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Lore and history of the South Island Maori

Mawhera — (The Greymouth District)

page 171

(The Greymouth District)

At Massacre Bay in Nelson, a section of the Ngati Toa called Ngatirarua under the chiefs Niho and Takarei, had together with the Ngati Tama under Te Puoho, become settled after defeating the Ngati Tumatakokiri and Ngati Hapa folk. Niho and Takarei conquered the lands of the Ngai Tahu as far south as Hokitika, and Tuhuru was taken prisoner, but was ransomed for a famous greenstone mere. Niho and Takerei treated him more as a friend than an enemy, and protected Tuhuru during Te Puoho's journey through to Tuturau in Southland. These chiefs abandoned the Ngai Tahu lands when Tuhawaiki's force defeated Te Puoko at Tuturau in 1837.

Tuhuru, the Ngai Tahu chief, was a man of gigantic stature. In March 1914, the erection of a life size statue to Tuhuru carved in greenstone was proposed at Greymouth. Tuhuru was the first Ngai Tahu chief to be interred at the Burial Cave at Greymouth (in 1854). The cave had been used previously by the Ngati Wairangi Tribe, however a tohunga removed the "tapu", and the bones of the former occupants were cast away. When the site was required by the pakeha for public purposes, a tohunga had to be obtained to remove the "tapu", and payment made for his services.

The Ngai Tahu tribe often had quarrels between hapus. In 1790, the hapu dwelling at Kaikoura journeyed over by one of the passes at the head of the Waiau au and destroyed the pa of Mawhera, on the north bank of the Grey River at Greymouth. The survivors from Mawhera journeyed to South Westland and being reinforced travelled north and overtook the Kaikoura Maoris at the junction of the Mawhera (Grey) and Ahaura Rivers, defeating them. The last of the Kaikoura prisoners were duly cooked and eaten on the island on Lake Brunner (Moana). The correct name for Lake Brunner is Te kotuku whakaoka (the darting heron).

The Ngai Tahu of Westland built the new Mawhera Pa on the south bank, the former site having become "tapu" by bloodshed. The Native Reserve on the south bank of the river at Greymouth is described in a letter by J. Rochfort, the surveyor, dated April 6th, 1865:—"It is heavily timbered with rata, and an undergrowth of kowhai, konini etc., densely choked with supplejack, and kiekie. The natives here know absolutely page 172nothing of the bush country ten chains from their houses". What a contrast with that part of the Greymouth Borough of to-day.

Arapata Horau, the native assessor at Mawhera, on April 13th, 1864, penned the following:—"Tarapuki our friend is dead. He died on Thursday, April 8th, 1864. Thus all our hearts are full of pain, because of the departure of our father Tarapuhi from us. Our hearts are sore. But it is well, he died in the Word. Wherefore also let us take care of ourselves. The Lord Liveth." Maere Tarapuhi notified His Honour Samuel Bealey, Superintendent of Canterbury, on April 18th, 1864, as follows:—"Hearken, your friend Tarapuhi is dead. He died on April 8th, 1864, at Mawhera in the presence of his friends Mr Revell and Mr Rochfort, who were very sorry to lose this grand old man. We his children grieve for our father. This is all from Tarapuhi's loving daughter". Tarapuhi was interred at the Burial Cave at Mawhera along-side his father Tuhuru and his sister Nihorere. Other burials there have been Mere Tarapuhi; Tini Te waihuka, Hereni, Maere and Tirikaihua, daughters of Tarapuhi; Wereta Tainui a bother of Tarapuhi, Hoani Hautaha Tainui, Tamati Tainui and three close relations. The grave of Wereta Tainui can be seen fenced in close to the road and railway at Greymouth.

