The Mâori people have occupied this area for over 800 years and are the original Tangata Whenua (people of the land). Descendants of the crew of the Tainui canoe, which arrived according to tradition from Hawaiiki, settled the area and took advantage of the volcanic soils to grow kumara (sweet potato) and other crops.
Seafood was also plentiful for the local Mâori and the sheltered waters offered by the Hauraki Gulf afforded easy access for their fishing vessels.
On November 15th, 1847 the sailing ship “Minerva” arrived at Owairoa (Howick Beach) from England with the first of the Fencible soldiers. The Fencibles were retired soldiers who were used as a home guard to protect the then capital of New Zealand, Auckland, from the Waikato tribes.
Life was not easy for them or for the few wives who came with them. Local Mâori built native huts that served as temporary accommodation until cottages were built.
The first building to be erected in Howick was All Saints Anglican Church and this is still a fine example of early colonial architecture. The church is the second oldest wooden church in New Zealand and is still a popular choice for weddings.
The second building to be erected was a wet canteen that was subsequently improved to become the “Royal Hotel”. The former “Shamrock Cottage” restaurant can be seen in Selwyn Road.
Howick was named after the Rt. Hon. Sir Henry George Grey, Viscount Howick and later the 3rd Earl Grey. He was secretary for the colonies from 1846 – 1852 and resided at Howick Hall, Howick, Northumberland, England.
Many of the original Fencible families who came out have streets named after them and their descendants still live in the area. The life they lead and the hardships they endured can be discovered at the Howick Historical Village, a living museum of the Fencible era and a fascinating showcase of colonial New Zealand.