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Pioneer settlers’ waterfront farm block goes up for sale after 155 years

Tags: Commercial Northland

A block of waterfront land first settled by one of Northland’s first pioneering families some 155 years ago – and still owned by direct descendants today – has been placed on the market for sale.


The land overlooks New Zealand’s first marine reserve, Goat Island, near Leigh just north of Auckland, and was first settled around 1860 by the colonial pioneer Matheson family.

Under the original settlement, the Matheson family owned most of the land on the Leigh Peninsula – breaking in the bush and scrub and converting it into a sheep and beef farm. The nearby village of Leigh was established in 1858, named after missionary Reverend Samuel Leigh.

Patriarch Angus Matheson originally landed in New Zealand at Waipu just north of Leigh. Angus Matheson, along with his wife Jessie, sailed to New Zealand from the icy region of Nova Scotia in Canada. With a loaded wagon drawn by a sturdy horse, the couple travelled south in search of land suitable for Angus to establish his boat building business.

With bountiful kauri plantings providing decades of timber for ship building, a sheltered beach for launch craft, and deep water access for loading trading scows, Angus and Jessie settled in the uninhabited bay which then went on to bear the Matheson name.  The family went on to farm in the immediate vicinity.

Numerous landmark references on the Leigh Peninsula – including buildings, parks and streets - are named after the Matheson family. Over the past 155 years, each generation has sold off part of the original Matheson land holding – with the last remaining three sites now up for sale.

The three blocks of land – each with its own individual potential residential building platforms – are being marketed for sale by Bayleys Warkworth through a tender process closing on November 4.

Rodney Matheson – great grandson of pioneer founder Angus Matheson – still lives in a home on one of the sections being sold. Three brothers live nearby – one in Matheson’s Bay, one in Leigh, and the other at Sandspit.

The family says: “It is sad to be parting with what has been the family landholding for more than 150 years. But the decision has been made by the wider family that now is a good time to sever the last links with the land which Angus broke in, and share the proceeds while we’re still all young enough to enjoy it.”

“When we contemplated selling this land it was not an easy decision for our family to make as we have always felt this is somewhere we could each call home.”

“While the land will pass into new ownership, the Matheson legacy throughout the Leigh district will continue on.”

Angus and Jessie Matheson are believed to have produced 62 grandchildren. Many of their great grandchildren still live in the nearby Omaha, Matakana, and Tomarata districts today, and still make annual pilgrimages to the last waterfront vestige of their spiritual heritage.

Bayleys Warkworth salesperson Kellie Bissett said the three sites for sale overlook the Leigh Marine Laboratory established in 1964, and the Goat Island marine reserve which opened in 1975. The Mathesons sold the marine laboratory land to Auckland University in the 1960s.

The marine reserve with its abundant protected marine life including snapper, kingfish, rays, and even crayfish, attracts snorkelers, divers, and beach-goers every year.  Looking down from the farm house one commonly sees dolphins or seals playing in the blue-green water below.

Ms Bissett said: “Being a marine reserve, there are Department of Conservation covenants in place to ensure that neither the beach frontage strip nor Goat Island will ever be built on.”

She said the sites being sold included a 3766 square metre section with a three-bedroom farm house, a 9922 square metre bare land site, and a 3.5 hectare bare land holding - and could be bought either as one already-subdivided lot, or individually.

“It’s difficult to place a value on the sites as there are multiple ownership permutations which could be pursued,” Ms Bissett said.

For further information on the sale of the three sites at Goat Island, contact Kellie Bissett Phone 027 5306843 or Duncan Napier Phone 027 283 8021

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