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Lore and history of the South Island Maori

Rapaki — (The pa of the Ngati Wheke)

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(The pa of the Ngati Wheke).

Few places within reasonable walking distance of Christchurch offer greater attractions than the Maori kainga of Rapaki, situated on Lyttelton Harbour (Whanga raupo), midway between Port Lyttelton and the popular rendezvous of Governor's Bay. A half century ago Rapaki was a much visited place, but in these days of fast motor travel people pass it unnoticed. The road from Lyttelton is good and almost level, and the three miles of walking cannot be considered too severe even for persons of mature years.

Rapaki possesses an excellent water supply, this being obtained from the Lyttelton service, a good jetty, a boulder beach and also a sandy beach. The Maoris are most hospitable and belong to the Ngati Wheke hapu of the Ngai Tahu Tribe. Wheke was the son of Te Rangi whakaputa who ousted the Ngati Mamoe Tribe from the shores of Lyttelton Harbour (known in the early Provincial days as Port Cooper).

The sharp pointed hill to the south of the kainga is Te Poho Tamatea ("the Breast of Tamatea"). Tamatea was a Maori explorer of about six hundred years ago. Tamatea, and his followers, the Waitaha Tribe (second tribe of that name) journeyed by the Takitimu Canoe, which eventually was stranded near the mouth of the Waiau River in Southland. According to legend the Takitimu Canoe remains in Southland as the Takitimu Mountains.

To the north-east of Rapaki village at the edge of the rocky hills named the Tors can be seen an outstanding craig, which is known to the Maoris as Te Moenga o Wheke ("the Sleeping Place of Wheke"). Witch Hill the high peak of the Port Hills directly overlooking Rapaki is named Te Upoko o Kuri, and the wall of lava rock nearby known to Europeans as the Giant's Causeway, the Maoris say is Ahi-a-Tamatea, ("the Fire of Tamatea"). Thus does the native personify the work of Nature's volcanic fire.

On Witch Hill there is erected a memorial to the soldiers of St. Martins and Opawa together with those worthy descendants of Wheke of old, hailing from Rapaki who gave their lives in the Great War of 1914-18. The Pakeha tablet on the War Memorial faces St. Martins, and bears the names of Opawa and St. Martins soldiers who perished. The Maori tablet looks down on Rapaki. The Maori inscription reads:—

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Rapaki and Tamatea's Breast Tamatea was an explorer of six hundred years ago.

Rapaki and Tamatea's Breast Tamatea was an explorer of six hundred years ago.

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"He whakamaharatanga tenei mo tangata toa o te iwi Maori o Rapaki". (In memory of the rapaki boys who gave their lives in the great war for king and empire).

The small gullies on the hill, Tamatea's Breast, are named Amaru, Huataki and Paua te rua (shellfish of Te Rua). Otuherekio is the point between Cass and Rapaki bays. Nohomutu is a cliff above Little Rapaki, and a stream in the locality is the Okaraki.

The name Rapaki is often erroneously spelled Raupaki and very often wrongly translated "pleasant aspect". However according to the late James Cowan the full name of the place is Te Rapaki o Te Rangiwhakaputa. When Te Rangiwhakaputu took possession of the locality he placed his rapaki (kilt) down to mark his ownership.

The Rapaki Native Reserve (No. 875) which covers 850 acres, was surveyed on July 27th, 1849. The Port Cooper Block from which it was reserved has its Deed of Sale dated August 10th, 1849. Of the whole area of the Rapaki Reserve only about 70 acres are suitable for cultivation.

The Maoris of Rapaki living there in 1857 had considerable energy and courage, as Provincial Government returns show that they had 87 acres at Rapaki planted in wheat, oats and potatoes, and 21 acres at Little Rapaki in similar crops. Unfortunately no record exists of what returns the Maoris obtained in crop from parts of the area which were little more than barren hill sides. In 1857 the Rapaki Maoris had stock on the reserve, totalling 147 animals, principally pigs. In the early days the Maoris of Rapaki found a ready market for their produce in Port Lyttelton.