When Brunner, Heaphy and Mackay, the earliest explorers visited Westland the natives had already been influenced by Christianity derived from Wesleyan Methodist native converts of the north. Arapata Horau was appointed native assessor at Mawhera on July 11th, 1861, as was also Ihaia Tainui. Kinihi Te Kao and Kerei were made assessors at Mahitahi (Maitahi) on July 11th 1861, covering South Westland. A census of the Maori population of the West Coast was obtained by Horomona Taupaki in 1857, on orders from J. W. Hamilton, Native Commissioner. Wereta Tainui, the brother of Tarapuhi received Christian baptism, but was not noted as being a regular church attender; he bore the reputation of loving practical jokes, and was an adept at caricaturing persons especially surveyors with their equipment. Wereta Tainui never trusted the chief Niho and preferred to dwell in Canterbury at Kaikainui near Kaiapoi.

Mr J. C. Revell of the Canterbury Provincial Government office in Greymouth, in his communications pays great tribute to the services rendered by the Maoris of Westland. In a letter dated February 2nd, 1864, he mentions that Wereta Tainui had been absent on a gold-prospecting expedition to Hokitika and had met with little success. Arapata Horau the assessor had been ill, nevertheless these two Maoris had offered a site at the native cultivations on which to erect the Government store, which would then be free from floods. On February 12th, 1864, Tarapuki arrived back at Mawhera with page 173gold prospectors from the Buller (Kawatiri). On the 13th a severe flood occurred but Tarapuhi with alacrity came to the rescue with canoes and salvaged the Government stores. He also saved Arthur Dudley Dobson's boat and made good use of it for the Government. Ihaia Tainui brought in A. D. Dobson's horse and mule safely from the Upper Taramakau. Simon, a Maori in the Government services, is described as the hardest working and most useful workman in Westland. Simon brought over from Christchurch via Harpers Pass to Mawhera on February 11th, 1864, the first two horses to come to that district near the Buller.

The Maoris during the years 1863-1864 made many canoe journeys up the Grey River to the Arnold Junction and thence to the old pa called Taka taka on Lake Brunner. Tarapuhi and Wereta Tainui often made the trip. Three Maoris in a canoe could make the journey to Lake Brunner (Moana) in a week, conveying ½-ton of goods. On the return journey owing to the character of the river it was necessary to lash two canoes together. Wereta Tainui on November 4th, 1862, offered his services to the Provincial Survey Department.

On October 9th, 1865, the Maoris received £30 as compensation for 6½ acres taken for roading purposes at Greymouth, and £100 for the Customs House site. The cost of surveying the native reserves in the Grey district from 1866 to 1870 amounted to £2,500. The proceeds from the leasing of the Grey River Reserves to Europeans from 1865 to August 1875, amounted to £29,295. The revenue was utilised in the interests of the natives by Commissioner Alexander Mackay. The proceeds from 1874 to 1879 amounted to £3,517; from 1880 to 1890 was £3,089; from 1890 to 1900 was £3,479; from 1900 to 1910 was £3,500. On October 30th, 1922, the control of the native lands at Greymouth was placed with the Native Trustee. The Greymouth Borough Council on July 22nd, 1908, passed a resolution not to revalue the native reserves in order to keep down the rental value in the interests of Europeans. When Wereta Tainui died in 1900, the Maoris of Mawhera moved away to Arahura.

At Kaiapoi, on August 3rd, 1922, the Maoris with interests in the Greymouth reserves held a conference, and the subject of leases was discussed. Many attempts have been made by Europeans to obtain a freehold of the Greymouth Reserves, but the natives very wisely have sanctioned only leasehold. The matter of leaseholds was fully discussed on January 31st, 1924, when Judge Rawson, the Native Trustee, and the Grey-mouth Chamber of Commerce met together. At Greymouth on June 17th, 1928, the Maoris in conference refused to sell the Grey River Reserves.

In 1864 the Maoris of Mawhera (Greymouth) possessed extensive cultivations of potatoes which they bartered for page 174European goods. The white residents, however, complained bitterly that the goats belonging to the natives played havoc with fruit trees, which they in turn were attemptng to grow. The Maoris of Greymouth at that time were exceptionally kind to the first whites to arrive there. Though often in want of food themselves, they ungrudgingly shared with the pakeha. Tarapuhi te Kaukihi the chief, and son of Tuhuru, often gave his all.

