Dargaville, located on the banks of the Wairoa River (the Kaipara Harbour’s largest and longest tributary) has become a shadow of its former self, due to the exhaustion of the kauri forests. It was founded in 1872 by Irish timber merchant Joseph Dargaville, when the district was already the enclave of a large group of Dalmatian settlers. Kauri timber was the name of the game and for many years Dargaville was an important export centre. The rivers north of the bustling port were choked with kauri being worked downstream, and it was from here that much of Northland’s kauri was shipped to Australia and elsewhere. With the myriad tributaries of the Northern Kaipara Harbour inundating the region, access in those days was only possible by boat from the port and timber-milling town of Helensville, on the south of Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland.
Today Dargaville is a main service centre for the farms with their barren fields on which the great kauri once stood, and the river nearby transports little except ducks. The region as a whole is also known as the ‘Kumara Capital’ of the country producing the best of this sweet potato introduced by the early Polynesian navigators.
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