Tairua's original school house, circa 1890.
Tairua, which means ‘two tides’, was chosen for settlement by the early Maoris. Evidence can be found of moa-hunting, while pa sites can be easily identified on reserves and farmland. The climate was pleasant all year round and fish and birds provided an abundance of food. In the early 1820’s several hundred Maori inhabitants were slaughtered by Hongi Hika and his warriors. From that time the Hikuai-Tairua area was never resettled by the Maoris.
The Tairua township started forming as a timber mill town during the late 1800's with vast amounts of kauri cut in the surrounding hills. It is said that through Tairua's harbour passed 400 million feet of timber, and in 1882 occurred one of the most spectacular log drives ever seen. As heavy rains filled the dams in the main valley and its tributaries, the dams were tripped one by one bringing a mass of 15,000 logs hurtling from the booms to the mouth of the river. The Tairua history trail is a popular walking track around the Harbour's edge where evidence of this history can still be seen.
Gold panning after storms can produce traces of "colour" and the only opal mine in New Zealand was situated at Hikuai in the 1900's.
Prior to the opening of the Kopu-Hikuai Road in 1967, visitors to the area came in via Whangamata or down from Whitianga, so the new road brought many tourists and Tairua became a popular holiday resort. Power also arrived in 1962, making some perminant living easier. Around this time there were three major camp grounds in the area which many New Zealander's hold good memories of.
Today, part of Tairua's charm is the year round holiday essence. Some claim the lay of the land and surrounding nature to be very therapeutic for the soul.
Tairua 1953. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-31966-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand