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’ and this relates to a story about a Maori princess called Tuhaitara. She sent her two sons – Tamareroa and Huirapa – to kill their father, Marukore who was living in Papanui Bush. On hearing of this plan earlier, Marukore killed the 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 city!

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 7 years, Papanui was a timber-based working village and when all the trees were gone, the land sprung up with orchards and market gardens…for example: the Bishop brothers arrived in 1858 and they opened pip-fruit orchards in the area that became Bishopdale.

The first bridge built in Christchurch was called the Papanui Bridge, now referred as the Hamish Hay Bridge and sits behind the now demolished Crown Plaza in Victoria Square (previously called Market Square). The main reason this bridge was built in 1852 was for the timber from Papanui Bush to be able to reach the market, then to go on sale at Victoria Square.

This photo was taken on Papanui Road. Harewood Road branching off to the left and the Main North Road branching off to your right.
The Main North Road was once just a Maori track that they travelled on to reach Kaiapoi, where a Pa and village once stood.

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