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The Domain (south gate)

Tauranga & Wharepai Domains:  At the southern entrance to the two Domains, a carved poupou represents the original tangata whenua occupants. The land for the Domain's north end (see below story on Wharepai Hotel) was set aside for a public park in 1883.  The Wharepai field (south end) was added in 1878 when a Domain Board was appointed to manage the parks. 

Wharepai translates as ‘good house’.  It was a boarding house called 'Wharepai', owned and run by David Asher. During the New Zealand Wars, Tauranga Domain (north end) was used for military exercises and martial discipline.  An unfortunate culprit or two were ‘triced up’ on the ‘triangles’ and received their lashes while the Regimental band played. 

Map No. 7.
Cnr Cameron Rd & Hamilton St,
Tauranga, 3110

Tauranga & Wharepai Domains

The Domain is a pre-European Māori archaeological site where the remains of kōiwi (human bones), large kumara pits and buildings have been uncovered. The southern end is called Wharepai Domain after the boarding house Wharepai (‘good house’), run by David Asher and Katerina Asher (née Te Atirau), which was built at what is now 93 Cameron Road in 1894 and demolished in 1971. The carved poupou on the opposite corner represents the original tangata whenua occupants and was unveiled in 2013.

At the northern end, Tauranga Domain was described in 1873 as the place where ‘not very many years ago since the ‘triangles’ were to be seen almost weekly, when an unfortunate culprit or two were ‘triced up’ and received their lashes in presence of the Regiment attended by a band of music.” The Domain was the site of a tent hospital for typhoid patients in the 1890s and what is now the cricket ground was originally known as the High School Reserve until 1946 when Tauranga College opened on Cameron Road between Thirteenth and Fifteenth Avenues. Tauranga’s post World War II housing crisis saw a Transit Camp built on the site with shared facilities for returning soldiers their families and persons displaced by warfare. This was dismantled in 1951.

Today, and since 1878 in between pandemics and World Wars, the linked Domains are used for community sport: tennis, bowls, croquet, rugby, soccer, hockey, cricket.  

Wharepai Hotel

Image: Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0447/08
Image: Tauranga Heritage Collection, Ref. 0447/08

This building, known as Wharepai, was located on the corner of Hamilton Street and Cameron Road and was, at one time, owned by the Asher family. Asher Asher was the first of the family to settle in Tauranga in the 1870s. His son David Asher was proprietor of the Tauranga Hotel from 1891 to 1904. For many years the house was run by the Clough family as the Wharepai Hotel. It was demolished in 1971.

Tauranga Domain

Rotunda in the Domain, Tauranga, Postcard, published
by F.G. Radcliffe (3565) - Collection of Justine Neal

Early days ... Ngai Tamarawaho and Ngati Tapu hapu occupied the land before the Ngati Maru taua attack in 1828. The taua was heavily armed and the loss of life was great.

The origins of the present day park go back to 1873 when Tauranga residents applied to the Native Minister for a domain to be set aside. Five years later the park was extended to the south. In 1881 the northern part was set aside for a secondary school. The southern part of the Domain was called the Wharepai Ground or Domain after David Asher’s boarding house, Wharepai, which was built in Hamilton Street in 1901 and demolished in 1971.

In 1890 a temporary tent hospital was erected in the grounds to cope with typhoid patients, the disease having been caused by the poor sanitary conditions in the town.

The band rotunda was well used over the years, on August 1 1906 the Bay of Plenty Times reported: The newly formed brass band will make its first appearance in public, when the members will give an open air concert in the band rotunda, in the Domain. A collection is to be taken up in aid of the fund in connection with the recent shipwrecks in Gisborne.

Unveiling of the statue of Canon Jordan, 28 Jan 1916,
Postcard - Collection of Justine Neal

On 1 July 1914 the Bay of Plenty Times reported: A committee in connection with the Canon Jordan Memorial met on Friday last, and after considering various proposals, including fountains, memorial gates etc., they decided that the memorial take the form of a statue. The statue to be of Sicilian marble, with polished red Scotch granite pedestal, the material of which the base is to be composed to be decided at a further meeting in July.

On November 3 1915 the paper reported that the statue has arrived in the yard of Messrs. W. Parkinson & Co. who report it as an exquisite piece of work.

The unveiling ceremony took place on January 28 1916, well attended by local citizens and town dignitaries. Over a hundred years later Canon Jordan is still standing there, although somewhat weather-beaten these days.

Tauranga's War Memorial Gates, Undated postcard - Collection of Justine Neal

After the end of WWI Tauranga, like many other New Zealand towns decided a War Memorial was needed to recognise the brave sacrifice of the many local boys who had gone to fight and not returned. On March 29 1919 a public meeting was held to decide what form the memorial at the Domain should take. It was agreed to a War Memorial in the form of an ornamental gateway and gates to the Domain. The gates were to be funded partly by public subscription, although according to the paper the people of Tauranga had not been exactly forthcoming with their money. On December 11 1921 the opening ceremony for the Memorial Gates was held. The official parade was in charge of Lt. Col. Wilson. Immediate next of kin of fallen soldiers were invited to wear their war medals on their right breast and were seated with veterans and returned soldiers.

On December 9 1924 tenders were called for the erection of a Ladies Pavilion.

Aerial view of the Tauranga Domain. Photo by P. Browning
Postcard published by A.H. & A.W. Reed (SR 615) Collection of Justine Neal

Today the Domain as a public green space remains as a huge asset to a busy city with its sport fields, tennis courts, croquet, bowls, athletics etc. and its collection of amazing old trees. All have amazing stories to tell.


A Centennial History of Tauranga, 1882-1982, Don Gifford, Bay of Plenty Times; Papers Past; Musket Wars, Ron Crosby.

Posted by Justine Neal -  on Tauranga Historical Society Blog - Email This Blog Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Share to Pinterest

10 April 2020

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