Hue te Para (Lyall Bay) was uplifted by Haowhenua (the earth-swallower), a large earthquake that struck Wellington around 1460. Te Awa-a-Tia was the name for the channel between the mainland and Te Motu Kairangi (Miramar Pennisula). After the earthquake it was easy to wade across this channel at low tide. Another earthquake in 1855 uplifted the land further, to form the Rongotai isthmus.
In the late 1800s the area was covered in sand dunes. Māori from the nearby Pā on Te Motu Kairangi used this area as a plentiful food-gathering place.
An archaeological authority was obtained from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga to carry out the earthworks associated with the Lyall Bay Sea Wall restoration due to the presence of archaeological sites within the vicinity.
The 'Whirler Wall'
The Lyall Bay Sea Wall was designed by Wellington City Council engineers in 1931 and constructed in 1932 by men employed under the public works ‘relief schemes’ of the Great Depression. Sand dunes were removed in the area to create land for development and the sea wall was built as a ‘sandstop’ to limit sand drift and encourage the sale of plots on the opposite side of the road.
It was once nicknamed ‘The Whirler Wall’ because of its unique design, and the effect of the wind funnelling along the curved beach face of the wall. During strong winds the sand whirls along the face of the wall and is funnelled out the openings.
The Wall today
The Lyall Bay Sea Wall is a heritage structure protected by Wellington City Council's District plan. At a length of 160m, the sea wall is one of a number of sea walls in Wellington that were constructed to deal with the issue of sand drift in the early 20th century. Together with the Island Bay Sea Wall and the Oriental Parade Sea Wall, these walls tell the story of early protection works in Wellington.