Resting place recognised

22:20, May 11 2011
resting place
WAHI TAPU AREA: Takou River looking north-east towards river mouth and Orongo Pa part of the area included in the wahi tapu area registration

Moves are afoot to recognise the resting place of the Mataatua waka at Takou Bay as a wahi tapu area.

The site is the Takou Bay River, about 30km north of Kerikeri

The Mataatua waka is identified as one of the great voyaging canoes that migrated from the ancestral homeland of Hawaiki to Aotearoa some 600 to 1000 years ago.

The double-hulled waka was captained by the chief Toroa, who was accompanied by his brother Puhi, sister Muriwai and daughter Wairaka and others. Descendants of these ancestors are the iwi Ngapuhi, Te Whanau Apanui, Te Whakatohea, Ngati Awa, Ngai Tuhoe and Ngaiterangi.

The Historic Places Trust notified the registration proposal last week and is calling for submissions.

A monument, erected by the descendants of the Mataatua in 1986, already stands on the southern banks of the river, on private land, about 2.5km from the river mouth.


It's believed that Mataatua was capable of carrying a large number of people. On arrival in Aotearoa at Whakatane, conflict developed between the brothers and Puhi left Toroa and headed north on the Mataatua with some of the crew. It's believed Mataatua made landfall in the North at Whangape in the North Hokianga and that it made various trips around the North Island before it was finally laid to rest in the Takou River.

One version of its history is that the waka was carried overland from the Hokianga. While travelling through the forest, the bailer was lost in the forest – Te Puke Tiheru (bailer) o te Mataatua, now known as Puketi.

Another version is that the Mataatua bailer was lost at Motukokako (Cape Brett) and that it turned into a rock, known as Tiheru o Mataatua, outside Cape Brett. There are several references to the the lost tiheru (bailer) – Te Tii, Waitangi and Te Tii Mangonui are named to commemorate it.

Finally Puhi settled at Takou, planting kumara, taro and gourds. Iwi who descend from the Mataatua waka acknowledge that the Takou River is the waka's final resting place. Te Huranga Hohaia of Te Tii, recently presenting evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal for the Ngapuhi claims, reflected on a story passed down to him of how the waka tried to enter the Takou River but the sea was too rough. On board was a woman named Tawhiu Rau who was arguing with her husband. The tohunga of the waka ordered that she and her children be thrown overboard to appease the gods and restore calmness to the sea. As a result, Tawhiu Rau and her children were thrown overboard where they were turned to stone and can still be seen today at the entrance of the river mouth.

The rock, Kohakoha, marks the river mouth and the entrance to the river.

Ngati Rehia kaumatua Reuben HeiHei says Tawhi Rau is recognised as the kaitiaki taniwha (guardian) of Takou. There are several recorded archaeological sites along the river and several pa in the immediate vicinity.

The registration report was written by Takou Bay resident and Historic Places Trust Maori heritage adviser Atareiria HeiHei. Much of the oral history was provided by Ngati Rehia kaumatua Reuben HeiHei and Meeke Puru.

Submissions are invited until May 26.