Te Rata: The Doctor
The Waiwera Hot Springs, has been a commercial enterprise and much-favoured holiday destination for Aucklanders for almost 170 years. Set in an idyllic coastal landscape 24 miles north of Auckland, they were a much favoured escape for three generations of the Cochrane family. The area boasted a salubrious climate, an abundance of local produce, comfortable accommodation and health giving hot springs, so it was a perfect setting for a family retreat and must have been a welcome respite from colonial Auckland.
One of New Zealand’s earliest settlers, Robert Graham, was the resort’s first European owner, negotiating the purchase of the land, including the mineral springs, with its traditional owners in 1845. The waters, well-known for their health giving qualities, were known as Te Rata: the “doctor” and were much revered by the local Maori. Given its proximity to Auckland, Graham was quick to realise its potential as a tourist destination, building a hotel on the site and developing an extensive garden and orchard. Various hoteliers would lease the estate during the 1850s, 60s and 70s.
Although well and truly off the beaten track in the 1860s, the 1870s saw a continual improvement to the facilities with the development of the transport routes from Auckland.
My great, great grandfather, Samuel Cochrane, arrived in New Zealand some fifteen years after Robert Graham, setting up business as an auctioneer and shipping agent in Auckland in 1859.
Over the next decade and a half the Auckland newspapers bear witness to his evolving friendship and business associations with Robert Graham. In an attempt to open up regular steamship routes to the north Cochrane purchased the steamer the “Novelty”. As a local auctioneer he would already have been familiar with the Waiwera area for its real estate value and tourism potential. No doubt coming to his notice for the treatment of his own ailments, he invited several of his friends to test the virtues of the Waiwera hot springs for themselves.
The Waiwera resort would come into its own in the 1870s with major renovations and an extensive advertising campaign, with the catch-phrase “throw Physic to the dogs”.
Bottled water from the springs exported to Sydney and its reputation soon rivalled that of its European counterparts for quality and alleged medicinal capabilities.
Image: Waiwera Hot Springs Hotel, painted by the Rev. John Kinder, 1877