Mount Albert Ōwairaka

Mount Albert Ōwairaka

Ōwairaka / Mount Albert is a 120,000 year old and 135 metre high volcanic maunga and park in the southwestern Auckland suburb of Ōwairaka / Mount Albert. It is also known as Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura and is one of the 14 Tūpuna Maunga of Auckland Tāmaki Makarau.

The Māori name of Ōwairaka means “Place of Wairaka”. Wairaka was the daughter of Toroa, who commanded the waka Mātaatua on its migratory voyage to Aotearoa. She named Whakatāne in the Bay of Plenty and is commemorated by the stunning Statue of Wairaka at Whakatāne Heads. Wairaka moved to Tāmaki Makaurau to avoid an arranged marriage and established the pā at Ōwairaka. She

To confuse matters, the maunga is also called Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura, or ‘the long-burning fires of Rakataura’. This refers to its occupation by Tainui explorer Rakatāura. Recently, it has been suggested that Ōwairaka was derived from the name of the wetlands around Oakley Creek. But the Wairaka story is our favourite!

Pre-European arrival had a substantial history as a leading pā on the Auckland Isthmus, peaking with the Waihoua Confederation in the 1700s. As with other maunga pā, it was largely abandoned after conflict with Ngāti Whātua in the mid-1700s. The government bought the maunga and surrounding area from Ngāti Whātua in 1841 and subdivided it into small farms.

From the outset, Ōwairaka / Mount Albert was treated as a commercial resource. There was extensive quarrying for scoria rock, reducing the height by 15 metres and the total mass of the maunga by half. There were originally two craters, and one was flattened into playing fields in the early 1900s, while the second had a water tank added in the 1940s. Quarrying finally ended in 1928 in an attempt to protect defensive trenches from its time as a pā. These had been influential in trench design in WWI. The quarry is now the site of an archery range.

Many exotic trees were planted around the maunga, and these have become a local political issue. The Tūpuna Maunga Authority proposes to replace 350 mature exotics with large-scale native planting. In the meantime, these trees are particularly attractive during the golden hour in autumn.

The best access is from Summit Drive, off Mount Albert Road, with parking near the base. The access road on the maunga is closed to cars. There is also foot access from several suburban side streets. An interesting loop track runs around a ridge left over from the quarry and over the peak. There are great 360-degree views of Auckland from the top.

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