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Lore and history of the South Island Maori

North Canterbury

page 28

North Canterbury

The district covered in this chapter deals with the North Canterbury which extends as far north as the Conway River and not that area known as such in the Canterbury Provincial days which counted the Hurunui River as the northern boundary. As early as 1872 public meetings petitioned the General Government to have the Amuri severed from Nelson Province and joined to Canterbury, and so it has been for several decades. Roading and railways have made Canterbury and Marlborough still closer neighbours. The present inland and coastal roads to the north were merely pack tracks in the early days followed largely the old Maori trails. The principal Maori track from Marlborough to Canterbury traversed the Awatere Valley, up either the Tone or the Elliot Rivers, over a ridge to either the Guide or the Acheron Rivers, over the Waau toa (Clarence) River to the Omiromiro and Omoukoro tributaries, then through the Plains of Hanmer to Leslie Peak (Maunga tawai) and to the Canterbury Plains.

The Maoris of Nelson came south via Tophouse and partly on the aforementioned route. Until twenty-five years ago, these Maori tracks (later partly European) were used. The late Mr T. W. Rowe, a past president of the Christchurch Photographic Society made the journey from Tophouse on a bicycle. A well-known Christchurch grocer then employed at Tarndale and Molesworth used also a bicycle on the track from Awatere Valley to Hanmer. A Christchurch Tramping Club went over the old trail recently aided by a pack horse. A section of Maoris used the track in 1831 when attacking Kaiapohia.

The Maoris used to have a kainga at Cheviot, and Hika wai kura, a son of Maru the famous Ngai Tahu chief dwelt there after leaving Omihi near Goose Bay in Marlborough. A chief named Turaka tuarua used to dwell in a small settlement at Gore Bay (Pariroa).

The Maoris had a fishing camp at the mouth of the Hurunui River and in 1857 they vainly sought to have the site made a native reserve. The Blythe River Lagoon just a mile south of the Hurunui River Mouth is Te Puna-a-taipuhi, and there is good reason to believe the famous Makawhiu Canoe is buried somewhere there. In 1924 a portion of it or something similar was seen. Of course the relic is extremely "tapu". Motunau Island was a resting place for canoe page break
Kaiapohia Monument, Woodend Pa destroyed by Te Rauparaha.

Kaiapohia Monument, Woodend Pa destroyed by Te Rauparaha.

page 29 travellers, but lack of water on the island precluded its use as a permanent village. The place in the Waipara district known as Omihi was originally Omimi. On the south side of the Waipara River Mouth there was a Maori village near the present native reserve known as Waimaia (Reserve No. 899). At the mouth of the Kowhai River is the lagoon and reserve known as Rotoroa (Reserve No. 895), and at the north side of the Ashley River near the mouth is Rakihuri (Reserve No. 896). Rakihuri is strictly the Maori name of the Ashley River. The native reserve on the Lower Styx River at Brook-lands (Reserve No. 892) is the site of an old fishing camp named Puharakekenui or Pouharakekenui.. (Either form of spelling is correct, though the meaning is very slightly different).

Not far from the summit of the Weka Pass on the south side between Waipara and Hurunui townships can be seen the ancient Weka Pass Rock paintings. The shelter cave is 65 feet long, 10 feet high and 12 feet deep. The. paintings are executed in kokowai (red oxide) mixed with bird fat.One painting is 15 feet long and 4 feet deep. Owing to stock using the shelter in the past, the author had considerable difficulty in 1924 in attempting to photograph the weird objects on account of the covering dirt, the accumulation of many years. The paintings were examined in the early days by Canon J.W. Stack, W. M. Maskell and Sir Julius Von Haast. In December 1916, Doctor J. R. Elmore of Kansas, U.S.A., thoroughly looked over the drawings. In order to preserve the pictures from human vandalism, the Government made the Weka Pass Shelter an Historic Reserve on January 11th, 1931. Admission to the reserve is allowed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands for Canterbury (in writing only which must be presented to the land owner, Mr C. H. Bethell, in 1950). There is much diversity of opinion as to the tribe who executed the designs. One thing appears sure, the paintings are older than those of South Canterbury.

The name Rangiora has been given many literal translations:—"place of rest", "place of health", "life in the sky", "day of peace", "good weather", "invalid getting well" and many fanciful associations have been put forward to connect the name with the distant Hawaiki.

