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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, May 1970



Long after the days of Kupe a Maori tribe settled on the island. The site of the old pa is about halfway along the eastern shore. There lived Hine-pou-pou, wife of Manini-pounamu. Manini had seen another girl whom he wished to marry, and for this reason decided to rid himself of his wife. He planned everything very carefully, so that her disappearance would seem to be the result of an accident, and he almost succeeded in bringing off his scheme.

Fifty miles to the east lay Kapiti Island. One day he set off with his wife and a party of friends to visit Kapiti, and upon arrival the husband induced Hine-pou-pou to go seeking Kopuru, the fragrant moss much prized by Maori women. Hine took her two dogs, and wandered in the bush until she had filled her baskets. When she returned to the camp no-one was there. Out to sea was the canoe, homeward bound. The poor woman was abandoned.

Afraid to wander far on the island, lest she should meet with enemies, Hine at last, in dispair, decided to swim to the South Island, to her own tribe. She knew that her own strength would not carry her so far, but hoped that the sea-gods would come to her aid. On this account, before attempting the journey, she sought for omens from the gods. She pulled up the stalk from the centre of the flax bush; it came out whole and unbroken—a good omen, indicating that page 12her plan had divine approval. Hine now chanted an invocation to the gods, an ancient prayer of her ancestors, asking for help and strength. One last look around her, one cry of anger, and Hine-pou-pou plunged into the sea and began her great swim.

Her two dogs had followed her out on to the rocks, but now they whined fearfully, trotting backwards and forwards. The gods took pity on them, and turned them into rocks in the sea.

Hine-pou-pou swam strongly, and before she had time to become weary, Kaikai-a-waro, the sea god, the grey dolphin, appeared to help her, and with his assistance she safely crossed Cook Strait. Her family on the South Island took her back to friends on Rangitoto, where she bided her time.

One day Manini-pounamu, the faithless husband, went out to fish, taking with him the friends who had helped him to cast off Hine-pou-pou. When the canoe was a long way from the shore, Hine called once again upon the gods, this time for vengeance. And again the gods heard her. A bank of cloud appeared in the southeast; the sea darkened; a gale of wind whipped the water into great waves, and sheets of rain blotted out both land and sky. Harder and harder the wind blew, driving all before it, bending trees on the land, snapping the masts at sea. Suddenly, the storm was over. But where were the canoes of Manini-pounamu and his friends? All were swept away. Not a man returned. Hine-pou-pou was avenged. And to this very day the eastern shores of D'Urville Island are swept from time to time by these sudden, short-lived gales from the south-east.,

On the western side of the island is Moawhitu, and the Maoris tell this tale about that place. In Taranaki lived a tribe, the Ngati-Tarapounamu. Once whilst the canoes were at sea, a storm arose and swept many of them southwards, until they reached this place called Moawhitu. The men liked this harbour, finding it well provided with eels, fish and birds, and decided to bring their families to settle there. When the weather was favourable they did this, and were settled in their new home, about a thousand of them, before the natives of the Island discovered them. As the original people were not strong enough to oust the newcomers, they made friends with them, marrying the young maidens, and showing the men the local fishing grounds.

Now one fishing ground, round a rock, was guarded by a Taniwha, who had to be propitiated by certain ceremonies before the hapuka, so plentiful in that spot, could be eaten. The new settlers were carefully instructed by the Tohungas, and taught the rites they must perform, because if they failed the Taniwha might bring disaster page 13on all. One day the women were called together to prepare a great feast of a thousand hapuka. The ovens were prepared, and the fish left to cook. But before all was finished there came into the village a woman who had been out gathering kopuru to make sweet oil. She was very hungry, and went straight to the ovens to get food. She picked out a few tlt-bits here and there, before her friends could stop her. Loud were the lamentations, and everyone was very angry. Her husband beat the woman, who thereupon ran away. Great fear seized the tribe, for the food had been eaten before the rites had been performed, and no-one doubled that disaster would now come upon them.

All day the tribe wailed and moaned; then at night they slept, Just before daybreak the Taniwha took his revenge. A great wave rolled in from the sea, and completely engulfed the whole tribe. As the wave receded, it swept away the village and the people, and that place, which had been green and fertile, was now left a barren, sandy waste.

The only person who was saved, out of all that tribe, was the woman who had caused all the trouble, for she had run up into the hills, and the wave had not reached her. It was she who told the tale of how it happened. Even now, after a rough sea has pounded on the sand-banks of Greville Harbour, the wanderer may find washed up on the beach the greenstone ornaments, the fishhooks, the weapons and other treasures of that long-lost tribe.