History of Lake Hawea township

Photo: Hawea Hotel (destroyed by fire) - Alexandra District Historical Assn

Wanaka Sun column by Barbara Chinn - Upper Clutha Historical Records Society

The Lake Hawea township is on the south-western shore of the lake.  It was originally visited seasonally by Maori - at first, Waitaha people, then Ngati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu communities - who established several mahinga kai (food gathering centres) around the shores of the lake.  Possibly the most notable of these was Manuhaea, at the head of the lake, which, as well as a mahinga kai, was also a wananga, or school of learning in which tohunga were taught the history and genealogy of their ancestors.

When the Europeans arrived during the second half of the nineteenth century, the Maori settlements had been deserted following the depredations of Te Puoho in 1836/7, as he made his way from the West Coast to Southland, planning (but failing) to conquer the Ngai Tahu and to take over the South Island from this tribe.

The land close to the lake was originally farmed by several European families; by Claude Capell at its western end, in conjunction with the fishing lodge he established on the 160 acres of land he owned, and by the Muir family along the foreshore eastwards of Capell’s land.

Claude Capell named several streets at his end, including Myra Street, Elizabeth Street and Flora Dora Parade after members of his family and his companion; Bodkin Street, Parry Crescent and Skinner Crescent after politicians at the time.  He donated land which became Fraser Park in the centre of the township, and the street marking the western end of his property was called Capell Avenue.

Photo: Lake House, Capell's Accommodation House (Hocken collection)

The land to the south which Claude farmed became Timsfield after his son, whose name was Noema, but who was known as Tim.  In the early twenty-first century Timsfield was sold and developed for building.

The Muir land along the foreshore of the lake was subdivided and sold, originally for the building of holiday homes, then for permanent residences. Muir Road commemorates the family, and other early farming families, such as the Drake and Sam John families, are also remembered in the names of streets in the present township.

Photo: Roads & road making Hawea - Wanaka (1934) Alexander Turnbull Library 

The original farming family of William John is remembered by John Creek, the name of the settlement and the creek draining from the Grandview Range at the south-eastern corner of the lake.

Harold Hodgkinson owned the land on the south-eastern edge of the lake (which he leased to Sam John), and he is remembered today in the name of a street at the John Creek settlement.

The area on the southern foreshore of Lake Hawea was a favoured holiday destination for families from Otago and Southland, and eventually became popular as a retirement destination, and for those working locally.

Today it houses a combination of permanent residents and holiday homes, and there is a holiday park on the south-eastern corner of the lake, as well as several nohoanga (camping and fishing areas) set aside for Maori use, on the shoreline of the lake.

Cover photo: Hawea Hotel (destroyed by fire) - Alexandra District Historical Assn

Photo: Lake Hawea township by Trevor Chinn

RELATED:  More Wanaka Sun columns by the Upper Clutha Historical Records Society...

A look back at Pembroke (Wanaka Township) Posted:  13 Jul, 2017 

Irish street names in Wanaka Posted: 13 Jun, 2017

A River to Cross – Albert Town Posted:  Monday 12 Jun, 2017 

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