Over seventy years ago in a newspaper correspondence column, an early settler of the Rangiora district distinctly stated the name was given because the local bush, when the first Europeans arrived, was composed largely of the tree called Rangiora. Specimens of both varieties of this tree can be seen ih the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. The extensive Rangiora and Flaxton swamps were drained in the early sixties, and as a result the country to-day is vastly different. The Cust River no longer pours its water into swamps, but is diverted into the Main Drain. The numerous small streams that acted as page 30tributaries of the Cam (Whakahume) have long since disappeared. Some of the names remain, but the present day Maoris cannot give information as to the former whereabouts, and to a lesser extent this remark applies to the sections of bush. The following are a few names applied to bush on the Kaiapoi Native Reserve:—Te Waimango, Te Parikoau, Pukukaruru, Tarekautuku, Te Kotuku and Oruatamatea. The Opihu Bush was situated on the west bank of the Cam River at its first division. The Church Bush known as Okohana was much lower down stream. Waituere, was a very sacred place on a creek of the same name above the hairpin bend of the Cam River, above Harrison's old bridge. The tohi rite was performed at Waituere. The track to Old Kaiapohia went in a direct line through the bush from Waituere. Halfway through the bush, a track branched off to the north. The small kainga on the Cam River near its junction with the North Branch of the Waimakariri (Korotuaheke) was named Rua Taniwha, and near the site of the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills was the village of Te Rangi whakaputa.

Further up the Cam River on the east bank, but nearer to the Main North Road towards Harrison's old bridge is Te Kai-a-te-atua, an old burial site, but also a present day one. The site of the Southbrook Flourmill is Te Whakapuni-a-urihia. Ourihia is on the north bank of the North Branch of the Waimakariri River about two miles from the mouth at Kairaki. The name has been erroneously applied to the district formerly known as Chaney's on the South Branch. The name of that district is correctly Kaipari. There is an old-time burial-place on the South Branch near Chaney's Corner which from time to time has been encroached on by the Waimakariri River.

Before the Waimakariri cut in 1877 what is now the main river through Stewarts' Gully the stream flowed alongside the Main North Road. This channel was called Otukaikino. Pakiaka is situated at the hairpin bend of the Cam near Harrisons, and was the site of old-time cultivations, and Waikirikiri is near the same place. Te Wera on the west bank had native gardens. Te-Kau-a-harua represents the junction of the Cam River and the North Branch. Otumatapuna is the west branch of the Cam River. Otuwhatanui and Otuwhata iti are the branches of the East Cam. The Taranaki Creek drains the Tairutu Lagoon at Old Kaiapohia and Houhou-pounamu is the deep part of the Lagoon. The swamp lands lying along the coast near Kaiapohia were near Woodend Tutae patu and by Kairaki Ngawhari. The north branch of the Styx River is Nga-putahi and the south branch is Taowhaka-puru. The little Ashley River is Te Wera wera. Te Kohanga-a-kai kai waro is the site of Kaiapohia Pa. The brass tablet on the Memorial stated this name, but has disappeared, or it may have been removed to safety. page 31(Vandalism is much in evidence). Tawhiti-a-Te Rangiwetea is that part of the Kaiapoi Reserve bounded on the north by sandhills, on the east by sandhills and on the west by the Main North Road. Te Rau-a-kaka is the Maori name of Stewart's Gully.

Mr Herries Beattie, after long investigation, says the name of the Eyre River is Wai-a-raki and Burnt Hill near its headwaters but slightly south is Pata weka. Racecourse Hill between Darfield and Sheffield is Puke marama. The Maoris used to dam the Hawkins River in the eeling season. The whole of the Malvern district seems to have been a favourite haunt of Maori sojourners. On the sharp ridge at the junction of the Selwyn and Hororata Rivers once stood a pa called Whakaepa, which was occupied by a section of the Kaiapoi Maoris. Tau nunu, the chief of Repapa in Port Cooper, had his nephew slain by Kaiapoi natives during the Kai huanga feud, and in vengeance took the Whakaepa Pa (near Coalgate) and slew its inhabitants.

Springfield is the county town of Tawera County. The Torlesse Range west of the township is Whatarama—its highest peak Tawera is 6,442 feet. According to legend the range was the home of a gigantic bird which was killed by a warrior named Te hau tawera. The Otarama Peak is Kura tawhiti, a name imported from Polynesia. The Otarama Bush destroyed by bush fires during the early nineties bore the Maori name of Te Maeaea. The bird slain on the Torlesse Range was undoubtedly a moa, as dozens of skeletons of moas, (large and small class) have been found on all sides of the range. Otane uru was Porter's Pass, and Hapua waikawa was Lake Lyndon.

A note by Hape of Tuahiwi written over forty years ago says there are no eels in Hapua waikawa. From European sources the statement is absolutely correct. The Maoris used to have a seasonal camp just behind the present Castle Hill Homestead. Oporea is Lake Pearson, noted by the Maori for its large eels (European trout fisherman know that). Oporea iti is Lake Grassmere and Kamoana is Lake Howden not far away. Mererere was altered by the European surveyors in 1864 to Marymere. The Torlesse Range abounded with native rats. To the Maoris the rodent was a delicacy.

The birch or more correctly beech forest of Whatarama teemed with bird life. The descendants of Moki, the Ngai Tahu chief who conquered Banks Peninsula are concerned with its ownership. Moki considered that the feathers of the kaka bird should adorn his daughter Te Aotukia. Tanetiki, another chief thought of his own daughter Hine mihi, whilst Hikatutae claimed for his daughter Kea ata. Of the claimants none had a better claim than the youngest, the brave Moki.