On March 28th, 1864, the wife of Tarapuhi was taken seriously ill, and placed in a whare to die, but she unexpectedly recovered and died three years later. On April 5th, 1864, Tarapuhi took ill and passed away on April 8th, 1864. Eulogies from white men were forwarded in numbers to the Canterbury Provincial Government. The letter from W. H. Revell, magistrate, dated April 16th, 1864, reads thus:—"He will be greatly missed at the Grey for he was a sterling friend to many of the white men travelling along the coast who would have starved only for him, for he would share his last morsel of food with any one in want, when others would have refused or demanded payment".

The first official European connection with Mawhera dates December 24th, 1847, when Thomas Brunner visited the pa. On January 25th, 1848, Brunner set out from Mawhera with Maori companions to explore the Grey River to its source. Accounts of his journeys were published in the early Wellington newspapers (alas these papers can be found only in the reference shelves of the four main city libraries). Brunner departed up the Grey River in four canoes as follows:—"Te Wairakou" with Br nner and nine natives, "Te Maikai" with Aperhama and four others, "Te Paiekau" held two Maoris with fishing gear etc., "Te Matamata" carried four natives. The party journeyed five miles up the river and camped on the island of Motutapu which rises 100 feet above water level where the river runs in a confined space. The canoes went up the Arnold to Lake Brunner (Moana) on January 29th, 1848. On January 31st, 1848, the party arrived back at Mawhera.

On February 1st, 1848, Brunner explored the Mawhera iti River, then crossed the Waimaunga Saddle and down the Inangaha River to the Kawatiri (Buller). He explored the Buller on to Lake Roto iti, down the Motupiko to Nelson which he reached, on June 15th, 1848, more dead than alive. His companions from the start to finish were E. Kehu and E. Pikiwati with their wives. These natives belonged to the Ngati tumatakokiri Tribe. Brunner paid tribute to the loving care of E. Kehu and his wife towards him during sickness through lack of food. Europeans far too often fail to recognise the finer nature of the Maori people—to know the Maori and possess Maori friendships is worth a golden crown to page 175the recipient. There is no room for inferiority complex and they obtain perfect understanding instead.

Peter Mutu of Kaiapoi was the mail man from Christchurch to Mawhera via Harpers Pass during November 1864. In 1865, Hone Paratene Tamanui arangi applied for the position of mailman. The latter became the first M.P. for the Southern Maori Electorate a few years later. The Maoris of Kaikoura visited Mawhera via the Upper Waiau au River, the Cannibal Gorge, Maruia Springs and down the Grey River. Sometimes up the Conway River, across the Hanmer Plains to the tributaries of the Waiau au leading to the saddle overlooking the West Coast streams of Ahaura, Waiake or Tutaekuri and over to Lakes Haupiri and Brunner (Moana) and on to Mawhera. The Maoris had a pa on the open plain near Ahaura called Ohine takitaki.

Brunner, the explorer, was guided to Ohinetakitaki by a Maori named Te Raipo in 1848. On March 10th, 1857, J. Mackay, Po Arama and Wiremu Kingi, with three others visited Mawhera and explored the Grev River. A Maori of the party was greatly appreciative of Mawhera, and the following is the translation of his exclamation:—"What a beautiful place Mawhera is! What a fine place it would be for all the natives to come and settle on, where there is so much bush for them to cultivate. What an extraordinary large place it is". In 1863, the Maori's forecast had failed to eventuate as R. A. Sherrin, of the Canterbury Provincial Government service writes thus:—"The pa is situated on the south bank of the Mawhera (Grey), and is fifty chains from the Bar and consists of five whares, and the only permanent inhabitants appear to be a Maori, with his son and seven daughters. They have seven acres under cultivation, three acres of which are growing wheat."

