Kaitieki o Ngati Maru, Ngati Kaipoho, Ngai Tawhiri, Ngati Ruapani ki Turanga

Whakato Marae History

The Whakato Marae commemorates the tipuna Rongowhakaata. The wharenui is named Te Mana o Turanga (Te Mana o Turanganui a Kiwa i Tangohia e Ruawharo) and the wharekai  Te Aroha a Te Rangatahi a Turahiri. The marae is situated at Manutuke on the Whakato No.3 block and identifies primarily with Ngati Maru. The urupa is named Hurimoana.

The following whakatauaki applied to this marae:

Te kotahi a Turahiri, ripo ana te moana. –

the one and only child of Turahiri, who causes the rippling of the sea.

 He kotahi na Turahiri ka horu te moana –

Turahiri may be only one person, but such a one that could stir up the oceans.


Whakato Marae traces its beginnings to the time of missionary contact in Turanganuia- kiwa. A mission station was originally established at Kaupapa in December 1839.

However, it was later moved due to continual flooding. That area was named Whakato symbolic of the planting of Rongopai (“the good word of the Pakeha religion”) within Turanga. William Williams was the first missionary in the region and he commenced his mission at Whakato. The first church was erected in the district at Whakato marae. J W Stack noted in a visit in 1842 that the large church erected by local Maori was the most striking object about the place: “It was the loftiest building I have met with. It had a strange appearance, although the thatched roof and boarded floor were completed, the sides were left uncovered and the totara slabs supporting the roof forwarded the only protection from the weather for the congregation.” 

He also commented on the grounds at the church and marae: “The orchard and vegetable garden were the largest and best kept I have ever seen. I was particularly interested in the vines and the clusters of grapes, the appearance of which until then, I only knew from picture books.”

The first service in the church was held on Sunday, 17 January 1842. At the time Williams noted the different way the hapu of Rongowhakaata approached the building. Firstly, Ngai Tawhiri occupied the centre of the building, Ngati Kaipoho occupied the north side and Ngati Maru the south. It reminded Williams of the passage in the Psalm 122, “Jerusalem is built as the city that is compact together, wither the tribes go up”. The church was later destroyed by a severe storm causing considerable distress to Rongowhakaata. However, another church was built on the same site and was opened on 19 April 1863.

Te Mana o Turanga

Rongowhakaata traditions acknowledge that the carvings for Te Mana o Turanga were carved in 1843 and used in several unsuccessful attempts to erect a whare on the adjacent Oweta block. Williams refers to the completion of a wharepuni belonging to Tamihana Ruatapu in 1865. However, the project was abandoned during the period of the East Coast wars. After the death of Tamihana his son Karepa Ruatapu ordered the removal of the timber at Oweta to Whakato and commenced work on the construction of Te Mana o Turanga. It is understood that Te Mana o Turanga was constructed to assist the iwi in overcoming their grief at the loss of Te Hau ki Turanga. Te Mana o Turanga was opened in January 1883 at Whakato. The following ancestors, among others, are commemorated in the carvings of Te Mana o Turanga:

  • Ranginui a Tamaku, the Sky Father
  • Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother
  • Paiaterangi, the prop keeping Earth and Sky apart
  • Tawhaki, who climbed to Heaven on a vine
  • Rata, who avenged the death of his father Wahieroa
  • Matuku Tangotango and Tamauriuri, chiefs of the Ponaturi, slain by Rata
  • Maui Tikitiki a Taranga, fishing up the North Island (Ika a Maui)

The prominent ancestor in this whare is Ruawharo who is on the fascia board of the porch and on the rear wall with the legend “Te Mana o Turanga” inscribed on his chest. Kiwa stands below him to symbolise Ruawharo claiming that the mana of Turanga belonged to him and not Kiwa. Te Kani Te Ua considered that it was Kiwa who bestowed the district with the name Turanganui-a-Kiwa to lay primary claim to the district over Paoa, Tamatea Ariki nui and Ruawharo.

