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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.



The name of the rock in the Turanganui River was “Te Toka-a-Taiau, or Taeao.” W. L. Williams believed that, in Cook's day, it must have stood high enough out of the water to be awash even at high tide. During the development of the river for harbour purposes, it was removed by blasting. The harbour authorities, it is stated, were warned by the natives that, if they interfered with it, disaster would attend their efforts. Some natives professed to believe that the harbour troubles which followed were due to the removal of the rock. In some quarters it was claimed that the rock was an old tribal boundary.

J. E. Dalton was told that, upon the arrival of Matatua canoe in Poverty Bay, Maia landed on Waikanae Beach. He called to the people on the Kaiti side of the river to send a canoe to convey him across. As only a boy was placed in charge of it, he became incensed. He slew the lad, set the canoe adrift, and turned the boy's body into the rock; hence the name, “Te Toka-a-Taeao.” The rock became a tipua, or home of a divinity, and was held very sacred.

Thus W. L. Williams (Gisborne Times, 30/7/1902): “A red garment was laid on Te Rakau's body by Cook's people. The name given to it by the natives was 'Te Hinu-o-Tuhura.” According to the Harris Memoirs, Captain Harris was shown portion of the garment soon after his arrival in Poverty Bay. He tried to buy it, but he did not succeed even in seeing it again. He was told that it was worn by high chiefs upon going into battle. If it appeared bright, they regarded the fact as a good omen; if dull, they feared that defeat, or severe loss, lay ahead.