The Waipuna Plain is situated in the Upper Grey Valley. Going up the coast the following places are met with:—Seven Mile Creek is the Waimatuku, Nine Mile Creek is the Kotorepi, Ten Mile Creek is the Wai aniwhaniwha, next is the Kararoa Creek, Thirteen Mile Creek is the Waiwhio, Baker's Creek near the Seventeen Mile Bluff is the Maukurunui, Canoe Creek is the Okiwi, next come the well-known feature Punakaikai. Razor Back Point south of Punakaikai is called Okoriko. The Porarari Creek lies north of Punakaikai and above is the boundary of the Nelson Land District. Off the Twelve Mile Bluff lie coastal rocks named Motu kiakia; Point Elizabeth is Tarakena and the locality is called Matungi Tawau.

When Heaphy was at Kawatiri (Buller) in September 1846, he met a chief named Aperahama journeying up the coast from Ahaura, with a son and daughter as companions, going to Nelson to receive Christian baptism. The early European explorers were correct when they said there were page 176only two real passes through the alpine backbone of the South Island—the Haast Pass connecting Otago with South Westland, and Harper's Pass from North Canterbury to North Westland. These were the routes followed during what may be termed family migrations. Browning Pass and Arthurs Pass were used only by agile Maoris. Despite its comparatively low altitude Whitcombe Pass with its easy approach from Canterbury on its western side, develops into the very worst route to Westland, and probably only one Maori ever made the desperate venture.

On September 26th, 1857, Harpers Pass was discovered by Messrs Mason (after whom Mason's Flat, North Canterbury is named), Dampier, E. Dobson, and Henry Taylor of the Lake Summer Station with two of his shepherds. In November 1857, Tarapuhi, Wereta Tainui and two Maoris from Kaiapoi guided Messrs Harper and Lock over this pass at the head of the north branch of the Hurunui River to the headwaters of the Taramakau. The journey was made from Mason's Flat via the Waitohi Valley, across the Seaward River, Maori Gully over the south branch of the Hurunui River, past Lakes Taylor, Katrine and Sumner, then up to the divide at the head of the North Branch. A few weeks later the Maoris guided Messrs Yonge and Vilson over Harper Pass. Messrs James Mackay, Alexander Mackay and John Rochfort crossed during January 1859.

In January 1863, a track route was surveyed by Mr Drake. During February 1863, ten Kaiapoi Maoris journeyed over en route to the Hohonu where a few months previously Ihaia Tainui had discovered what afterwards proved to be a very profitable gold field. When the track was being formed by Chorlton Howitt and assistants, twenty Kaiapoi Maoris were over the pass fossicking for gold. Close on 1,000 persons Maori and pakeha used the Pass during a six months period in 1865. Ihaia Tainui carried over a parcel of gold obtained by Captain Dixon on the West Coast beach, to the latter's friend Mr Oakes, who put forward on Dixon's behalf a claim to the bonus offered by the Canterbury Provincial Government to the discoverer of a payable gold field. Ihaia Tainui had been the first to produce the evidence, but despite the efforts for recognition made by the Rev. J. W. Stack, the Maori was practically ignored. The notorious Albert Hunt in 1864, dumped himself alongside the claim of the Maoris at Hohonu and claimed the award. Mr W. H. Revell, the Gold Fields Warden, at first backed up Albert Hunt's claim, but later he found out the truth and his written reports in the Provincial Government archives are decidedly hostile. A motion to grant a gold discovery bonus to Hunt on January 6th, 1866, was negatived by the Canterbury Provincial Government, there being only four favourable votes. Later through the persistence page 177of these four persons a grant of £200 was made to Albert Hunt as an explorer.

