Whangarei, 130 miles by rail north of Auckland, is the capital of Northland. The town proper is situated on the western bank of the lower reaches of the Hatea River, a tidal tributary at the head of Whangarei Harbour.
The approaches to the harbour afford some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in New Zealand. To the north, Bream Head at the harbour entrance forms high bush-clad peaks rising sheer from sea level to almost 1,400 ft. From a distance these peaks present a jagged toothlike outline etched in the sky and in many ways resemble the battle-scarred remnants of some mediaeval castle. Off shore, in Bream Bay, there are little clusters of islands known as the Hen and Chickens. To the south, the dunecovered shore line sweeps away to Waipu Cove and Bream Tail, some 12 to 15 miles distant.
In the sheltered waters of the harbour proper the enclosing hills are more subdued, and upon their surfaces are patterned the pleasant and prosperous farms for which the Whangarei district is noted. Major industries within the harbour confines include the well known cement works at Portland and an oil refinery which has been sited at Marsden Point. The cement works originally started on Limestone Island in 1885 and were subsequently removed to Portland, where they have been in continuous operation since 1916. The New Zealand Refining Co.'s project at Marsden Point was completed in 1964 and ultimately will supply approximately 90 per cent of New Zealand's market requirements. Near Kamo, 4 miles north of Whangarei, coal was mined almost continuously from 1876 until 1955 when flooding caused the last operating mine to be abandoned. Up to 1955 some 2 million tons of subbituminous coal have been extracted, and it is estimated that possibly a few million tons still remain in reserve. Other local industries include boat-building, a brickworks, dairy factories, abattoirs, agricultural-lime works, numerous light-engineering shops, and a recently established glass works.
by Barry Clayton Waterhouse, New Zealand Geological Survey, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Otahuhu, Auckland.