The Waitakere Ranges were formed around 20 million years ago caused by a violent volcanic upheaval under the sea. These massive segments of volcanic rock have eroded to become today a dissected volcanic plateau, the eastern most slopes of which are the Waitakere Ranges as we know them today. The Range is now a dominant feature of Auckland’s western skyline.
The Waitakeres are home to a few well known geological formations such as the pillow lavas at Maori Bay in Muriwai, Mercer Bay with the highest cliffs in Auckland standing at 300m and Lion Rock of Piha which is a remnant of a volcanic plug.
Maori Traditional View of Pre-human occupation
Maui (a demi-god) pulled a great fish from the seas. The great fish settled on the surface of the ocean (now known as the North Island of New Zealand). In the time that followed before human occupation the Maori gods created the North Island in its shape and character as we see it today. This process included creating beach’s, volcanoes, weather patterns. The time before humans (Te Ao Kohatu – the age of stone) was a time when rocks, earth and mountains moved freely at their will or by the will of the gods. On the arrival of humans the rocks and mountains froze in place.
The waka’s (canoes) arrived from the Polynesia area about the year 1200, several tribal groups arrived in the Auckland Area. But it is the Te Kawarau tribe that specifically settled in the Waitakere Ranges region West of Auckland. Sheltering on the rocky headlands from attacks form other tribes, fishing in the sea, gathering plants for food, shelter and medicine.
European Pioneering Days in the Canyon
The canyon was used 100 years ago as a method to wash the great Kauri logs from the canyon. A dam constructed of enough wood to build several houses blocked the stream, the lake was filled, the logs were rolled in, and the dam released.
The ecology of the Waitakere Ranges is as diverse as the scenery. Most of the forest is in the various stages of regeneration with only a few places of virgin forest left, such as the Cascade Kauri, the upper Piha Valley and the Karamatura valley.
The region is known best for the prominent Kauri tree; it flourishes in this region. The northern Rata also makes it mark, especially in summer when it flowers.
The area is home to many native birds such as the Kereru (Wood pigeon), the Tui, Fantail and the rare Kaka. At the Takapu refuge at Muriwai you are able to see a very accessible mainland gannet colony. The best times to see these birds are from October through to February when they nest and hatch their young.
Piha today is a thriving but small beach community with mainly bach owners occupying the area. The lifestyle is simple and laid-back. The experience should be kept simple – enjoy the nature at it’s wildest and most awe-inspiring.
Piha is New Zealand’s most famous surf beach, situated on the West Coast of the North Island, 40km from Auckland.
Piha is not just a black iron sand surf beach, its rugged rocks and the majestic Lion Rock contributes to the dramatic and inspiring scenery, and is backed by the Waitakere Ranges which is a parkland of sub-tropical forest.