Home' Greymouth Star : November 22nd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 7
t is a depressingly familiar story.
In 1859 Poutini Ngai Tahu
entered into negotiations with
the Crown for the purchase of Te
Tai Poutini (West Coast).
The Arahura Deed of Purchase
was signed in 1860 between the leading
Poutini chiefs and the Crown agent James
Mackay at Mawhera Pa on the south side
of the Mawhera (Grey River).
Historian Harry Evison records how
Poutini Ngai Tahu wanted to keep about
375,000 acres between the Mawhera
(Grey) and Hokitika rivers but instead had
to settle with 58 native reser ves totalling
10,224 acres, including a 2000 acre reser ve
In the 1860s part of the Arahura Maori
Reser ve was taken for rail and roading
purposes, which is now State highway 6
and the West Coast rail corridor, severing
the Arahura Pa from its urupa.
As people poured on to the coast, seduced
by the West Coast gold rushes of the 1850s
and 1860s, land at Mawhera became
more valuable. It sparked the Mawhera
leases which would eventually become
As Greymouth grew, the people of
Mawhera began to move down the coast
to Arahura to live with the families who
were already there. O ver the next 140 years,
those living at Arahura would congregate
in a variety of buildings, from a church to a
hall to a school and then a whare wananga.
The opening of the striking new marae
realises a long-held dream, says former
runanga chairman Ned Tauwhare.
“It ’s fantastic. It’s just a shame that a lot
of the old people who passed on recently
and I’m talking the last 15 or 20 years, they
didn’t get to see the result of that moemoea
In 2006, Ngati Waewae was gifted
the land for the marae on the terrace
overlooking the Arahura River by the Riki
Te Mairaki Ellison Taiaroa Trust.
The project received a major boost in
December 2009, when Lotteries granted
$900,000. Construction of stage one —
office, ablutions and kitchen — started in
Runanga chairman Francois Tumahai
was operations manager and chief
“I knocked on corporate doors, went
to Lotteries, the Ngai Tahu Fund, Solid
Energy, Meridian — it was 18 months of
knocking on doors and doing presentations
to anybody and everybody. The sad thing
is that they said they ’d heard it all before
because the project had been promised for
a long time but hadn’t got off the ground. ”
The striking black whare tipuna was
designed by MAP Architects who were
also responsible for Maahunui II at
Tuahiwi. Its car vings have been super vised
by Ngai Tahu car ver Fayne Robinson.
“Some people weren’t too sure about the
black,” says Francois, “ but once it went up
they changed their minds. It ’s stunning.”
The original Arahura settlement by
the river mouth moved to its current
location on the State highway to escape
the regular flooding that was occurring at
the rivermouth. One of the first communal
buildings established at Arahura was the St
Paul’s Maori Anglican Church, which was
opened on St Andrews Day, November 30,
When the Reverend George Mutu visited
Arahura in 1873, he reported that “there is
a church that the natives are greatly proud
of, capable of holding about 60 people, well
built and arranged, and kept in scrupulous
The famous Tairea Runanga Hall was
located near the present site of the Arahura
Whare Wananga. The hall was opened in
1897, an occasion that the local newspaper
promised to be “one of the most unique and
interesting entertainments ever witnessed
in Westland”. The opening included
raising of the flag named Tama followed
by speeches, a hakari and haka. Tairea
Hall was used for a variety of purposes,
including tangi, concerts, and fancy dress
balls before falling into disrepair in the
early 20th century. It was eventually pulled
Following a major flood in 1903, St
Paul’s Church was moved from its original
location near the river mouth to the main
Greymouth-Hokitika highway, in line
with the gradual movement of the Arahura
settlement. The church was destroyed by
a whirlwind in 1976, but until then had
been a focal point for the community, says
Horiana Tootell (nee Mason).
“The whole community used our church
the Pakeha community up the valley,
our neighbours — they all used St Paul’s.”
Jimmy Russell has similar memories. “St
Paul’s was an Anglican church but other
denominations used it. We had church
ser vice every Sunday and in the afternoons
we had Sunday School. All our Pakeha
friends from the Arahura Valley used to
come to the church.”
The memories of those kaumatua
inter viewed for this story go back as far as
the 1930s and 1940s, after the demise of
Tairea Hall, and all have fond memories of
growing up at Arahura.
Georgina Hilda Mason, affectionately
known as Taua Tilly, is the last sibling alive
out of 18 brothers and sisters.
“Arahura was a living pa, my father had a
farm. There were lots of fruit trees, plums
next door, all sorts of fruit. There was no
gorse growing in the pa. No broom. The pa
was that beautiful. I can remember those
market gardens, turnips and carrots, and all
the pa kids swimming in the river.”
Ina Elizabeth Panapa-Pu, known locally
as Nan Pu, was born at Arahura and
warmly talks about life at the pa.
“ We had to go to church every Sunday.
The hall was before our time. We would
have church in the morning and then in
the afternoons we used to have kapa haka
at somebody’s place, and that was one of
the things we used to do to raise money for
the war effort.”
Violet Bradley, nee Russell, who was born
at her grandmother’s house in Arahura in
1933, recalls everyone attending church
ser vices on Sunday. “Once we heard the
bell ring, look out if we weren’t at church.
Sometimes you wouldn’t have time to get
changed but you just go ...
“A lot of our relations would come on
the train from over the hill for major tangi.
They would arrive at the station and there
would be karanga and all that important
stuff. I can still see it.”
In 1971, centennial celebrations were
held for St Paul’s Church. “It was a major
event for the church community and our
pa. I can remember Canon Rangiihu came
and assisted the Bishop of Christchurch.
He came and stayed with my mother. At
the time I was hapa. My mother asked
him, did he have a name. He said he would
think about it and went to bed. When he
came out in the morning, he said he had a
name. He called my baby Rautahi,” recalls
Most of the children from the pa attended
the nearby Kaihinu School. They caught
the train in the morning, and then had to
walk home in the afternoon along the road
or the railway track. Following concern
from parents about the dangers of the long
walk home, the Arahura MaoricSchool
was opened in the pa in 1955.
Although Horiana was living at Hokitika
during this time, her parents sent her to
the Arahura Maori School.
“Aunty Mary Mason composed the
waiata for the powhiri and we practised,
the boys put together a haka and it was
“ It was a major happening. It was just
huge to have a new school.”
The school was to literally become
the hub for the community, says Ned
Tauwhare, until it was closed in 1965 due
to a declining roll.
Once the school closed most meetings
were held in people’s homes or in the
Greyhound Hotel which had a big lounge
which was not part of the bar, so people
used to meet there, says Jimmy Russell.
In 1989 the whare wananga was built by
the government-funded Maccess scheme.
The opening later that year was notable for
the attendance of the Maori Queen, Dame
Te Atairangikaahu, who happened to be
on the West Coast at the time attending a
Tauwhare family reunion at Arahura.
A few years later an extension was added
on to the whare wananga, built by Jock
“ When the whare wananga was built, it
gave a place for us to meet and has ser ved
as a marae until now,” Rauhine says.
When Ngati Waewae Runanga officially opened
its new whare tipuna yesterday on the terrace
overlooking the Arahura River and the ocean, it
realised a long-held dream. MARK REVINGTON
from Ngai Tahu’s Te Karaka magazine reports.
PICTURE: Alexander Turnbull Library care of Te Karaka
The Tairea Hall in the early 1900s.
PICTURE: John Wilson collection care of Te
The Anglican church at Arahura
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