In 1859 there were 15 dwellings at Rapaki and 3 at little Rapaki (Taukahara). Like most places on Banks Peninsula Rapaki suffered at the hands of Te Rauparaha and his warriors after the fall of Kaiapohia and Onawe in 1831. The Maoris of Rapaki who were not slain, escaped by fleeing in canoes over the waters of Whanga raupo (Port Cooper or Lyttelton Harbour) to Purau where they found refuge in the Motuhikarehu Bush under the lee of Te Ahu Patiki (Mount Herbert). The Motuhikarehu Bush as a refuge is referred to in the evidence given before. Chief Judge Fenton at the Native Land Court in 1868,—the Rapaki case. When Captain Benjamin Morrell,, an American whaler visited Port Cooper in 1830, he found about a half dozen, half starved Maoris dwelling there. They were making a precarious living by means of fishing.

When Frederick Tuckett, a surveyor of the New Zealand Company visited the place on April 8th, 1844, he found conditions much the same. He records that the whole community of Rapaki were dwelling in three whares.

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Rapaki became a recognised halting place for Banks Peninsula Maoris visiting relatives and friends in North Canterbury, bartering their fish for the natural products of other parts.

The Rapaki Maoris in early European days used to journey over Gebbie's Pass and indulge in eeling on Lake Ellesmere near Kaiuna and Motukarara. They invariably called and visited their pakeha friends the Gebbies and Mansons en route.

When Te Rauparaha made his unwelcomed visit to Rapaki he lost his putorino flute. When the Maoris of Rapaki returned to their old home the flute was discovered. The finders many years afterwards (in 1886) unaware of its original ownership bartered the putorino to Mr Martin, manager for Messrs Hawker, provision merchants of Lyttelton in exchange for tobacco. Mr Martin loaned the flute to Mr W. J. Carlyle of Christchurch. The latter gentleman photographed it, and when Mr A. Hamilton produced his book on Maori Art it figured among the illustrations. It was immediately recognised by the Ngati Toa Tribe. On the death of Mr Martin, the Auckland Museum secured it for £50 from his next of kin in 1923.

The late R. M. Laing, the naturalist was informed in the eighties that a Ngai Tribe of Rapaki fleeing from Te Rauparaha's scouting parties hid a valuable greenstone mere in a rock crevice at the Head of Port Cooper somewhere near Coopers Knobs. Pakehas and Maoris have searched for it in vain.

At the time of the sale of the Port Cooper Block the elders of Rapaki were Tukaha, Paora, Hoani Te Akikaia, Petera Hoani Tukutuku, Hopa Kaukau and Mahureka; with friends and relatives the total population was about 30 souls.

Tukaha was looked upon as their leader, though he was as much a member of the Ngati Tuahuriri hapu of Kaiapoi, as of the real owners of Rapaki the Ngati Wheke Through his influence many Kaiapoi natives were allowed to live and cultivate land at Rapaki.

In 1868 the Native Land Court under Chief Judge H. D. Fenton had a long arduous sitting in settling who were entitled to be considered close enough in blood to be counted as of Ngati Wheke hapu. Their descendants in the intervening years where Rapaki lands are concerned sign official documents as members of the Ngati Wheke hapu of the Ngai Tahu Tribe.

Arapata Koti, Tuawea, Henare Pereita, Mohi Patu and Pita Te Hori were early inhabitants at Rapaki. Haeana Huri was the Native Assessor (magistrate) at Rapaki in 1867. Rapaki like most other places has had a person looked upon as a "character".

In early pakeha times there dwelt such a person known to posterity as "Happy Jack". He insisted on wearing only a shirt and jacket, however his face was always wearing a becoming smile. In an endeavour to make him respectable his friends page 67presented him with trousers, but with difficulty he was persuaded to make use of them only when visiting Lyttelton.

