Lane & Brown Shipyard and Sawmill

Lane & Brown Shipyard and Sawmill

Lane and Brown Lane and Brown Lane and Brown Lane and Brown

Lane & Brown Shipyard and Sawmill, Totara North (1872)

Scowbuilders and sawmillers

Shipbuilding predated the colonial era. It put down its deepest roots in the north, where kauri flourished close to good shipbuilding sites. Here names such as Niccol, Darroch, Lane, Brown and Bailey dominated wooden shipbuilding. William Paine Brown had been building ships in the Bay of Islands since the 1850s. In 1870 his son William went into business with Thomas Major Lane as Lane & Brown on the Kaeo River. Two years later they moved to Totara North on the northern shore of Whangaroa Harbour. They had a large shipyard for the time, 1393 sq m of floor space, and their two covered sheds could handle 350-ton ships. Lane & Brown vessels could be tender (inclined to roll in strong winds), but the builders selected and seasoned the wood that went into them with great care.

They built more than 50 ships here, craft such as the 320-ton topsail schooner Rainbow (1890) and the government’s Pacific Island trader Countess of Ranfurly (1901). Soon afterwards they went their separate ways, as the partnership no longer provided sufficient work for all the Lanes and Browns. The Browns built a shipyard at Te Kopuru on the Kaipara. The Lanes stayed here until 1905, then moved to Auckland, where they later founded the Lane Motor Boat Company.

Lanes owned the mill, which latterly stored more than it sawed, until 2004. The deteriorating premises are now owned by Te Runanga o Whaingaroa. Less conveniently located for the road transport era, the old building lives under the same shadow that confronts northern beachfront heritage – rising land values and lurking developers.

Further information

This site is item number 42 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



  • Clifford W. Hawkins, A maritime heritage: a lore of sail in New Zealand, Collins, Auckland, 1978

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