W. H. Revell in his report of September 20th, 1864, declared the Maoris (Simon and party) possessed the best claim at Hohonu (the Greenstone), and on October 14th, 1864, a gold nugget weighing 4ozs. 2dwts. was obtained. With merely a tin dish the Maori Simon was obtaining 5ozs. of gold every four hours. The Maoris were equally successful in the freight business. They were conveying goods from the mouth of the Taramakau to the Hohonu Stream, a distance by canoe of eight miles; with three men to a canoe. The trip was made in four hours and some 15cwt. of freight was taken at a cost of 8/- per cwt. Hakopa Te Ata o Tu (the Ngai Tahu hero during the sacking of Kaiapohia in 1831 by Te Rauparaha) is known to have made the crossing from Kaiapoi to Mawhera five times in the company of his wife.

Lake Sumner is 1,802 feet above sea level, and its Maori name is Hoka kura. The neighbouring lakelets Mason, Marion, Shepherd, Raupo, Katrine and Taylor are decidedly picturesque. At evening time these lakes are veiled from sight with mountain fog. The veil rises like a theatre curtain on the appearance of the morning sun making a picture not easily forgotten. Maori Gully, previously mentioned, was a bad place to negotiate in Maori days. Vine ladders were used. When J. W. Hamilton was at Kaiapoi on January 11th, 1850, he met a large party of Maori men, women and children who had come across from Westland to claim their share in the payment for the native lands sold north of Kaiapoi. The Maoris made easy travelling, having taken a fortnight on the journey. Horomona Taupaki of Kaiapoi used to make the cross trip regularly in less than five days. Horomona was drowned along with Messrs C. Townsend and Mitchelmore when their boat capsized on the Grey River Bar, October 9th, 1863.

At the foot of the deepest descent on the Taramakau side of Harpers Pass the Maoris had a recognised camping place Whakamoemoe. Lake Kauru pataka (Kaura pataka) up a small stream above the confluence of the Taramakau with the Otira was a favourite eeling place. In olden times the Maoris had a small pa in the bush in the Lower Otira Valley near the Taramakau. This village was more for the benefit of those agile natives such as Kahuai, Kerei and others who had ventured over Arthur's Pass. The principal settlement was situated on the south bank of the Taramakau between Jacksons and the place with the coined name of Taipo, just where the main river turns south, the site being approximately three miles above Taipo and twenty-four miles from Harper's Pass. The evidence was clearly visible, but tutu covered the cultivations in 1862. This pa, abandoned by the Maoris in 1825, was named Tauotikirangi. Tamutakaka was at the page 178head of the Taramakau. The Taipo was a treacherous river to cross and the Maoris often waited a week until conditions were favourable. Hope oka is the correct name, though sometimes rendered as Hope okoa, and refers to the cold water (hot springs in the upper reaches notwithstanding) stabbing the loins of the Maori making a crossing.

The position of old villages during 1863 at the Taramakau is as follows:—Maori pa on the south bank of the Taramakau one mile below the Hohonu junction had three whares, accommodating three families, and 1½ acres under cultivation. Maori Pa on the north bank of the Taramakau River near the mouth, with four Maoris and 2 acres under cultivation.

At the mouth of the Taramakau on May 6th, 1863, Whitcombe, the discoverer of Whitcombe Pass lost his life. Whitcombe and his companion Louper in the last stages of exhaustion and starvation, the result of their harrowing journey, attempted to cross the Taramakau in two small lashed canoes which the Maoris used only for washing purposes. The explorerers unfortunately did not know a serviceable canoe was stationed a mile further up stream. Tarapuhi and his Maoris nursed the survivor Louper back to health.

In 1864, A. Dudley Dobson was surveying near the mouth of the Taramakau river when the native convolvulus was in full bloom. His Maori assistants called the flowers Kohimara, a name not recorded in standard Maori owing to the word being only a local usage. Dobson called the district Kohimara, but the early settlers changed the name to Kumara (sweet potato) and so it remains. When the author visited Kumara and Dillmanstown in 1897, the whole locality was disfigured with mining tailings.