External and interior carvings also record the story of Pourangahua and the bird of Ruakapanga. It is said that Pourangahua brought replacement tubers of kumara from Parinuitera in Hawaiki for his son Kahukura. One version is that Pourangahua was blown out to sea in his waka and then rescued by a sea monster. It is believed he landed at Parenuitera in Hawaiki. Halbert’s version of this differs and he suggests that Parenuitera is a few miles north of Whangara.

Pourangahua told his uncle Ruakapanga about his desire to obtain the replacement tubers of kumara. Needing to return urgently for the upcoming planting season he asked Ruakapanga for one of his birds to return him to home. His uncle agreed on certain conditions. One condition was that Pourangahua must not fly near Mount Hikurangi. The taniwha who resided on the maunga loved to eat such birds. Pourangahua was also warned not to pull the feathers off the bird.

Pourangahua disregarded his uncle’s instructions and flew close to Mount Hikurangi. The taniwha attacked as his uncle had warned. However, with difficulty he was able to avert disaster. Eventually he reached Turanga where, to hasten the descent of the bird, he plucked feathers from its wings. The feathers fell into the sea and sank taking root on Tokapuhuruhuru (rock of the feather). They later grew into a makauri tree. It is told that many Rongowhakaata have seen its spirit while diving for food there. On the return journey home, Pourangahua followed the same route and was this time caught by the taniwha on Hikurangi. Therefore Ruakapanga decided to punish his nephew by sending grubs to plague him and his people for loss of the bird. They were aruhe (a yellow grub about an inch long), mokura (a round red grub appearing in December) and mokowhiti (a green grub about one third of an inch circumference). These grubs are also depicted in the wharepuni.

Some generations later, Mahakirau brought a branch from the feather tree to shore in a most unusual way. He had a tame shark named Ikahoea which brought him fish in its mouth when he went out fishing. He decided to test the legend of the makauri tree by asking his shark to bring him a branch which it duly did. Mahakirau then planted the branch on shore and it became the ancestor of the great makauri forest extending from Makauri through Makaraka and out to Waerenga a Hika. This story is commemorated in Te Mana o Turanga.

The story of Maia is also depicted in the carvings of Te Mana o Turanga. Maia is said to have had trouble with Uenuku at Paranuitera in Hawaiki and escaped by sailing to Aotearoa on a gourd raft. Maia sat on the beach cleaning out gourds which he tied together with a strong cord taken from the stern of his canoe. He heard that Uenuku was approaching with a war party. Maia therefore took his raft and by incantation reached Turanganui-a-Kiwa. He eventually landed at the spot where the first Captain Cook monument was located. He built a house using his raft and named it Puhikaiiti (meaning “littlest streamer”). This area is today known as Kaiti.

Halbert also records a story about Maia and how he asked a young girl to bring his waka across the Turanga river. When she did as he requested he drowned her and she transformed into the rock, Te Toka a Taiao. Halbert also records that Maia planted the seeds of his hue (gourd) in plantations in the Taruheru basin named Makaraka, Mangamotea, Mangamoteo and Mangaiti. Maia recited the following karakia as he planted his gourds:

Te utu kei runga

Te utu kei raro

Kei tara wiwini,

Kei tara wawana,

Mihi mai koe,

Tangi mai koe

I tou kiri

Ka ripiripia,

Ka taetaea,

Tau te hue

Ka haehaea

Ki te taha o te umu

I te matai na

Umaka whakawhano

Ki roto, ki te kakano

No hue tau

The tekoteko of Te Mana o Turanga is Rongowhakaata. During the restoration of the wharepuni the tekoteko needed repairing and cleaning. When the workers removed the tekoteko and proceeded to lower it to the ground by rope, the rope broke. The restoration team recounted that the taonga did not fall to the ground but flew down and landed in the same manner as a bird would. Despite its weight and the height of the fall, the tekoteko was undamaged.


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