© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2019-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows:

how we remember ‘colonial legacy’ : the Marmaduke George Nixon obelisk, Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu

Nixon obelisk, Great South Rd, Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

‘Photographer Bruce Connew: NZ’s colonial memorials’. Excerpt from Kim Hill Interview with Connew, Saturday Morning, 11.40 am on 19 December 2020

…K.H              Let’s just talk about one of the pictures we have up on our web page. It is part of a gravestone to Marmaduke George Nixon who commanded colonial defence force cavalry. Interesting reference to Nixon in an essay within your book by the historian/curator Dr Rangihīroa Panoho, who says that New Zealand should not try to sanitize this unflattering history. Don’t remove that Ōtāhuhu memorial to Colonel Nixon, for example, how else will we learn? Do you share that view, presumably?

B.C      Yes, I do share that view but it was interesting when I came up with the idea for this project I wanted someone to write an essay. The very first person I thought about was Rangihīroa and contacted him and he agreed. But what I wanted to do, maybe this is the Pākehā boy from Panmure, I wanted to photograph separately [my emphasis]. I didn’t want him to see what I was photographing. I didn’t want him to discuss what I was photographing…

K.H      So his essay is not a commentary on your photos

B.C      Absolutely. So [that was] what I wanted, although at times he has found it a little bit awkward. He has written beautifully. It will make you cry. But…I didn’t want to see it until it was bound in the book. Two things there. One, I didn’t want it to influence me in the way I responded to what I found because I was on a mission to find what was out there and what it might mean. I wanted him to write without me trying to influence him. It had to be completely his. I was determined and I didn’t read it until the book was bound and I was completely blown away. [I] could see that we crossed over in places – Māori/Pākehā – quite different cultures but we brought similar ideas together.

K.H      And it’s a really timely book because we seem to have reached some peak colonisation talk in this last year. People, and this is around the world not only in New Zealand, have this prescient view. To you it feels like this was the continuation of your career.

B.C      It’s the way it worked out. It was the next thing. There was discussion as the [Civil War] monuments started to come down in the US…whether the monuments here should be pulled down or turned away and that is what Rangi is referring to in his text. There are two things out at Ōtāhuhu. There is the 8 metre tall monument. He was a very popular army man at the time. New Zealand loved him. But he was also part of the militia which went out and killed people. There is also a gravestone in front of that monument and that is where that photograph is from – Grafton Gully. He is one of the few who was disinterred and the remains put out at Ōtāhuhu. He was involved in a pretty bad moment in the war.     

This small blog is a belated response to a portion of the above RNZ interview which I just played back. The reference point to the conversation is the section of my essay below and of course to the contentious and ongoing debate as to whether George Marmaduke Nixon’s Monument should be removed from its current Ōtāhuhu location (despite the Auckland Council’s response in 2017). I refer to Nixon directly in my essay and this is picked up on in Kim Hill’s commentary. However, my reasons for wanting these kinds of monuments to stay in position isn’t just the point I make about reminding future New Zealanders about our dodgy colonial past. In the very first paragraph of the 2nd section of the essay I lay out my understanding of whakapapa and the way that history is layered. Yes, I am quoting Orwell but it is really just because he describes it so well. History is a palimpsest. I believe, and I tested this theory to a large degree in my book MAORI ART, that the best kind of palimpsest is the one that shows all its layers – the accretion of the good, the bad and the ugly. That is our mixed up past and to try and hide it away in a museum or a library or in our pronouncements about people’s behaviour is a very poor legacy we leave unresolved for future generations. Kim Hill noted that an Ōtāhuhu resident, who saw herself as educated, felt the monument should be removed. Her reasoning was that we wouldn’t want a statue of Hitler in our midst. Everyone should be allowed to express their opinion but I do wonder whether the Auckland resident considered Germany’s Erinnerungskultur and the Nazi predicament that continues to haunt leaders and common people alike even to this day. See, for example, one commentator’s view of Chancellor Angela Merkles legacy as a leader.

All German post-war chancellors have been committed to a “culture of remembrance” (Erinnerungskultur) that remembers the Holocaust and its victims and accepts the responsibility to transmit knowledge of the crimes to younger generations. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s constant and consistent commitment to furthering a culture of remembrance has stood out.

