Friday, November 7, 2008

Traherne – Avondale’s second island

Head out along the North-Western motorway from Waterview, westward towards Rosebank Road, Te Atatu and beyond. Just before you reach the Patiki interchange you might see a blur of wetlands, mangroves and perhaps birdlife beneath State Highway 16’s causeway there. You will have passed over one of Avondale’s two main off-shore islands (the other is the larger Pollen Island): Traherne, around 18-20 acres of mud, shell, scrub and precious animal species.

Both Pollen and Trahern Islands are basically low-lying banks of mud and shell. Half of Traherne is underwater at high tide, and wasn’t even surveyed until 1889, more than 40 years after the more famous Pollen Island. But when Henry Douglas Morpeth Haszard surveyed the island, noting that it was covered in wiki and manuka, with mudflats all around and between it and the mainland, he must have felt that it was worth something. In 1894, he and his brother, fellow surveyor Norman Haszard, purchased title to the island, and were to remain owners until 1906.

H.D.M. Haszard was noted in his field. He surveyed the Kermadec Islands in 1887, was responsible for the survey of the Waihi and Waitekauri mining townships, and carried out a survey of Niue, while he was in the Pacific recuperating from blood poisoning, in 1903. Haszard was a founding member of the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors. He retired in 1921, living out the rest of his days in Waihi.

In late 1927, Ernest Tasker bought the island. He already owned a section towards the end of Rosebank Road, and in 1928 tried selling both his land on Rosebank and the island to a firm called the Dale Shell Lime and Sand Company Ltd. However, things didn’t work out, the company vanished, and Tasker was to remain as Traherne’s owner until 1947. Some of Avondale’s residents from that time recall him burning heaps of shell until all that was left was the powder – lime, valuable both when used in building mortar and upon the fields of crops. It was lime from Pollen Island, and perhaps also from Traherne, that Avondale Road Board shipped to their neighbours in Mt Albert during the 1922 typhoid outbreak, to decontaminate the affected springs behind the Asylum grounds.

In 1954, the last private owner of Traherne Island, Charles Whitfield Ralfe, had the island taken from him by the Ministry of Works for the planned motorway. Since the 1960s, all that can be seen of Avondale’s second island by most of us is a brief glimpse, but usually hardly more than a blur, while on the way to somewhere else at speed.


  1. I picked up this blog from a google alert for Niue. Although Having grown up in Avondale and quite intimate with the Rosebank area I had never thought of that lump of Terra Firma we zoom across as an actual Island. Fascinating. I did have the occasion of rowing across to Pollen once and as an artist have done a couple of paintings of the area. Glad I stumbled upon your website. Will study it with interest.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, odd that the speck the motorway goes over is an actual island. Like Pollen Island, though, it's as much a shifting shellbank as it is terra firma, but with quite a few plant species associated with it. The Northwestern Motorway has to be widened, so the transport people say, so -- the future for Traherne could be very different.

    Let me know if you'd like further info sometime on anything posted on here.

  3. Hi there,

    would you happen to know how did the island gets its name "Traherne"

  4. Named by Haszard -- perhaps after an Irish placename.

    1. Hello I too wondered how the island got its name. I noticed your last reply was in 2013 and wondered if any new reason had come to light. Thanks