Kauri merchant John Kennedy:
His success cost him his life
ne sees Kennedy Bay on the map and thinks to drive there, a
simple coastal drive north from the Whangapoua area...But,
where is the road up the coast? Isn’t one! You have to access
this east coast spot by starting on the west side of the peninsula, coming
through Coromandel town’s Kapanga Road and then continuie as it
changes its name to Rings Road, Driving Creek Road and finally over the
mountains of Kennedy Bay Road.
(See page 36 for Road Trip of area.)
So who is this Kennedy of Kennedy Bay?
John Kennedy’s family owned
a castle in Scotland, but John
chose a life devoted to the
sea. He helped secure timber
for the British admiralty, and
was aboard the famous HMS
when, after dropping
off convicts in Australia, it
headed to the kauri timber
forests of New Zealand.
John arrived on the boat in 1837, and stayed with the ship as the crew
itself felled and shaped the kauri into spars and yardarms. Before the
days of established mills and workforce, the sailors/timbermen would
stay in the area for up to a year.
’s hold was filled with kauri, the boat set sail back to
England; and John stayed, moving north in 1839, where he bought 242
acres of kauri land from the Maori chief. He established a trading post,
whaling station, and mill. He hired men to keep timber operations going
while awaiting the return of the next ship. The bay, originally named
Harataunga, was thus named for him. As for the
, on a return trip
in 1840, she was beached off Whitianga in a storm.
Read story online in
our Summer/ Easter 2013 issue.)
Kennedy had excellent rapport with the local Maori, who worked as
bushmen, mill workers, whalers, fishermen and produce suppliers. He
even directed the building of his own cutter,
The Three Bees.
Long before the land treaties were officially established between the
crown and Maori, Kennedy traded goods for some land from the Ngati
Tamatera under Chief Paora Te Putu, who later also offered the Ngati
Porou tribe shelter and land in the Bay. Kennedy married Rangirauwaka
(aka Katerina Taurangi) of Ngati Porou and with her had four sons and a
daughter who died young.
Kennedy’s business helped load many a ship (including the
the “Sailor’s Grave” fame) with kauri and other supplies. By all accounts
he was a “hard working and industrious trader.”
(continued on page 14)
unmilled kauri logs
at Kennedy Bay.
One of the few surviving photos of the Kennedy Bay kauri lumber milling
complex, located up the hill to take advantage of the rushing waters to
power the sawmills.
Early kauri logging meant hand sawing timbers, one worker standing above,
the other pulling the saw from below. Above shows primitive pit saw. Later,
sawmills were built, powered by waterwheels or steam engines.
Painting by artist/surveyor Charles Heaphy (1839).
Image courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library
A boom of logs in a stream emptying in to Kennedy Bay, not quite
driven to the open waters. Log action often exposed gold deposits.
COROMANDEL LIFE LATE SPRING/HOLIDAY