Grappling with such a serious legacy is still there. Burying a monument, judged by a particular generation to be politically incorrect, in museum storage or perhaps on display or, worse, erasing the public memory of the momument (or possibly destroying it) does not help the public view, interpret or understand why it was once valorised by earlier generations of the same public. Seeing and engaging, rather than imagining, the physical remains of our ‘colonial’ legacy may very well help us better understand it.

Panoho, part of essay for Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’

E KŌRERO ANA KEI ROTO I TE KORE ‘SPEAKING INTO THE VOID’, the 2nd section of an essay written for Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’, Vapour Momenta Press, 2021

There must be a way then to speak into the complex layers of this past where family and tribal members are both loyalist and ‘rebels’ and where leaders serve very different tribal and Crown agendas at the same time. Perhaps an adaption of the British novelist George Orwell’s palimpsest might be useful here. In his historical allegory Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell said, 'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary' Rather than the authoritarian erasure Orwell describes the printer’s palimpsest might prove more utilitarian. Here the past might be thought of as not so much erased but as rendered translucent. Each layer of time builds on the previous and collectively it allows a peering-through process to take place.
                                                 Panoho in Connew 2021: 31 

I n M y G r a n d m o t h e r ‘ s G a r d e n

20 April 2020

Reflective entry regarding the enforced Covid 19 bubble, memory and gathering

Featured image: Rangihīroa, ‘Tōtara North, Ditch‘ 10.51 am, 1 September 2019, captures a stretch of road that once was the life blood of the little kauri timber milling community on the Northwestern side of the Whangaroa Harbour. To the left at the entrance of the road is the hall where pictures used to be projected and cricket was played on grounds that today are being reclaimed by the arterial fingers of the harbour. The road leads up towards an historic graveyard where many of the colonial families are buried (including my mother, my grandparents, my aunties, uncles and Pākehā ancestors) assembled together as they once were in life. Further on is the nineteenth century school which many of these loved ones attended. For 6 months in 1970 I would walk with cousins from the corner where the bus would drop us off. I sometimes had bare feet and I remember the soft soles of my town feet didn’t much like the loose metal road. That was 1970.

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2019-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: 

I remember the hillside you planted in edible green

And hours spent weeding, picking beans

cutting courgettes up there

killing holiday time on the windy ridge

amongst red soil soaking up afternoon sun

drying ocre encrusted feet and

penitent knees

overlooking the Whangaroa

Continue reading “I n M y G r a n d m o t h e r ‘ s G a r d e n”

I Will Need Words

dendroglyph, bamboo at Tā Hori Kerei, Givernor’s Mansion, Motu Kawau, Hauraki Gulf

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows:         

ranghīroa, ‘Melanie Picked big Leaf‘, [student graffiti on native leafs] Manoa Campus, University of Hawai’i, January 1999
‘Stupid x3 Marco’, Dendroglyph, Ngā Mara Hainamana o Kirikiriroa, 2021

He Kōrero Tairitenga

Te Uru, Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, 13 February 2021

rangihīroa, Ātarangi, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai, tata atu ki te Pū o te Wheke





rangihīroa, Northern Wars, 2020, coloured inks on paper, matai me Japanese cherry

rangihīroa, ngā parekura o Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua, Ruapekapeka, 1845/1846
rangihīroa, The Road to Ruapekapeka, 2020
He rua tūpāpaku mō ngā hōia Ingarihi i hinga ki te parekura kei kōnei
St Michaels, urupā, Ōhaeawai, 2021


publicity Maori Art book

Tafanua as a kōtiro, Hunua Room, Aotea Centre, 14 July 2022


Performance and hākari ‘feast’, Hunua Room, Aotea Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau, 14 – 23 July 2022 Directed by Tausani Simei-Papali’i and brought to life by Tala Pasifika Productions and Pacific Women’s dance collective Ura Tabu. Costumes: Shona Tawhio.