Maori labourers were engaged in forming the original road from Lyttelton to Governor's Bay in the portion covered by the Rapaki Native Reserve.

On January 1st, 1873, Mr T. H. Potts, Chairman of the Port Victoria Road Board, wrote to the Canterbury Provincial Government requesting that a diversion be made on the Lyttelton-Governor's Bay Road through the Rapaki Reserve. In November 1873, the Public Works Department of the Canterbury Provincial Government decided to make the diversion, having made a verbal arrangement with Horopapera Momo, head of the Rapaki Runanga a month previously. On the death of that worthy, the Maoris repudiated the agreement.

After a series of negotiations with the Rev. J. W. Stack as the intermediary, the natives agreed to accept £72 for the 5 acres 3 roods 14 perches taken up for the new road, and take possession of the old road as part of their reserve. The following signed the deed of exchange as members of the Ngati Wheke hapu:—

  • Iharaira Tukaha, Hohaia Tekotuku, Te One Wetere, Peneta, Papara Kahutuanui, Natanahira Waruwarutu, Teoti Pita, Pereimena Korako, Hemi Korako, Kaaono Koiki, Hori Te Maiwhakarea, Waitere Teupoko, Hana Hapaikete, Pene Tahui, Hana Hori, Wi Te Koti, Harete, Irihapeti, Ruruhira, Irihaukawa, Keita Taua, Hana Momo, Ramari Paora Tau, Monika, Wikitoria Reihana, Reihana Tau, Katarina Huria, Pita Mutu, Reihono, Matana Piki, Hikana Piki, Mata Pi, Wikitoria Teoti Pita Mutu.

This deed by members of Ngati Wheke was signed on March 20th, 1874, and the wording is in both Maori and English.

The native bush on the Rapaki Reserve was severely damaged by fire on January 16th, 1871. The Rapaki Bush was finally destroyed by fire on March 10th, 1889, which had commenced on a spur overlooking the Canterbury Plains. Rapaki kainga and the European homes on the Governor's Bay Road were saved from destruction only by the combined efforts of Maori and Pakeha fire-fighters.

The Maoris of Rapaki, like other sections of the Ngai Tahu Tribe, have invariably stood loyally by their pakeha neighbours in troublous times, especially during the Maori wars of the North Island. On July 28th, 1860, a large meeting was held at Rapaki, when, through H. G. Gouland, magistrate at Lyttelton and the Rev. James Buller, the Maoris expressed goodwill to the pakehas and showed practical sympathy with the European sufferers in the Taranaki War.

Europeans of poor principles in 1864 were guilty of plundering the gardens at Rapaki, necessitating Doctor Donald, page 68then magistrate at Lyttelton, taking action on December 3rd, 1864. When Doctor Donald left Lyttelton to visit the Old Country the Maoris presented him with a farewell letter, as did their Rapaki Native Assessor Paori Taki on February 28th, 1879. These documents in the beautiful wording of the Maori were presented by the son of Doctor Donald in 1925 to the safe custody of the Canterbury Museum.

Walter Buller of the Native Department visited Taukahara (Little Rapaki) on March 8th, 1860. Rapaki has been the scene of many notable gatherings, and has received visits from distinguished visitors. On January '21st, 1893, a flag hoisting ceremony was held.' The flag measured 10 by 18 feet, and the speakers at the function were Hon. H. K. Taiaroa, H. T. Tikao and G. Robinson. Subjects discussed were the functions of a Maori Parliament and the observing of the Treaty of Waitangi. On the previous day Lord Glasgow, the Governor of New Zealand, had been officially welcomed to the kainga.

On May 19th, 1901, the Canterbury Engineer Volunteers visited Rapaki, and attended divine service in the Rapaki Church, when the Rev. Chambers of Lyttelton officiated.

