Carvings reunite iwi with ancestral land lost to hydroelectricity generation

A central North Island iwi have symbolically replanted their roots close to 70 years after being expelled from a popular tourist spot.

Ngāti Tahu and Ngāti Whāoa people have erected two massive pou whakairo representing their tūpuna, Tahumatua, and his son Tōroa at Ōrākei Kōrako, 33km North of Taupō.

Although the iwi began to leave the area after the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera their descendants remained until they were removed with the creation of Lake Ohakurī for hydroelectricity in the early 1950s.

The pou, which stand 9m and 8.7m respectively, were carved by kai whakairo, Lionel Matenga from one tōtara log estimated to be more than 400-years-old. They have been officially blessed by kaumātua from Te Whau.

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Tahumatua and Tōroa once had their wharenui on the banks of the Waikato River at Ōrākei Kōrako which is a geothermal area known internationally as the “Hidden Valley”.

Following the exodus of the iwi, the mana of their tūpuna has now been restored with father and son once again standing together in the form of pou whakairo.

The log was gifted by the Ngāti Kahungungu Wairarapa Moana Trust to Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whāoa Rūnanga Trust.

Ngāti Tahu-Ngāti Whāoa Rūnanga Trust trustee, Evelyn Forrest said the iwi have a long history of working together which goes back to the trading days of kōkōwai for shark oil and pounamu. Routes across the Kaingaroa plains made for easy trading.

From left rangatira, Bill Werahiko, Ngāhihi Bidios, Roger Pikia, Iwi Te Whau, Tūpaea Hurihanganui and Harry Te Ngahu before the 9m Tahumatua poupou.

SUPPLIED

From left rangatira, Bill Werahiko, Ngāhihi Bidios, Roger Pikia, Iwi Te Whau, Tūpaea Hurihanganui and Harry Te Ngahu before the 9m Tahumatua poupou.

In return for the tōtara log, the rūnanga gave Ngāti Kahungungu two pounamu, featuring carvings signifying the hōkioi, kōkōwai and the shark. One, a patu, is set to be used during whaikōrero and the other will be put on display.

Forrest said both taonga signified the past and the exchange of gifts signified their desire to reignite their relationship.

During the blessing ceremony trust chair Roger Pikia recited the whakapapa of Ngāti Tahu and its connection to Ōrākei Kōrako before unveiling the poupou.

Forrest said only a few of the gathered iwi and guests knew what had forced the iwi from the area over the years.

“The gathering of our people, the blessing of the pou whakairo and the presence of Ngāti Kahungungu brought a reconnection of past times,” she said.

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