On 1 April 1923, Papanui joined the Greater Christchurch and came under the care of the C.C.C.
The Maori word ‘Papanui’ has two different meanings, no one knows for certain which one is correct as both seem to relate to the history of this area of Christchurch.
Along with Riccarton Bush, there was also the Papanui Bush; both areas could be viewed easily from the Bridle Path in the sea of tussock and toi toi. As with any wooded area, there was birdlife, and the hunting platform that was built in trees where birds were snared was called a papanui (meaning Big Plain).
The other meaning is ‘funeral pyre’ (a structure for burning bodies) and this relates to a story about a Maori princess called Tuhaitara. She sent her two sons – Tamareroa and Huirapa – on a murderous plot against their father, Marukore, who was living in Papanui Bush. On hearing of this plan earlier, Marukore quickly overpowered his boys and made them a huge pyre built out of Papanui Bush.
Of course, as Papanui means ‘Big Plain’ this could just refer to the Canterbury Plains, easily New Zealand’s flattest region!
The Papanui Domain on Sawyers Arms Road was the site of Papanui Bush which of course, didn’t survive the arrival of the Europeans who had felled it completely by 1857. For those seven years, Papanui was a timber-based working village and when all the trees were gone, the land sprung up with orchards and market garden – for example: the Bishop Brothers who arrived in 1858 opened pip-fruit orchards in the area that became Bishopdale.
The attached photo shows the intersections of Harewood, Papanui and Main North Roads, the well-over century old building featured was lost to the 22nd February 2011 earthquake.
* Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library – Corner shops including [J Winder?] tearooms and bakery, Papanui Buildings, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-005240-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23182012*