On December 31st, 1901, the Maori Councils Act was discussed by the Rapaki natives when H. T. Tikao presided. The Hon. T. Y. Duncan, Minister of Lands was present and appealed to the Maoris to assist the Lands and Survey Department in preserving Maori place names and history.

On February 2nd, 1902, H. T. Tikao and E. A. Hastings laid before Parliament proposals for a pure water supply through the agency of H. G. Ell and G. Laurenson, M.P's. The application was approved.

In June 1912, the periodical cleaning of the Rapaki Reservoir was facilitated by the placing of a 10 foot ladder. On September 23rd, 1916, a new jetty at Rapaki was declared open for use by Mrs M. J. Millar, the ribbon being severed with silver scissors presented by Miss Te Ao Manihera. The jetty was christened Gallipoli. The visitors were conveyed from Lyttelton to Rapaki by the S.S. Pierau.

On August 16th, 1925, Rear Admiral Schofield of the United States Navy with officers of the warship Omaha visited Rapaki, and were welcomed by Eruera Manihera on behalf of H. T. Tikao who was unfortunately ill. Mats and greenstone curios were presented to Admiral Schofield by Marewa Manihera and Mrs Tainui as gifts from Rapaki.

On February 16th, 1929, the Naval Reserve commenced a course of training on the S.S. Wootton anchored in Rapaki Bay. On June 24th, 1931, a severe gale drove the S.S. Wootton ashore alongside the jetty. Both were severely damaged, and the vessel ever since has done duty as a houseboat.

During January 1934, several campers endeavoured to page 69camp on the foreshore at Rapaki, although it was declared by the Maoris that there was not a coastal chain in the reserve. The Grown Grant of the Reserve proves the contrary. The New Zealand Gazette in 1915 made the coastal chain a Government Road, which equally stands against use of the area for camping. One can appreciate the action of the Maori elders in preserving decorum in their midst.

The Maori Church with its bell suspended from a ribbon-wood tree has called the kainga to divine service for many a year. The church was opened on May 4th, 1869, when the ministers of the Anglican, Presbyterian and Wesleyan Churches of Lyttelton all took part in the ceremony. More than 150 persons listened to the sermon of the Rev. MacIntosh who preached from the text: "When two or three are gathered in Thy Name".

The Rev. Te Kooti Te Rato ministered to the Maoris at Rapaki for close on 30 years. He was born in the Wairarapa, but fell a prisoner, to Te Rauparaha. He became a protege of the Rev. Ironsides, the famous Wesleyan missionary of the Wairau. The Rev. Te Kooti Te Rato passed away on May 13th, 1895.

At Rapaki can be seen the ruins of the Roman Catholic Church, with ferns growing through its floor. That broadminded priest, the late Rev. Father Cooney of Lyttelton furnished its story. The corner stone was laid by Rev. Father Francis of Lyttelton, on July 16th, 1874. The stone was a gift from Captain Giovanni of the Italian bargue Fratelli. On December 10th, 1874 at 11 a.m., the church was opened.by Rev. Father Chervier in the presence of 200 people. The choir from Lyttelton, assisted by musical friends from Christchurch contributed to the singing.

The Rapaki School was opened on Tuesday, November 5th, 1876, by the Hon. H. K. Taiaroa. A large assembly gathered including children from Tuahiwi, Port Levy and Wairewa. The speeches of welcome were given by the Revs. G. P. Mutu and Te Kooti Te Rato, Messrs J. S. Tahuna and T. H. Potts. The Rev. J. W. Stack introduced the first schoolmaster Patrick Hirlihey. Particulars of the school history were supplied by the late Waata Momo one of its early pupils, and a son of Horopapera Momo who was the head of the Rapaki Runanga at the time of his death on October 7th, 1873. In 1886 the Rev. W. S. Lucas was the schoolmaster and his assistant Miss K. Piper. He resigned the following year after long service, and Mr and Mrs J. Moore became the teachers.

