In the 175 years since the Fencible families arrived at Owairoa beach and built the village of Howick, many a reunion has been held:
1847: November 15 – arrival at Owairoa beach where two large hastily-thrown-together sheds awaited almost 700 people. Hardly a cause to celebrate.
1867: One of the more prominent Fencibles, James White – who also organised petitions, newsletters and had plenty of opinions, ideas and suggestions – set up a 20-year reunion for the Fencible families. By this time the main roads, albeit as gravel and muddy tracks, were in place and the Howick we know today was beginning to take shape.
1897: More than 1000 people joined in a large picnic held in a local paddock, followed by running races. In the evening an official dinner was held in the Oddfellows Hall before a formal ball. By this time, photographs were possible which provide a rare record of those brave families.
1923: The name of Howick was formally adopted by the Town Board. Previously the area was still called Owairoa or Waipaparoa.
1927: Eighty years after the landing, a Pioneer Day was held to celebrate the Fencibles and their families’ arrival.
1947: One hundred years later, The Howick Centennial Association chaired by John Litten, Treasurer, R F Newton and Secretary F C Jordan published a small booklet noting there were numerous societies:
- Red Cross
- Howick Horticultural Society, President, W. E. La Roche – a well-known name in Howick.
- If you wanted to phone the Plunket and Nursery Play Centre dial 96
- Howick Woman’s Institute – famed for their food and comfort parcels throughout the war years
- Loyal Howick Lodge – except for the churches, the oldest institution in Howick
- Volunteer Fire Brigade – Due to a lack of funds this started using a second hand REO car which was housed in the Town
Board shed and parked behind several other vehicles which presented obvious challenges. A Queen Carnival was held to raise funds for a new garage.
- Boy Scouts and Girls Guides had been formed in 1939
- Two groups – Howick Ratepayers Association and Howick Residents and Ratepayers formed around 1928. No record of amalgamation has been found but the aim was to work for an improved bus service and forming permanent footpaths. Possibly not a lot to celebrate there either.
By 1947 there were 686 ratepayers in the district. Today Howick ward has 130,000 residents and is the fifth largest urban area in New Zealand.
There were at least six sporting clubs – sailing, basketball, tennis, golf, rugby, bowling, croquet. Golf got underway when a 9-hole course was developed on the Litten Farm at Cockle Bay.
1962: 115 years of Howick and a re-enactment of the families arriving was held at the beach which attracted a crowd of 6000. Three navy boats helped transfer the ‘settlers’ and their luggage to the shore where they were greeted with a ceremonial challenge by a Maori group from the Maranga Club before being by taken by dray in a parade of vehicles to Howick Domain where a huge gala was held.
A week-long celebration took place which included the opening of the Early Settlers Museum in a Fencible Cottage in the Garden of Memories by the Howick Historical Society, a teen-age dance in the Anglican Hall and a dinner organised by the Howick Lions Club was held at Pakuranga College.
1965: Re-enactment of the fist settler landing and Gala in the Howick Domain.
1987: Mayor Morrin Cooper summoned local organisations to co-ordinate for a small scale re-enactment of the landing of the Fencibles to recognise the 140 years since that memorable occasion. A Fencible Family Descendant’s reunion at Howick Historical Village was organised by Shirley Kendall.
1997: 150 years and a similar re-enactment was held this time at Cockle Bay with considerable pomp, ceremony and fun in February. Later in the year and closer to the actual arrival date a dinner was held at Waipuna Lodge, and a formal ball at Highland Park Community Centre. A competition to design a logo was won by Justin Marshall from Bucklands Beach with a well-considered design featuring Ngai Tai as the manawhenua of the district, a sailing ship that bought the families, a bell signifying the churches and a wagon wheel reflecting the industry of the farmers breaking in the land.
Not without controversy regarding the site of the re-enactment and the location of a proposed gateway at the Garden of Memories in Uxbridge Road, the 150-year commemorations proved once again Howickians are passionate and vested in their heritage. The festivities commenced in February with the actual landing anniversary in November this year by which time the opportunity to celebrate heritage and gain a greater sense of unity had prevailed. Postcards of paintings of Howick were published for sale.
2017: Morrin Cooper, Alan La Roche and Jim Donald organised a luncheon at the Howick Club to commence planning for the 175th anniversary five long years away.
2022: And here we are already! This 175th anniversary year with its focus on the many cultures who now live and work in east Auckland with dozens of events, activities, promotions, stories, memories, and recollections is upon us.
In a world we could never once have envisaged, let alone the stalwart Fencible families who were brave enough to face a new life in a new world, we stand proud of Howick, Pakuranga, Botany and the surrounding districts.
To the many residents who call east Auckland home we salute you and wish you many happy and satisfying years of health, safety, and comfort.
The 200th anniversary is not that far away.
By Marin Burgess, heritage co-ordinator for the Howick & District 175th Anniversary Celebrations 1847 to 2022 and the president of the Howick & Districts Historical Society