Go back to your marae, that's what it's for

A place to stay: Ngati Wairere kuia Hekeiterangi Broadhurst preserves Tawhiao’s legacy to care for the weary.
A place to stay: Ngati Wairere kuia Hekeiterangi Broadhurst preserves Tawhiao’s legacy to care for the weary.

Huge willow trees shelter Hukanui Marae from rumbling trucks and speedy cars that ply the main drag from Taupiri to Hamilton.

Inside the marae grounds, surrounded on three sides by farm and whanau, traffic is a reminder of the marae's beginnings as a place of sanctuary for weary travellers.

Ngati Wairere first called Hukanui home when they abandoned Kirikiriroa Pa, where Hamilton City now stands, before the arrival of General Cameron's British troops in 1864.

A hundred or more, too old to take up arms against invasion or too young to comprehend, made their way north along a narrow track and found refuge at a small clearing in dense kahikatea forest, bordered by swamp.

Trees were cleared for farmland and milled for timber and the walking track is now known as Gordonton Rd, but at Hukanui Marae sanctuary remains.

Hakopa Te Waharoa, the great grandfather of Ngati Wairere kuia Hekeiterangi Broadhurst, built the first wharepuni (camp hut) at Hukanui out of ponga logs and raupo reeds.

It was the home of the second Maori King Tawhiao when he stayed with his Wairere kin and he named it Tuturu-a-Papa in recognition of their enduring ties to the land.

"They left Kirikiriroa because they were at war and so when Cameron's soldiers came in it was easy for them just to go into Kirikiriroa because there was no-one there," said Mrs Broadhurst. "When they came out here, they came back to the land they belonged to."

Remnants of the old dirt floor of Tawhiao's wharepuni remain - unseen beneath the third building to bear the same name.

"When they were re-flooring this house over here - my son would re-floor it - they took all the old boards out and they could see the foundation of the old dirt floor that belonged to the old wharenui that was here before."

Mrs Broadhurst grew up at Hukanui Marae which was named after the nearby swamp where vapour from the nostrils and mouths of rats could be seen on frosty mornings.

In her time, the marae was a humble place with a kauta (cooking shed) in the corner and an old fence post that marked the entrance.

"We grew up here as whanau. We didn't live in boxes like we are now.

"We all slept in the same whare, we all ate in the same kauta, we all swam in that creek over there with the eels."

And they carried the legacy left for them by Tawhiao.

"Tawhiao said: ‘Waiho nga tatau o taku whare kia tuwhera mo te hunga e haere ana i te huarahi e kaingia ana e te namu."'

(Leave the doors of my house open for travellers on the path who have been ravaged by the mosquito).

"More or less to say those who are going on the road . . . know when to stay," Mrs Broadhurst said.

In October 1875, William Searancke granted Te Waharoa 87 acres of land around the marae.

It is the only parcel of land from their tradition boundary from Tauhei to Hamilton that remains in their hands.

Farms grew and the track became a metal road but Ngati Wairere continued to house the less fortunate - Maori and Pakeha - Tawhiao made no mention of race.

"That wharepuni had to be a place for people with nowhere to go so the door was never closed."

From the first wharepuni to the second one, right to this one here the door was never closed up until . . ."

Until the folly of youth and necessity had a few of Mrs Broadhurst's nephews use the whare as a workshop to ply their mechanical skills.

"They had motorbikes, they brought their motorbikes in there and they started to clean it up and use it for a garage so the marae committee went and bolted the door."

The legacy was broken, Mrs Broadhurst said.

"It's gone the Pakeha way now, you've got to go and see the committee, go and book."

"The wairua has gone, the times have changed."

Tuturu-a-Papa has watched as Ngati Wairere hosted politicians, sports stars and the destitute and flew the flag of former Governor-General Anand Satyanand.

They count activist Tame Iti and former All Blacks Arran Pene and the late Aaron Hopa among their whanau and the late Hare Puke, who was instrumental in Tainui's 1995 Treaty claim and as a bridge builder with local councillors.

Next year Hukanui Marae will count 150-years of service to those in need and Mrs Broadhurst said they would still honour Tawhiao's commitment for anyone willing to ask.

"This whare here provided for the whanau pani (orphaned) and the whanau who had come a long way for a tangi.

"They stayed here weeks after weeks and month after month and this whole house here was still looking after those who wanted to stay," she said.

"You talk about today with people who have got nowhere to stay, go back to your marae, that's what your marae is there for."

Waikato Times