In 1890, Mrs and Mrs Bone succeeded. During 1893, Mr Crook of Christchurch gave several lantern entertainments in aid of the Rapaki School funds. In 1901, Mr E. A. Hastings and Miss Tikao were the teachers, followed in 1905 by Mr C. A. Lyon and Miss M. Tikao. In July 1908, the page 70Rapaki School passed from the control of the Native Section of the Education Department to that of the Canterbury Education Board. For a period the Rapaki school was closed, and the Maori children conveyed by motor service to the West Lyttelton School. On October 30th, 1932, the Rapaki School was reopened with Miss M. Manihera as its schoolteacher.

The first annual festival of the Rapaki School was held on November 20th, 1879; J. S. Tahuna, T. H. Potts and Merson with the Revs. J. W. Stack, Te Kooti Te Rato and G. P. Mutu taking active parts. On Sunday, September 27th, 1891, an open air Anglican Church service was held at Rapaki, conducted by the Rev. Coats assisted by H. T. Tikao. The offertory was devoted to the Rapaki School prize fund.

Paori Taki who passed away in December 10th 1897, was for many years a leading light at Rapaki where he held the official rank of Native Assessor.

The largest and most prominent building in Rapaki is the Runanga Hall which bears the name of Wheke, called after the son of Te Rangiwhakaputa from whom the present inhabitants claim descent. The hall was opened by the Hon. W. C. Walker, Minister of Labour, on December 30th, 1901. The Union Jack that was flown was the gift of the Minister of Justice. The visitors were officially welcomed by the head of the runanga, H. T. Tikao. The hall was christened Wheke by Miss Walker, who broke a bottle of wine on the barrier. Visitors present were Messrs H. G. Ell and G. Laurenson, M.P's, Mr Feild, Mayor of Lyttelton and Doctor Pomare. All the Maori settlements of Canterbury were represented. Scottish pipers namely Pipers Fraser, MacDonald and Walker played on the Highland warpipes. Te Kino (a daughter of the one-time Native Assessor of Rapaki) was also present, aged 84 years. This lady claimed to have wept at 120 tangis.

When Lord Ranfurly was Governor of New Zealand he visited Rapaki on April 8th, 1904, and received an enthusiastic welcome. A good story attaches to his visit. A member of the Governor's staff posed as a Maori scholar, and to keep up his reputation travelled to Rapaki the previous day and obtained an English translation of the Chief's speech. On the fateful day he duly explained the Maori speech to His Excellency the Governor. His downfall came when Lord Ranfurly requested him to render the speech of the Governor made in English into the Maori tongue as a compliment to the Maoris. The Maoris had fired previously a Royal Salute on a small cannon, this together with the bagpipe music must also have assisted in the interpreter's downfall.

The Rapaki Runanga Hall cost £260 to build, and was the aftermath of a tangi in 1900, when the influx of visitors was so great that 150 persons had to be accommodated in a five roomed house. One can easily imagine the necessity for a page 71large hall when it can be mentioned that four hundred Maoris of the Ngai Tahu Tribe gathered at Rapaki on April 17th, 1911, to discuss tribal questions and the Ngai Tahu Claim. Tiemi Hepi of Puketeraki was the chairman of that representative meeting.

There has been a gradual falling off in the attractiveness of Rapaki kainga in common with other native settlements in Canterbury during the past thirty years. The present generation do not cultivate either flowers or vegetables like their forbears used to do, neither is Maori art very noticeable.

Rapaki was visited by Ratana, founder of the Ratana Church and his retinue on July 23rd, 1921. The Ratana Movement of today is however more political than religious. Four hundred Maoris of the Ngai Tahu Tribe assembled at Rapaki on October 5th, 1921, and considered the Ngai Tahu Claim. Persons entitled to benefit from a settlement of the claim were estimated at 1,000 persons. As a centre of Maori activity Rapaki is rapidly declining, the natives preferring Lyttelton with the seasonal employment which is offered to them there.