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New home for waka

The waka Te Aio o Nukutaimemeha will have a permanent home on Hikurangi, the ancestral mountain of Ngati Porou.

The 45 metre vessel, named after the waka of the ancestor Maui that is also said to be on the maunga, has been sitting in a paddock at Tikitiki on the East Coast for the past 19 years.

The waka has been relocated and there are plans for its restoration.

It was initially commissioned by the Ngati Porou iwi authority (now Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou) to be built in time for the 1990 celebrations marking 150 years since the signing of te Tiriti o Waitangi.

It cost $500,000 and was not completed until 1999.

The waka — which weighs 22 tonnes and is almost half the length of a rugby field — was created by master carver Greg Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell.

Last year an aggrieved Whakataka-Brightwell and his whanau led a campaign to reclaim the waka and have it restored. The waka had suffered extensive damage from being left in the open for nearly 20 years. Sections were rotting, and some of it has been graffitied.

Earlier this week the Save Te Aio o Nukutaimemeha Waka Taua group confirmed on Facebook that they “no longer have the energy” to challenge the runanganui for the return of the waka.

Runanganui chief executive Herewini Te Koha admitted the situation could have been handled better but there was plenty of optimism for the plan ahead.

“We really needed to do better. There’s no denying that,” he said.

“It has been 19 years without a firm plan but the key thing is that there are plans to go forward.

“We are now taking those steps. The first thing was to move the waka from the place where it has been for the past 19 years to a place where it can be based permanently and there is no uncertainty there.

“We are bringing together the site that is owned by all of Ngati Porou (on Hikurangi Maunga), with the waka that belongs to all of Ngati Porou.

“We acknowledge Greg (Matahi) was instrumental at the start. But from that time the waka has been the property held in trust for all of Ngati Porou. That’s our obligation and focus.

“We should have addressed this sooner but we’re doing it now.

“We’ll be looking at shelter and creating something to house the waka.

“We’ll also be looking to the EIT (Eastern Institute of Technology), who may want their trainees to assist with the restoration of the waka. It will take some years.

“Also, there’s a lot of activity based around Turanga and Uawa with the Tairawhiti Navigations Project.

“What better way to get moving and to get recognition for our waka for the northern part of the rohe, than getting a restoration project under way.

“We would definitely be interested in having discussions with community funders for this project.”


The controversial waka Te Aio o Nukutaimemeha was shifted this week from Tikitiki to its new resting place, Hikurangi — the ancestral mountain of Ngati Porou. There it joins its namesake, the waka Maui used in pulling up the North Island and which Maori tradition holds rests petrified on Hikurangi. CR Taylor Ltd workers are pictured during the operation to move the 22-tonne waka, which has been sitting in a paddock at Tikitiki for the past 19 years. Picture supplied.
UNCERTAINTY AT AN END: Master carver Greg Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell pictured in February 1999 with the waka Te Aio o Nukutaimemeha. Last year he and his whanau led a campaign to reclaim the waka after it had lain neglected in a paddock at Tikitiki (see the following picture in this gallery). Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou, who commissioned the waka, admit they could have handled the situation better but are optimistic for the plan ahead. File pictures
The waka lying neglected in a paddock at Tikitiki.