The site of Okiato in the Bay of Islands was the home of New Zealand’s first capital from 1840–1841 and an important site in New Zealand’s early formational period. Today, the only visible remnant of the old capital is the well.
The Okiato block and its buildings were formerly James Reddy Clendon’s who ran one of the most successful trading stations in the Bay of Islands from here (Lee 1983).
When Lieutenant Governor William Hobson and his family arrived here one of his objectives was to find a site for government settlement and Okiato was chosen (Ross 1946:14).
Hobson had acting surveyor general Felton Mathew draw up plans for a new town to be developed on the block, to be named Russell. However, that site was never developed as intended and the buildings left there by Clendon formed the nucleus of New Zealand’s first capital (Ross 1946).
Government House, Russell April 1840
In 1842, Hobson moved the new capital to Auckland leaving the police magistrate to occupy Okiato and its buildings.
The final fate of Okiato was sealed when, on the night of Sunday the 1st of May 1842, the former government house and its offices were destroyed by fire.
The name Russell was extended to include the whaling town Kororareka.
Okiato is a good small reserve worth a visit if you are in the Russell area. You have access to the Okiato to Russell Community walkway from the reserve.
Lee, J. 1983. I have named it the Bay of Islands. Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. Auckland, New Zealand.
Ross, R., 1946. New Zealand’s First Capital. Department of Internal Affairs. Wellington, New Zealand.