Kāi Tahu have a long association with Muaupoko (Otago Peninsula) and the mauka (mountain) of the Peninsula Hereweka (Harbour Cone). Permanent settlements occurred around the coast due to reliance on the sea as a means of transport and for the availability of kai moana and fish. The name Hereweka, a literal translation of which would be ‘catch weka’, refers to the place on the peninsula where the food resource of weka was found. Another suggested meaning of Hereweka is ‘swift weka’, also a reference to the birds that were once a plentiful food source.
Much of the Peninsula landscape of Muaupoko is dotted with sites of significance for Kāi Tahu. Although there may not be any identified sites within the Hereweka/Harbour Cone property, particular sites or places did not function in isolation from one another. All Peninsula places were part of a wider cultural setting that were highly valued by the earliest inhabitants of the area.
The Hereweka/Harbour Cone property is a largely intact historical landscape typical of nineteenth and early twentieth century settlement on the Otago Peninsula. This early colonial settlement was of predominantly small dairy farms and also the larger estate of William Larnach. The 1844 Otago purchase from Kai Tahu included most of the Peninsula to Taiaroa Head (Pukekura). The Hereweka/Harbour Cone property was then subdivided into land titles in 1863 and many of the stone wall features on the property are boundary walls constructed along these first survey lines. At the time of the 1863 subdivision, heavy bush covered the landscape. The first European settlers cleared the land to establish farming pasture, ostensibly for dairy-farming.
During the days of early colonial settlement, the family economy was dependent on producing butter from the daily milk, with small dairy herds, hens for eggs, pigs, a few sheep and gardens producing other food for the family. The presence of the large Larnach estate probably allowed local farmers to supplement their income through providing their labour. The first cheese factory was established by Captain William Leslie on the Hereweka block in 1877, but it was destroyed in a bush fire in 1881. In 1892, the Sandymount creamery opened and farmers took milk to this factory, which in turn was taken into a central factory in Dunedin where it was produced into butter. The daily visit to the Sandymount creamery was a focal point for interaction in the community. In the late nineteenth century there were four dairy factories working on the Peninsula. When the Sandymount creamery was operating at its peak, there were 30 dairy farms in the area, but by the close of this period, only six remained as sheep farming gradually replaced the dairy herds.
The Hereweka/Harbour Cone property boundary encases the upper reaches of Sandymount Road, where much of the Harbour Cone community’s infrastructure and industrial activity was found. Further west, towards Dunedin at Pukehiki, other important community structures were located, such as the drill-shed and the Pukehiki Presbyterian Church. Two of the limestone kilns, the site of the Sandymount School and the Sandymount creamery lie outside the property’s boundaries but played an important role in the community. Two other sites within the property’s boundaries are the Sandymount post office and a lime crushing plant.
William Larnach began buying land on the Peninsula in 1870 and by about 1875 had developed the “Camp Estate”. This estate covered not only Larnach’s original purchases in the area, but also the smaller sections of land originally granted by the Crown to earlier settlers and then amalgamated by Larnach. The Camp Estate included the castle and associated buildings. Within the Hereweka/Harbour Cone property boundary is Larnach’s “Model Farm” (replacing an original steading) which was accessed through a grand arched entranceway and consisted of a byre, stable, barn and dairy and the farm manager’s house. Constructed as a model of the ideal dairy farm, this must once have formed the heart of Larnach’s self-sufficient farming operations.