Remembering the flat-topped cone

by | Apr 20, 2014 | Uncategorized | 13 comments

 Puketapapa, meaning ‘flat-topped hill’ was the cone that watched over my high school years. We called it Mt Roskill in those days.
Finding the best place to approach a cone is sometimes tricky, especially with this one, which from the main road is not very accessible on foot.

This was the view I had as I cycled to high school each day. My mother and father played croquet at the foot of Puketapapa, but I never thought to climb it — until now. It’s so easy to take for granted what lies close at hand.

We meet at a quiet street on the southern side of the hill, where we find a walking track through a small reserve.

It’s a different world on this side. The wind creaks through the pine trees as we scramble up the slopes. The roar of traffic has dropped beneath the horizon.

 Looking west, we can see Owairaka (Mt Albert), the last cone we climbed.

 From the top of Puketapapa the eye can easily swoop through space to the distant peak of Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) to the east,

 and Maungawhau (Mt Eden) to the north,

 before wheeling around to the south west and drifting down the Manukau harbour to the Heads.

Here in the foreground is another familiar hollow in the ground, showing where a kumara pit once lay. We are entering the season for the kumara harvest, when Maori would store the crop very carefully in these pits.

Like the other cones, Puketapapa too was threatened. A motorway, which you might just see roaring from left to right along the flank of the cone, was originally planned to cut right through it. After vigorous protests and a prolonged battle by concerned citizens (Auckland Volcanic Cones Society), the cone was saved.

We did this walk before the steady autumn weather broke. Now it’s Easter, with rain, wind and floods interspersed with bright patches. Looking back on this walk, I reflect on how important it is to preserve what is precious. The previous cone—Owairaka/Mt Albert—lost its top. This one, Puketapapa, was very nearly cut in half, only a decade ago. I feel so grateful to all those who fought to keep this cone intact. And I’m glad I got to climb it after all these years, because it provides a little pocket of peace amidst roads that have become dense with traffic.


  1. Penny O'Neill

    I’m so glad you were able to climb it as well, Juliet, and that you shared it with us here. What beauty surrounds you there.

    I am just curious as to how deep the kumara pits must be to store food and to have kept it safe.

  2. Juliet Batten

    Penny, these pits are about three to six feet deep. A roof would have been put over the top and gravel or dry wood flakes laid down underneath to make a floor. I’m so glad I was able to do this walk before the weather broke, and hope there will be a chance to do some more soon. Thank you for visiting.

  3. silkannthreades

    I am horrified at the thought that this cone might have been invaded by a highway. Thank goodness it is in tact. What a lovely walk.

  4. Juliet Batten

    Yes, it seems so awful, doesn’t it? The walk was wonderful; thanks for coming along.

  5. Hotly Spiced

    I used to ride my bike to school too. Can you believe, that for my son, Alfie, it’s against the school rules to ride a bike to school. Could we have ever believed back then that such a thing would be outlawed! It’s so true that what we have at our fingertips we take for granted. Good on you for giving this hill a climb xx

  6. Juliet Batten

    Charlie, that’s incredible. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to be cycling down Dominion Rd now as it’s become a main feeder route to the airport motorway. We used to keep so fit, walking or biking to school, and it’s so different for the young ones now. Thank you.

  7. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – so pleased you had that late Autumn walk .. the walk itself looks lovely, while those views are just amazing ..

    Wind and rain and floods – I just hope we’re away from those this year .. it was lovely out today – but raining inland, one advantage of being near the sea …

    Cheers Hilary

  8. Vicki Lane

    Such a history! I’m so glad it was there waiting for you to climb.

  9. Juliet Batten

    * Hilary, I’m so glad I was able to fit it in before the weather broke. Glad that better weather is coming your way now.

    * Vicki, yes the history lives on in these cones.

    Thank you Hilary and Vicki.

  10. Juliet Batten

    Linda, when I see your spacious environment, I can understand that. Thank you.

  11. Friko

    It does indeed seem like you have a precious oasis in a sea of dwellings. It would be dreadful to destroy it simply to get a bit faster from one lot of houses to another.

    Long may Puketapapa watch over you.

  12. Juliet Batten

    Friko, a precious oasis is exactly what it is. As the city building intensifies, it’s so important to have these breathing spaces. Thank you.


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