Redcliffs - a history
The first settlers - tangata whenua
Redcliffs has been home to people for around 700 years. In the 14th century large groups of Māori, initially the Waitaha people and then the Ngāti Māmoe tribe, settled there. Ngāi Tahu displaced Ngāti Māmoe in the 17th century and were still living in the area when the first Europeans began to arrive. The Māori name for Redcliffs is Te Rae Kura, which means “red, glowing headlands”. This name comes from the red volcanic rock in the area. There are a number of caves in the area in which artifacts and bones have been found. The largest of these, now known as Moa Bone Point Cave (or simply Moa Cave)—Te Ana o Hineraki in Māori—was inhabited by early moa hunters, and later by shellfish gatherers presumed to be Waitaha. There is an extensive description of the early history and excavation of the cave here.
The Europeans arrive
European settlers arrived around the middle of the 19th century. The first known European name for the area was Watsonville, after landowner Alfred Watson, who owned 150 acres on the hillside next to what is now Main Road. This name is used in The Star in 1889. The name is also used in an interesting article about the area in the New Zealand Tablet in 1890—the article can be read here. However, the name Clifton was in common use by 1896. The residents of the area met in 1898 in order to try to get a post office for the settlement, but because there was already a town called Clifton with a post office, another name had to be found. The name Redcliffs was chosen. This is a direct translation of the original Māori name Te Rae Kura (rae = headland or cliff, kura = red).
In 1927 The Press published an article about Redcliffs, "A Progressive Suburb", which gives details of developments and events in the area from the 1860s to 1927. It covers topics such as the creation of the cutting, the water supply, the development of Fisherman's Flat, early shops at Redcliffs, hurricanes, the formation of the Christchurch Yacht Club at Monck's Bay, the establishment of Redcliffs School, the development of the sea wall, the 1911 census, and an attempt to create an oyster fishery in the estuary. The article can be read here.
Resources and collective memory
The Sumner Museum has an enormous amount of information about the history of the Bays area - archives, diaries, objects, photos. Find it at Matuko Takotako at 14 Wakefield Road, Sumner. Contact: the Sumner-Redcliffs Historical Society, secretary Miss M Rule at 5 Main Road, Redcliffs, tel: (03) 384 1159, email: s............@xtra.co.nz
History of the Estuary area
A comprehensive guide "A Recreational and Social History of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary" written from a project in 2009/2010, can be found here.
Moa Bone Cave / Te Ana o Hineraki Heritage Assessment is here.
Monck's Cave and Setting Heritage Assessment is here.
Redcliffs Tram/Bus Shelter and wall, in Moncks Bay, Heritage Assessment is here.
Oral history project
Here is a link to the Sumner Redcliffs Oral History Project created by the Sumner Bays Union Trust in 2018.
Redcliffs in 1895
Monck's Bay in 1910