Wharekauri, Rekohu, the Chatham Islands.
When the first Moriori set foot on the Chathams it was a land of plenty. Millions of seabirds flocked the coastline and dug borrows in the surrounding peat soil. Forest birds grew fat on the laden fruit trees, while the surrounding seas were teeming with fish, eels, shellfish and crustaceans. For the Moriori, this was their pantry … a food store where only enough was taken to satisfy their needs. Centuries later, this pantry is ours to look after. While some things never change, some do, and a lot has happened here between then and now…
1500s: The Moriori settlers are first to arrive naming the Island Rekohu, “Land of the misty skies”
1791: Lieutenant William Broughton and his crew, en-route between Australia and Tahiti discover Rekohu on board HMS Chatham and claim the islands on behalf of King George the 3rd , naming the islands after the vessel. Neighbouring Pitt was named after William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham.
1801: The first sealers arrive, and continue to arrive.
1835: Two Maori tribes Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama arrive on the Chathams, taking the land as there own, either killing or enslaving the native Moriori people. They take up the name Wharekauri, which was already being used by several Maori living on the Island before 1830. Wharaekauri is named after a small hut (whare) built out of kauri (a type of tree) logs that had washed ashore on the northern part of the Island.
1841: The first sheep (50 Spanish Merinos) arrive from Wellington.
1844: The seal population is decimated and attention turns to whaling. Up until 1850 it is estimated that 700 whaling ships patrolled the surrounding ocean.
1850s: Whale numbers eventually decline and as the industry diminishes the Chathams becomes a port for smuggling tobacco and liquor to New Zealand.
1856: The Chathams export 1000 tonnes of potatoes to California and Australia, but the industry is short-lived.
1901: Our sheep flock grows to 75,000 and we record our first shipment of livestock to the port of Timaru in the South Island of New Zealand.
1908: The Blue Cod fishing industry is born at Owenga.
1924: The Huro Cheese Factory opens and exports about 1500 crates anually until 1938 when it shuts its doors.
1937: Our Blue Cod industry moves from Owenga to Kaingaroa.
1965: The Cray boom begins when a single boat, The Picton, harvests two tonnes under astonishing circumstances. Waitangi harbour (the Islands main port) becomes New Zealands busiest port, with the local fleet increasing from around 30 to 150 vessels.
1968: The Paua (black abalone) industry takes off as a new canning process allows us to export overseas.
1974: Our Cray stocks deplete, and this would turn out to be “the most disruptive, frenetic and dangerous period in the islands history. It was lucrative too but ultimately not for the Islanders” (King and Morrison 1990, pg109).
1984: Local Craig Enemy launches Air Chathams and has huge entrepreneurial success with the help of local support.
1996: Air Chathams purchases a 580-prop jet to transport more passengers and cargo than ever before, while returns to fishermen greatly improve.
2000s: The Blue Cod and Cray industries take off again, and continue to grow with good management practices and a new quota system.
2014: Chatham Island Food Co. purchases a fish factory at Owenga, Chatham Islands. After spending 3 years based in Melbourne & Sydney sharing the island’s produce with some of the best chefs in the world…the CIFCo team are now catching, packing and delivering their island produce!
Today: With a a base back on the Island, we are now more able to support the Chatham community as the demand for our famous Chatham Blue continues to grow.