Crossing to the north side of the Waimakariri we enter the county of Oxford. Oxford appears to have borne in the page 32early European days no other name than Harewood Forest, an immense area of almost impenetrable bush. Many bush fires and to a lesser extent sawmilling, have cleared practically all the district. Scarred tree stumps, and small patches of live timber in gullies such as at Coopers Creek, alone remain. The Maori name of View Hill is Otauaki; yet the native reserves near and at View Hill Nos. 897, 2061 and 18776 are labelled Tawera. The statement has appeared in print that Kapuka ariki Pa is not situated at Cust but is clearly visible on View Hill. This is contrary to fact. When the bush was cleared off the View Hill about 1872, three Maori ovens were found on its northern slopes near a small flax swamp. Up to the present time that is the only evidence found of old-time Maori association with View Hill. The Maoris had a seasonal clearing in the bush near the present road at Gammon's Creek, the Maori name of which was Pekapeka. The Ram Paddock, one mile north of the Eyre River bore the name Tutae tarahi which denotes that Maoris visiting the place suffered from diarrhoea. This place appears to be the only place strictly in the Oxford area at which a few stone adzes have been found. Samuel. Hewlings the surveyor and his assistants were affected with the same malady when they were working there about 1852. John Robert Godley of the Canterbury Association resented strongly Hewlings accepting a "toddy" from the hand of John Deans of Riccarton, to settle his internals, and requested Thomas Cass, Chief Surveyor of Canterbury to dismiss Hewlings at once. The "medicine" was administered on a Sunday and Cass did not obey.

The only prominent peak in the Oxford locality is Mount Oxford or Te Poho-raka-hua. The Canterbury Museum possesses no Maori curios from the Oxford area proper. Burnt Hill, Ashley Gorge, Glentui, Starvation Hill and Lees Valley, Okuku and other places further east and north have yielded up considerable evidence of Maori contact.

The Maoris of North Canterbury possess four reserves at Starvation Hill near Bennetts Junction. Pukaukau is the general name for the district, and Tumukai for the country lying towards Eyreton. Native Reserves Nos. 893 and 894 are in the Birch Hill district near the Garry River. These reserves are named Orohaki. The Maoris had tracks to Lees Valley where weka were taken. The trails went over Mount Blowhard by the Glentui and Garry. Another track to Lees Valley went through the Okuku Pass west of Mount Karetu. The evidence given before the Royal Commission of 1879 leaves not the slightest doubt that the chief places of mahinga kai (food gathering) were situated on the Cust Downs and the Ashley River Downs near Loburn. The places particularly mentioned were Pukeriki, Paneto and Hororoa.

Pukeriki is Summerhill on the north-west end of the page 33Cust (Mairaki) Downs. Paneto was located at North Loburn near the Grey River, and Hororoa is known to Europeans as Percy's Bush and Journey's End. Hororoa is situated up the East Grey towards Mount Grey (Maungatere), and can be recognised as the much-photographed, remarkable, scoured-out cliffs. Until comparatively recent years the Maoris had an eeling place on the Cust River at the spot where the concrete bridge crosses the stream at Stoke. In the days of the second Waitaha Tribe there existed two settlements in the Cust Valley, the one at Cust was Kapuka ariki, and that near Stoke was Mairaki. The population has been estimated at 2,000.

When the first Europeans came, a long high embankment extended from Stoke to Cust. This has been the means of some folk believing the fortress (if any) was a second London or New York, truly a flight of imagination! The long rampart with its gaps was merely something akin to Agricola's Wall in Scotland, erected to check the advance of barbarians moving to attack people probably engaged peacefully in making a livelihood. The main kainga, there is good reason to believe, stood on the site of the Cust Cemetery; Mairaki was near Stoke. When the first settlers arrived the palisaded look-out (Pukeriki) was still standing at Summerhill. All traces have now disappeared.

On the South Downs there were several lagoons, and the land was covered with flax and manuka. The North Downs grew koromiko and similar shrubs. The Waitaha settlements were captured by the Ngati Mamoe Tribe. The Waitaha chiefs of the place were Te Waimaongia and Tauhanga. The native lands north of the Ashley River (Rakihuri) were acquired for the New Zealand Government by Mr J. W. Hamilton, Native Land Purchase Officer in February 1857, for £500, which was the lowest sum the Maoris would entertain.

Payment was made in three instalments. Hamilton had been allowed £200 to extinguish the title, and had very great difficulty in obtaining the extra £300 from the General Government. J. W. Hamilton in his report implies how much he resented being made the tool to carry out such a raw deal. The Government before even the native title had been extinguished had sold an area of the block consisting of 30,000 acres for £15,000. The following are words used in Hamilton's report:—"a gross fraud practised on the Maoris, for their land which we have already sold at such a different price".