The name Waitohi was gifted to the current Johnsonville Library in 2010 by mana whenua on behalf of Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika and Ngāti Toa Rangatira and refers to the original name of the Waitohi stream. The mouth of the stream was referred to as Ngā Ūranga or landing-place of waka/canoes and so the name Ngāūranga was later adopted in reference to the entire stream. The word Waitohi has also been connected to rites of baptism and was the name of Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Rauparaha’s sister.
Before the 1800s, Johnsonville was dense native forest, dominated by totara, rimu, rata and hinau. There were no signs of inhabitants apart from a walking track used often by Māori for travel between Porirua and Wellington.This track is now known as the Old Porirua Road. In 1841, an early settler named Frank Johnson purchased a 100 acre block of land and built a timber mill to clear the entire area of forest – known as ‘Johnson’s clearing’.
Design Inspiration for Waitohi
The architectural design for Waitohi features areas that evoke the clearing and escarpment with forest colours and textures to create the sense of a journey throughout the hub. The high ceilings let in light from the east and add to the atmosphere along with skylights above to give a dappled light. In the picture, you can see the upper ground terrace of the Waitohi library, designed as a ‘clearing in the forest’ featuring a timber ‘trunk’ column forming the edge of the clearing. The design on the carpet represents the fallen leaves on a forest floor.