Te Tauraka Waka a Māui marae history & development

Historical background

The whare tipuna, Kaipō, surmounted by Māui.  

Bruce Bay Hall
Kāti Māhaki and Kāti Waewae rangatahi in a haka at the  
Bruce Bay Hall, once the temporary 'marae'.  

Jerry Pu challenges Carter
Kaiwero Jerry Pu challenges Hon. Chris Carter, Minister of  
Conservation, during the pōwhiri for the marae landswap deal:  
rangatahi and Ngāti Māhaki ki Makaawhio whānau await on  
what is now the site of the wharenui Kaipō.  

Chris Carter and Wilfred Te Koeti
Ūpokorūnanga Wilfred Te Koeti greets Chris Carter   
after the official sign-over of the marae site from   
DOC to Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio.  

Glimpse of our maunga ariki, Aoraki, from the marae.  

Ronnie Wilson turing the first sod
The late Ronnie Wilson and other members of the rūnanga  
take turns in turning the first sods at the marae site.  

Construction of Kaipo
Inspecting progress on the construction of the wharenui, Kaipō.  

Construction of Poke
Wilfred Te Koeti (right) and Terry Scott inspect building  
progress inside the wharekai, Pōkē.  

Marae construction
View of construction, from behind the wharenui and wharepaku.  

Ngāti Māhaki whānau and DOC staff in front of the incomplete  
wharenui, after one of many working bees and Arbor Day  
plantings for the pā harakeke.  

Opening of Poke
The opening of the wharekai, Pōkē.  

Marae atea
Marae atea: the wharekai, Pōkē, on the left  
and the whare tipuna, Kaipō, on the right  

Bushwalk leading to the waharoa  

Te Tai o Poutini (the West Coast) is a place of breathtaking beauty and is a land with many ancient stories attached to the landscape.

The story of Te Tauraka Waka a Māui, the name of our marae, takes us back to one of the early exploits of the great Polynesian explorer Māui.

While voyaging off the South Westland coast of the South Island, some time after leaving Hawaiki, a young male crewmember spotted the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps. He declared that land was near. Māui was not convinced; he dismissed the boy's sighting as "he tiritiri o te moana" (a mirage of the sea). In memory of Māui's mistake, the mountain range now bears the name "Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana."

After realizing that a new country was ahead, Māui prepared to land at Mahitahi (Bruce Bay). Before he could enter the bay, he had to kill two taniwha that stood guard at either end of the bay: Makotipua and Makohorapekapeka. Using his famous toki, Tihei Mauriora, he defeated both of them, and in doing so cleared the way for his crew and future migrations of people to land safely at Mahitahi.

Heretaniwha, the point at the southern end of Mahitahi, which can be viewed from the marae entrance, derives its name from Māui's act of holding the taniwha captive.

These stories of this land have been captured in our marae.

The waharoa (gateway) facing the whare tipuna represents Māui's waka, Mahanui. This great canoe is also an old name for the South Island along with the more commonly known name, Te Waka a Māui.

Māui himself is perched on top of our whare and his adze Tihei Mauriora. Below him are on the maihi (barge boards) are the two taniwha he defeated.

Māui may have stopped only briefly at Mahitahi, but his landing — Te Tauraka Waka a Māui — marks the beginning of the ancient migration of people to South Westland.

Māui continued his journey around the bottom of the South Island, naming places like Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) after his bird that accompanied him on his travels, and then embarked on one of his greatest feats: the fishing up of the North Island.

Marae project

For more that 140 years, Te Tai o Poutini was the only region within the Ngāi Tahu rohe to be deprived of the dignity of having a marae. Being small in numbers, both West Coast hapū — Kāti Waewae and Kāti Māhaki ki Makaawhio — lost their traditional marae with the arrival of the gold rush thousands and until recently did not have the means to regain them.

Generations of Kāti Māhaki have died, dreaming of again having a marae, a place where their hapū could mourn, celebrate and just stand together. That dream has been realized in Te Tauraka Waka a Māui marae.

Like most marae projects, the establishment of our marae has been a mammoth undertaking.

