George White and Whites Line – East and West – Hutt Valley

Whites Line was the second road established in the Hutt Valley and the first road to slice across the Valley.  It’s now a major thoroughfare.   Some suggest it was called ‘Whites Line’ because it was an ‘aukati’ or ‘line which no (white) man could cross’, a frontier line between Maori and the white settlers.  (Adkin, ‘Great Harbour of Tara’).  The opposite is also claimed, that it was a union of Maori and pakeha that enabled the road to be built.

In fact the origin of the name White’s Line lies with George White, a member of the English landed gentry class who was only fleetingly a resident in the Hutt Valley.  George White and William Deans (one of the Canterbury founders) were cabin passengers on the Aurora and among the first immigrants to Port Nicholson, arriving in January 1840.

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NZ Gazette & Wellington Spectator 16 May 1840, Papers Past

The NZ Company let the contracts for the road, to be no more than 6 ft (1.8 metres) wide. A contractor and ‘gentleman farmer’ George White followed an 1841 survey line to create the road.  His workmen would have done the manual labour and settlers reportedly needed to use slashers to cut their way through the first tracks of the road.  White’s Line was completed in the early 1840s but first appeared on a map in 1852.  His line marked the southern edge of the bush and the area that became the Lower Hutt City.

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Lower Hutt Past and Present : Lower Hutt Borough Council, compiled by Lance Hall with W. Toomath. Hutt City Libraries online heritage collection

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The Copeland family in front of the home they established in 1841 in White’s Line, Lower Hutt.  Copeland House c1850, Hutt City Libraries collection

View the changes in the area of Whites Line;  Historic aerial maps, Hutt City Council    The section of White’s Line West from Hutt Road to the river was renamed Wakefield Street in 1909.

Whites Line from hills above Percy Scenic Reserve08 April 1957, by Leslie Adkin. Te Papa (A.008166)

George White, Esq., a ‘farmer, Hutt River’ on the 1842 electoral roll, was also a Wellington Justice of the Peace and he was elected Wellington Town Clerk in October 1842 after promoting himself in newspaper adverts.

He was appointed in 1843 “to act as Police Magistrate at Nelson until further orders” (Nelson Examiner, 5 August 1843) after the Wairau massacre.  He was dismissed from this position soon after for having ‘Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary’ on his bookshelf, extraordinarily.  But he stayed on in Nelson for the rest of his life, leaving ‘White’s Line’ as his legacy to the Hutt.  In 1953 there was a proposal Whites Line East be renamed as ‘Te Whiti’ but this was rejected.

George Powney White was born on the family estate in the grand Newington House in Oxfordshire, England, in 1787.

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George White’s baptism image from Library edition, Hutt City Libraries

His grandfather, also George White, bought Newington House in the 1770s.  He was a principal clerk in the House of Commons.  In the family tradition his son George White and grandson (NZ) George White also both became clerks in the House of Commons.  (NZ) George White’s brother, Thomas White, lived in Newington House from the 1830s until he died in 1878 and the House was sold out of the White family.

George was the Clerk of Committees in the House of Commons from 1810-1839. He married Harriet Coast in December 1914, using his full name, George Powney White. As Harriet was under the age of 21 she required her father’s permission.

Morning post, 24 December 1814 from the British Newspaper Archive

Why George White decided to emigrate to the colonies in 1840 is unknown, but he arrived alone.  His peers may also have been members of the NZ Company. It seems his wife Harriet stayed in England.

George White was a prolific letter writer to the newspaper, gave many philosphical lectures and had a public presence in Nelson. 

He died at his Russell St, Nelson home in December 1867. His house was one of the first built in Nelson.

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The Colonist Papers Past
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Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 14 December 1867

Having no children, and his wife apparently having died in England before he died in Nelson, he left his estate to Nelson magistrate John Poynter who had a family. 

This personal advert describing his lost ‘blue ponchou cloak’ gives some sense of him.  His nickname in Nelson was ‘Old Daddy White’. The Nelson Provincial Museum has a portrait of George White.


He is buried in Wakapuaka Cemetery in Nelson and the Provincial Council of Nelson erected a headstone for him “in token of their respect and esteem” … “Sacred to the memory of George White Esq. for 15 years clerk to the Provincial Council of Nelson to whom he rendered valuable and faithful services…”

Wakapuaka Cemetery, Findagrave


‘The Great Harbour of Tara’ by G Leslie Adkin, p. 105

George Kaye in the Hutt News, 27 Oct 1987, p. 8

George Kaye in the Hutt News, 15 Sept 1987, p. 18

Nelson Provincial Museum collections online


  1. Could whoever wrote this article please contact me? I have done quite a lot of research recently on George White’s cottage that he built in 1853 in Nelson plus his history. I have his wife’s will – she died in England not long before he did plus there seems to be a bit of an anomaly about George’s name. I can’t find any reference to the name Powney anywhere either – not in any history of the family nor his death entry, cemetery record, will or anywhere else. Nelson Museum have also just put up his photo this last week on their online collection – you may want to add it to your article.

    1. Thanks for your feedback and it will be very interesting to find out more from your research. I have previously contacted the Nelson Museum but at that point George White’s photo was not available freely online.

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