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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.

When the


’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.