The Grove Okiwa


The Grove near Okiwa in the Marlborough Sounds, now flat farmland, was once covered by extensive kahikatea forest.

The name Okiwa probably refers to a chief named Kiwa, as does Anakiwa (the cave of Kiwa). Until the Ngāti Awa attack of 1829-30, Rangitāne and Ngāti Kuia were established in the district – afterwards the land was under the control of the North Island tribes.  Joseph Thoms, an early whaler, bought 400 acres of this land from his father-in-law Nohorua, and later it passed to various other settlers.  They gave it the name of The Grove due to the extensive kahikatea forest there, which they promptly set about felling.

Grove wharf. 19th Century. Picton Museum
Click image to enlarge

Alexander Scott Duncan arrived in 1861 with his family and set up the first steam sawmill in Marlborough, calling it the Victoria Mill.  Before it was packed up and moved to Tennyson Inlet in 1870, this mill is believed to have shipped out 18 million feet of timber from The Grove.  Not only timber, but also shipping, was an important element of pioneer life, providing both trade and provisions.  There was even shipbuilding at one stage. The bridle track to Picton was started in 1861, but was a very rough affair. and it was not until 1898 that work was begun on a so-called road.  A coach road through to Havelock had been opened four years previously.

One of the prominent seafarers was Captain A.A.A. Hood, a former whaler, with his schooner Augusta. Captain Hood was drowned at The Grove while at anchor in August 1866;1 his sea-chest is on display in Picton Museum.

The Duncan family, Alexander and later his son John, were active in the district, leading the push for schools, acting as Postmasters, and during the gold rush providing a building for use as Henderson’s Grove Hotel.  The Duncans were able to obtain much of Captain Hood’s land after his death, and eventually bought all the land through to Shakespeare Bay, excluding Māori reserves.  Farming was developed once the land was cleared, but fire was always a hazard and the land was poor.  Much of it reverted eventually to the Crown as reserve.

The gold rush from 1864 onwards led to great activity at The Grove, as it was the main access point to Cullensville and Mahakipawa.  The area remained important to the farmers who made a success of the fertile Linkwater district, as their dairy factory (making cheese) was established there in 1911,2 as it was convenient for shipping out the product, which gained many prizes.  The Company continued until 1953.

Originally written for Picton paper Seaport New, 2010. Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Melancholy occurrence at the Pelorus (1866, August7) Wellington Independent, p.6
  2. Public announcements (1911, February 13) Marlborough Express, p. 8

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  • So how could "Kiwa" have been at Poverty Bay prior to Captain Cook then? Leave our European names in Niew Zeeland as they are. Read world wide pre Treaty of Waitangi history & stick to facts . Bring on Magellan's Journals and diaries from 1500 circa!!

    Ed. This story does not refer to Captain Cook or Poverty Bay.

    Posted by james, 03/03/2018 7:44pm (6 years ago)

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