Pauatahanui and in turn British troops were stationed at a string of forts between Wellington and Porirua Harbour including Fort Elliot which stood where central Porirua now lies.

Ferrys ran up and down the harbours and hotels and stores soon followed. In 1887 the Porirua Lunatic asylum opened providing for 2,000 staff and patients as well as a boom time for the small village.

By the early 1900s Porirua boasted three churches, a hotel, a railway station and at least one general store. The mudflats at the head of the harbour provided a course for occasional race days and for training horses from Prosser's stables.


Porirua Central

Porirua Central


Porirua Central

Porirua Central


Porirua Central

Porirua Central


The railway provided connections with Wellington to the south and Manawatu to the north. In the 1940s land pressure in the Wellington urban area showed the need for new housing development within the region.

Porirua possessed several advantages over other areas. Land prices were cheap: £50 per acre compared with £300 in the Hutt Valley. The framework to transport people and goods in and out of Porirua already existed with the electrified Main Trunk line.

Plans had been drawn up for the construction of a new road between Johnsonville and Porirua. The natural topography and resources were adequate to provide services such as water reticulation and storm water drainage.

Although modern Porirua was planned as a dormitory city for Wellington, it was recognised that a regional shopping centre in Porirua was needed.

The first schemes for the town centre were mooted in 1947, yet the final design was not accepted by the Makara County Council (the governing local authority at the time) until 1960.

The plan required the clearing away of most of the original village, the diversion of the stream and land reclamation in an area bounded by Parumoana Street, Norrie Street, and Titahi Bay Road.

Sites for about 100 shops were developed. The first shop, Fashion Court on Lyttelton Avenue, was opened by the Minister for Lands on 17th October 1963. Several major national and international companies were attracted to the city. It had available land, a local work force and was accessible to transport routes.

The General Electric Company was one of the first industries to establish its factory, in 1965. Other industries to set up included Kodak, Chubb, Ashley Wallpaper, and W.R. Grace.

But the major influence on the Porirua landscape during this period of industrial development was the Todd Motors (later Mitsubishi Motors) assembly plant located on the road to Titahi Bay.

The central city area remained relatively untouched until the early 1990s when a large mall at the cost of $50 million was proposed. The site chosen contained the last area of inner city housing, Eastwood Avenue.

These houses were either removed or demolished to clear the site. Development of the mall was beset by problems with the contractors. The proposed opening was delayed until November 1991, as the K-Mart Plaza.

The development provided an exciting new centre for retail in Porirua. This was complemented in 1995 by the covered walkways over the 1960s shopping area. As the turn of the century new commercial developments were pressed forward, most notably the Mega-Centre stores which began opening in November 1999.

Resource: Porirua Central
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