The dream to build a marae in South Westland had been there for many years, but it was only over the last decade that momentum built up with hui held around the country to discuss the concept and marae proposal. However, the intensive work required to bring Te Tauraka Waka a Māui marae to life only occurred over the three years before its opening.

Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, supported by several subcommittees, led the project, which focused on achieving key tasks. Significant funding from the Lottery Grants Board and Ngāi Tahu Settlement enabled the rūnanga to quickly progress the actual construction and decoration of the marae.

The site

The area over which Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio holds manawhenua — Hokitika to Piopiotahi — is sparsely provided with Māori reserved land. Those lands that were reserved when our tīpuna sold this land in 1860 are mostly remote and inaccessible by road, or covered in bush and swamp. The original Māori church and marae reserve are at the mouth of the Makaawhio River, 6–7 km from the nearest road and on a site that has mostly succumbed to the sea. This forced the rūnanga to look elsewhere for a suitable marae site.

Several sites were looked at it in the Mahitahi–Makaawhio district, close to our urupā and kāinga. However, very few sites were available because 98 per cent of South Westland is in the conservation estate.

In November 2001, negotiations with the Department of Conservation (DoC) to secure a block of land at Mahitahi for our marae finally gained traction.

The Mahitahi site was desirable because of its outlook to the sea and due to its proximity to our sacred mauka Aoraki (just 40 km away and within view), to our urupā, to our rereka wairua Heretaniwha, to the old Makaawhio Pā and to the Bruce Bay Community Hall, which had served as a marae for recent generations.

DoC agreed to swap the 1.5-hectare block of land at Mahitahi for a 0.5-hectare block of virgin forest owned by the rūnanga, an exchange celebrated on 27 November 2003, with a Whakawhiti Whenua ceremony. It was this land exchange that enabled our marae project to go from a moemoeā to reality.

However, before building could even begin, the land had to be drained, excavated and backfilled, as 30 years before, the area had been mined for gold and was largely occupied by a shallow mining pond.

Marae building and development

This was a "greenfields" marae development in which absolutely everything had to be started from scratch. Although the site is alongside State Highway 6 — half-way between Weheka (Fox Glacier) and Haast — basic amenities such as telephone lines, water and sewerage connections were non-existent. The phone lines finished at Makaawhio (5 km to the north) and re-started at Bruce Bay (1 km to the south), with nothing between.

The buildings were designed to be as maintenance-free as possible. All exterior walls are concrete tilt slab for durability, the roof is colorsteel to avoid repainting, and is of a type that will withstand the rigours of the coastal environment.

The marae has ensuite-type wharepaku, each containing a toilet, hand basin and shower unit with wet floors, for cost savings and ease of maintenance.

The rūnanga's goal is for the marae to be environmentally sustainable. To achieve this, we have installed an eco-friendly wetland sewage treatment system and operate a zero-waste management plan.

The dream realized

Te Tauraka Waka a Māui marae opened in a dawn ceremony on 23 January 2005. The marae is a modern, compact complex that will accommodate around 50 people. It consists of a whare tipuna (ancestral house), rūma horoi (ablution block) and a wharekai (dining hall).

The marae is nestled in native bush, close to Aoraki, looking out to the Tasman Sea and to Heretaniwha — our traditional departing place for the spirits — and just opposite a narrow coastal strip of Māori reserve where generations of Kāti Māhaki have worked the black sands for gold.

It is also fitting, as the first marae on Te Tai o Poutini in more than 140 years, that it has been built in the first place of human contact with this land, the place where Māui first landed.

The building of the marae has created a central place for us to recall our traditions, discuss issues of the day, plan for the future, bury our dead and celebrate our people.

Te Tauraka Waka a Māui marae also provides a strong physical expression of our manawhenua. It allows us to share our stories, legends and whakapapa with all those that visit and present that knowledge in a way that honours our tÄ«puna.

The marae is also a testimony to the beautiful artistry of our Kāti Māhaki relations including Fayne Robinson's whakaairo (carving), Puhanga Tupaea's tukutuku, Maxie Duncan's servery top, Bevan Climo's aotea feature in the marae atea and the many other hands that brought these features to fruition.

Last modified: 22 September 2007

Te Runanga o Makaawhio Te Runanga o Makaawhio