Ka Heke Ngā Tau/History

Human occupation of South Westland can be traced back a thousand years to the time that Waitaha and other ancient iwi such as the Rapuwai were known to have lived in the South Island. Archaeological digs in the area have produced compelling evidence that our ancient ancestors were operating large-scale greenstone "factories" in areas such as Ōkahu (Jackson Bay) and Mahitahi (Bruce Bay) at least 800-1000 years ago.

Centuries later, Ngāti Wairangi grew to prominence on Te Tai o Poutini and occupied the entire coastline, controlling vast and valuable sources of pounamu.

Every descendant of Ngāti Māhaki can be proud to have strong whakapapa connections to those ancient tīpuna from Waitaha and Rapuwai that occupied South Westland hundreds of years ago, and connections to Ngāti Wairangi.

The story of Ngāti Māhaki as a distinct hapū identity emerges several generations later.

In the early 1800s, tīpuna such as Piro and Tūtoko fought alongside other Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu chiefs including Tūhuru, to conquer the Ngāti Wairangi who had seized control of the West Coast.

Successive attacks from Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu war parties eventually wiped out Ngāti Wairangi and the chiefs set about dividing the land among themselves.

Five occupations were established: all key sites in the extraction and production of pounamu. Tūhuru settled at Arahura/Māwhera in the north, Taetae at Pouerua near Ōkarito, Tuarohe at Mahitahi, Wharekai at Arawhata and Tūtoko at Whakatipu Waitai (Martins Bay). Whakatipu Waitai is at the end of what is now known as the Hollyford Track and was once a major crossroads to the greenstone trails.

Te Koeti Turanga
Te Koeti Tūranga  
In the 1860s, the death of many South Westland fighting chiefs resulted in the remaining South Westland Māori re-settling at Makaawhio. Taetae died in 1860 and his pā at Pouerua was abandoned. A few years later, Tūtoko, Wharekai and Tuarohe also passed away. Their kin left their respective settlements and gathered under the leadership of Piro's son Te Koeti Tūranga, a nephew of Tuarohe. Te Koeti Tūranga remarried Tūtoko's daughter Kāwaipatiere. At this point, our hapū identified mainly as Ngāi Kaipō and Ngāi Te Ruaapu.

When Te Koeti Tūranga died in 1892, reputedly aged 106 years, it marked the end of an era. He was the last man on the West Coast to wear the full-face moko and the last surviving fighting chief from the Ngāti Wairangi conquests.

Near the end of the 19th century, and upon the death of Te Koeti Tūranga, our remaining tīpuna who lived at the old Makaawhio Pā near the mouth of the Makaawhio (Jacobs) River re-grouped under the common ancestress, Māhakinui, hence the present name of our hapū, Ngāti Māhaki ki Makaawhio.

By the time of the 1892 Māori census, there were 40 Māori living around the Mahitahi/Makaawhio region and 40 Māori living around the Arahura/Māwhera region. The two neighbouring hapū shared common whakapapa through Kaipō but were separated by more than 200 kilometres of treacherous coastline.

Hapu members 1906
Hapū members at Makaawhio in 1906    
In 1906, the Makaawhio Pā (just north of the marae and 40 kilometres from the western face of Aoraki) was described as "the most isolated and remote Māori hamlet in New Zealand."

Although the old Makaawhio Pā was abandoned shortly after the main south road was put through, Ngāti Māhaki continued to bury their dead at the urupā near the old pā site. At times of celebration and death, Ngāti Māhaki would gather together in their homes — and later at the Bruce Bay Community Hall — to mark the occasions.

Despite the remoteness and lack of employment, a few Ngāti Māhaki families have remained in the area, working the land and improving access to the region. In the 1930s, there were still no inland roads from Hokitika to Karangarua and the last major piece of highway from Paringa to Haast was only laid in 1965. Ngāti Māhaki men from the Cadigan, Rochford, Bannister, Mahuika and Wilson families helped survey and construct most of the roads that now form State Highway 6.

In recent times, fewer economic opportunities in South Westland and much better prospects elsewhere have meant most Ngāti Māhaki families now live outside the area. However, core family lines remain in South Westland and many Ngāti Māhaki descendants from throughout New Zealand and overseas regularly return "home" to Makaawhio. Today, the main whanau of Ngāti Māhaki are: Kini, Te Koeti, Bannister, Mahuika, Wilson, Tauwhare, Fluerty and Te Naihi.

Timeline of significant events in our history.

Last modified: 09 July 2009

Te Runanga o Makaawhio Te Runanga o Makaawhio