Tamahaki Kaunihera o Ngā Hapū
Re-building planned at ancient river marae
“Nā te punga i kawe ai ngā ngārehu a kāinga” –
It is the punga that carries the burning embers home.
Whānau belonging to an ancient Whanganui river marae are moving forward with plans to re-build.
Members of Te Whānau o Mangapāpapa and the hapū Ngāti Kāponga spent the weekend of November 7 and 8 at the remote marae. Accessible only by boat, Mangapāpapa is about 65km downstream from Taumarunui.
Building committee chair, Arthur Edmonds, said the remote location presents infrastructure challenges, including water supply and toilet systems. An engineer had been consulted. The first stage of development will include fencing, a water system, toilets and a temporary shelter. Stage 2 will include a kitchen and meeting house. The aim was to provide shelter, water and facilities for whānau, and to bring home the annual iwi river wānanga, the Tira Hoe Waka.
“The Tira usually stays upriver at the John Coull DOC hut, but we want our people back here to wānanga, to rest and to be at home where they belong,” Mr Edmonds said.
Rihi Ponga said she wanted Mangapāpapa to be a refuge.
“I look at those of us who have been involved in the Treaty Claims process, and I see how devastating that has been. We’re tired; I want this to be a place for us to come home and rest.”
Decisions needed to be supported by the whānau collectively, she said.
Robert (Boy) Cribb said whānau had been working with DOC to ensure re-generation of the ancestral kāinga can be supported.
“Following the Waitangi Tribunal’s Whanganui Land Inquiry report released last month, we can be confident our wāhi tapu will return to us at some point. For now, we must be realistic about what we can afford and achieve.”
Mr Cribb said it was good to see young people involved. A team, under the guidance of George Matthews, spent the weekend doing some groundwork and others cleared overgrowth earlier in the week.
“Thank you for getting us underway. This is well overdue, and I say to us all: don’t leave this as a dream – make this dream a reality. The team and the time is right. If we’re going to move, move together.”
George Matthews said it was time to start handing over the mantle.
“The challenge for us old ones is to ensure our young ones share our collective vision. We are all responsible to others. We are sitting here together sharing the same dream; the next generation is here, listening. This is a hard place – remote, inaccessible: we have to be resourceful, stop dreaming and just do it.”
Mr Matthews acknowledged the wairua (spirituality) of Mangapāpapa and pledged his support.
Whānau members, supported by kaumātua, stopped at Tieke Marae to remember those who re-established Tieke, and to acknowledge how the vision for Mangapāpapa emerged from what was achieved at Tieke.
Paora (Baldy) Haitana, chair of Tamahaki Kaunihera o Ngā Hapū, told whānau the ahi kaa (burning fire) was carried from Tieke to Mangapāpapa. It was now time to re-connect with the land and complete the work.
Hokio Ngātaiērua-Tinirau said he supports the vision.
“The whakatauki Nā te punga i kawe ai ngā ngārehu a kāinga (It is the punga that carries the burning embers home) speaks of leaving the humble punga to carry the aspirations and determination of the hapū from one place to the next. Our kāinga hold our kōrero, and I acknowledge our kāinga all the way down the river for making me what I am.”
Tommy Treanor remembered Tieke leaders now gone, including Larry Ponga, Mark Cribb and Temo Ponga and those who helped drive the dream to revive Mangapāpapa, including Paiki Johnson. He acknowledged the words Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au (I am the river and the river is me) and also Ko au te ngāhere, ko te ngāhere ko tātou katoa (I am the forest and the forest is us all).
Uenuku chair Aiden Gilbert said Mangapāpapa was a model for the people. He remembered being there as a young man on the earliest iwi river trips when Harold and Minnie Haitana and others were occupying the marae to stop local authorities from taking land including Mangapāpapa.
“There is nowhere like it,” Mr Gilbert said. “Following Tieke in the 1990s, this was another place where Whanganui river Māori – Ngāti Kāponga – made a stand, where Uncle Harry as pou māngai (spokesperson) held the ground. Those efforts and that fight were the new beginnings of Mangapāpapa, those were the people who brought us back.
“I will always tautoko this place, and the vision to restore our shelter, our haven. The fires have been rekindled, and now we continue what’s been started.”