Te Henga (Bethells Beach) is a coastal community located in the north of the North Island, New Zealand.
The Māori name Te Henga, meaning sand, originally applied to a wide area of the lower Waitakere River valley, but in 1976 the New Zealand Geographic Board changed the name of the beach from Bethells Beach to Te Henga (Bethells Beach).
It is approximately 30 kilometres Northwest of Auckland City, on the Tasman Sea. One of several popular resorts in the area (others include Muriwai, Piha and Karekare), it experiences a population explosion in summer when Aucklanders head to the sea.
How to get there: From Scenic Drive, Waitakere Road, Te Henga Road, Bethells Road.
"The countryside quickly becomes picturesque with orchards, fruit stands and rolling hills. This area includes many wonderful "walking" (hiking) trails, and the beautiful and wild west coast beaches of Piha, Muriwai and Bethells Beach where Hercules and Xena are filmed."
The Te Henga Valley shows evidence of human settlement dating back over 1000 years. The area is rich culturally as well as naturally with a large number of significant sites, including food gathering areas, pa, walkways, canoe landings and sacred places.
The arrival of Europeans in the 19th century led to major changes in the character and shape of Bethells Beach. The most significant of these changes was the clearing of the land for timber and pastoral farming which began in 1854 and continued until the 1920s.
John Bethell negotiated with the Waitakere County Council to sell the land that is now known as Te Henga Park. The Council considered the beach and park area would provide excellent recreation facilities for all Aucklanders. Te Henga was recognized as a place of regional significance.
- Surfing is the main pastime. Other pastimes include parasailing and hang gliding, for which the prevailing westerly wind often provides favourable conditions.
- Fishing is also popular, although dangerous in many places and many deaths have taken place from this.
- Bush Walking is encouraged, with boardwalks in place.
- Sunbathing, swimming, picnics, running etc
- Skimboarding is also becoming quite popular with the young people.
Sand and rock, older volcanic material, with many concretions and layers in the cliff walls. A cave exists at the southern end of the beach.
The sand dunes have accumulated in several phases over the last 4,500 years. This accumulation has occurred since sea levels returned to about their present levels following the last glaciation 6,500 years ago. These sands contain quantities of black titanomagnetite derived from the volcanic rocks of Taranaki and carried north by coastal currents. The dunes continually move in a dynamic coastal process.
Ecology - the Waitakere River catchment
The Waitakere River catchment consists of roughly 70 km² of the bush clad Waitakere Ranges. Located on the west coast of the Auckland Region approximately 75% of the catchment consists of native vegetation in spite of extensive milling, farming and settlement.
The major features of the catchment are: • the abundance of native vegetation • the steep and rugged terrain • the Te Henga wetland • the sand dunes • Lake Wainamu • The Waitakere Reservoir
The Waitakere River has two main tributaries, the Mokoroa and Waiti streams. The headwaters of the river are in the vast and steep Waitakere Ranges and drain out at the Bethell’s Beach river mouth.
In comparison with other North Island beaches, and to some extent even the west coast beaches of Muriwai and Piha, settlement at Bethells has been minor with most development revolving around horticulture and agriculture.
With the exception of the Waitakere Reservoir the catchments resources have largely escaped development.
In 1990 The Auckland Regional Water Board developed and prepared a Waitakere River Catchment Water and Soil Plan. This pre-Resource Management Act document aimed to deal with the competing water and soil resource demands within the catchment in terms of “conservation, allocation, use and quality of natural water and in terms of soil conservation and preventing damage from flooding.” Although this document may be almost 16 years old many of its principles still apply.