In 1839, the London-based New Zealand Company acquired land around both arms of the harbour, and planned a township at Motukaraka on the Pāuatahanui Inlet near present-day Wellington. Ngāti Toa objected to the purchase of their land without their consent. In 1846, part of the tribe fought British troops in the Horokiri valley. Eventually their chief, Te Rangihaeata, retreated, allowing Europeans to settle around the harbour.

Meaning of place name
Horo: to let fall; kiri: bark or skin; Wasting away of the skin, or Falling bark.