Meet­ing house re­stored to glory

Whanganui Chronicle - - News - Lau­rel Stow­ell

The re-ded­i­ca­tion of a meet­ing house (whare­puni) near Pipiriki was a big mo­ment for Don Robin­son and oth­ers who have spent count­less hours bring­ing new life to a for­mer Whanganui River marae.

On Sun­day, Robin­son and oth­ers held a po¯whiri to wel­come those ar­riv­ing on the Tira Hoe Waka, an an­nual Whanganui Iwi ca­noe jour­ney, to the for­mer kainga di­ag­o­nally op­po­site Pipiriki.

The pad­dlers stayed the night in tents and build­ings, and be­gan a reded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony for the re­stored Koanga Re­hua meet­ing house and its pa¯taka (store­house) at 5am yes­ter­day.

Then, after break­fast, the work­shops be­gan as peo­ple with wha¯nau con­nec­tions to the place spoke about its his­tory, their fore­bears and whaka­papa con­nec­tions. The Rerekura, Maihi and Waet­ford fam­i­lies, and oth­ers, were ex­pected to take the floor.

“We ex­pect peo­ple will stand up and talk for hours,” said Robin­son ear­lier this month.

It will be a first visit by de­scen­dants like Jay and Eru Rerekura to the place of their fore­bears, and the oc­ca­sion will be recorded in film and on video.

Koanga Re­hua wha¯ nau have spent six months pre­par­ing for the visit, and learn­ing wa­iata and karakia of the place. A taonga stolen from the for­mer kainga (vil­lage) may be there for the oc­ca­sion, re­turned by Te Papa. It’s a large obelisk, once the bot­tom of a waka, carved into a me­mo­rial to a fallen chief, which was taken, per­haps by sol­diers, dur­ing bat­tles in the mid 1860s.

Since then it’s been at Pu­tiki, then at Lake Pa­paitonga in the Horowhenua, then at Te Papa Ton­garewa Mu­seum, where it was the cen­tre­piece of an ex­hi­bi­tion of New Zealand trea­sures that went to Ja­pan in 2006.

Vis­i­tors to Koanga Re­hua will find a new kitchen, toi­lets and meet­ing space, a gen­er­a­tor for power and mowed grounds for their tents.

Achiev­ing this has taken many months of work by the de­scen­dants, and help from Auck­land ar­chi­tect Rau Hoskins and his ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dents from Unitec.

Her­itage New Zealand Ma¯ori her­itage ex­perts also helped with the restora­tion, which used tra­di­tional build­ing meth­ods.

The meet­ing house is one of three left in New Zealand that has an earth floor.

Its in­su­la­tion is made from raupo¯ and its in­te­rior has dec­o­ra­tive paint­ings of flora and fauna in a fine arts style.

Robin­son’s great

Ihaka Rerekura, lived grand­fa­ther, at Koanga Re­hua. The peo­ple there would have moved around a lot to gather food — fish from the sea in sum­mer, and kiwi, weka, eels, leaves, roots and berries.

By the late 1800s they had large gar­dens, grew wheat for the flour mill across the river, and traded pro­duce.

But most left in the 1930s, when a road on the east bank of the river be­came the main trans­port route.

Un­til then the area, called Te Poti, was densely set­tled, with four marae close to­gether on the west bank, and at least two oth­ers on the east.

It was an uneasy place in the 1860s, when up­river tribes took on Pai Marire (Hauhau) be­liefs and wanted to throw out the Euro­pean set­tlers creep­ing up­river from Whanganui.

The Bat­tle of Moutoa took place near Ranana in 1864, fol­lowed by fight­ing at Ohoutahi Pa and a 12-day siege of three re­doubts the colo­nial forces had built near Pipiriki in 1865. One of those re­doubts was near Koanga Re­hua and it was in this time that the obelisk grave­marker was taken.

There are no plans for peo­ple to live per­ma­nently at Koanga Re­hua, Robin­son said. But in fu­ture the place may be open to vis­i­tors.

Don Robin­son holds a pho­to­graph of Koanga Re­hua Marae, where his great grand­fa­ther Ihaka Rerekura lived.

Unitec stu­dents add a kitchen and other shel­ters to Koanga Re­hua Marae.

Stu­dents add a kitchen and other shel­ters to Koanga Re­hua Marae.

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