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Historic trip to Rongopai Marae

About 70 people visited Rongopai Marae and Wi Pere Trust lands on Saturday as part of a tour organised by Historic Places Tairawhiti.

Rongopai Marae was built at Waituhi in 1887, one of four built in preparation for the return to the district of Maori leader Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, founder of the Ringatu faith.

Eastern Maori MP Wi Pere and others invited Te Kooti to return to his home district after he was formally pardoned in 1883.

Wi Pere was the son of European whaler, trader and farmer Thomas Halbert and his fourth wife Riria Mauaranui.

Riria and Wi Pere’s son Te Moanaroa led the work, but Te Kooti never returned to the district nor saw Rongopai, one of New Zealand’s artistic treasures.

The wharenui’s painted interior — decorated with distinctive paintings of people, plants and aspects of everyday life such as racehorses — sets it apart from traditional carved meeting houses.

Historic Places Tairawhiti regularly runs trips for members and the public. For further information email info@hpt.org.nz

The Historic Places Tairawhiti group was welcomed on to Rongopai Marae to view the wharenui and learn about its history from Wi Pere representative Trudy Meredith. Picture by Sheridan Gundry