I attended the first showing of ‘Tafanua’ last night at the Hunua Room with my wife. The whole performance was deeply refreshing. I would go so far as to say ‘Tafanua’ was a spiritual experience because of the values you could feel being gently pushed at one as an audience. If fa’a ‘the Samoan way’ (i.e. culture) is based on the principles of alofa ‘love’, faaaloalo ‘mutual respect’ feosia’i ‘reciprocity’, fetufaa’i ‘sharing’ and felagolagoma’i ‘mutual support’ then I sensed, without fully being able to explain why, these values or tikanga were present and bubbling. There simply isn’t any other way to describe it and we, Aucklanders, are lucky to be at the epicentre of a creative performance fabric that is being woven before our very eyes on our stages. Go and see this performance, it will move you and you will be confronted with the challenge to interact with these wonderful performers. Go and support the ongoing development of these extraordinary outpourings of creativity and generous sharing of wānanga, Samoan narratives, legacy, tā rātou kupu ‘their stories’. It’s only on for a short 4 nights from tonight. Don’t miss out (14 Jul – 23 Jul 2022). Plan an evening in town, it is 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 20 min interval. Parking is available at the Civic Centre (Entry from Greys Ave) and the venue is the Hunua Room, on level 1, Aotea Centre.

ĀTĀROA, Mahara Gallery, Waikanae

Mark Amery ‘The Dominion’, Wellington 14 August 2021

William Dart, Review, (Editor for Art New Zealand) February 2021
John Hurrell, Review ‘A Vocabulary’ for eyecontact social media site dedicated to critical commentary on NZ visual art

Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary, Vapour Momenta Press


Book signing today with photographer Bruce Connew and writer Rangihīroa Panoho. Connew’s accompanying exhibition of photographs and the artist’s book available at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ. Copies of ‘A Vocabulary’ sold out on the night, these are part of the next batch from the binders.

Who said people aren’t reading or buying books! This one is beautifully made. A gorgeous thing. Typography and exhibition design by Catherine Griffiths. Cloth, case-bound, 604 pages, section sewn, round spine, ribbon


© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission.  Details for writing to the author are as follows:          

written for the opening of Bruce Connew, ‘A Vocabulary’, Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi 12 December 2020

E ngā mate. Ka mahara tātou ki ngā mumu Māori e takoto ana kei raro i ngā parekura o ngā pakanga whenua o mua. Haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te poho o te Atua, haere ki Hawaikinui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao.

rangihīroa, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai

The parekura
sits silent
no noise at all
just the chatter
of a tui
wrecking putiputi
down by the hall
just the wind
across the fertile plains
he swore he heard their
voices around
Ngāi Kuku’s last remains
down by the river
where the fighting pā
once stood
or was it just the twittering of
in the woods
the scale of the loss
disgusted him
it explained why he refused
the spirit path to Rēinga
instead he would choose
to guard over
bones and taonga
and mourn unmentioned loss
hidden from a nearby cenotaph
that counted not the cost
raised to his last battle
near fields where he toiled
he read the text again and again
as if it would reveal
some other truth or meaning
that might possibly transcend
a vocabulary of forgetting
bronze letters that won’t bend
colourful adjectives
murdering rebels, barbarous savages

he struggled with the message
they were a people worth forgetting

Indeed not a word
of his hapū’s bravery
not a mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war no native asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
and this deep gnawing pain
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes they’d hear him yell
Haere mai
E hoa, haul your trig over here, man
Yeah map us brother, draft us on that plan
but the grid only measures trenches
so we’ll always be missed
except by manuhiri
that want to take a piss
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when sun retreats

He pōhutukawa ko tahi

He pōhutukawa, e rua
He pōhutukawa, e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga in the ‘far North’ of Aotearoa. They along with other Muri Whenua iwi, like Ngāti Kuri, consider themselves gatekeepers to Te Rerenga o Wairua ‘the leaping off point of the Spirits’ at the northern extremity of Aotearoa. Many Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific have these leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga ‘guardianship’ at the departure point of ēnei wairua ‘these spirits’ journeying to Hawaiki has created family histories where ghost stories are common. At times the Spirits stop along the way and there are visitations. The narratives told at night of encounters with the spirits are the most frightening and are remembered and passed on with great relish and drama by the skilled storytellers of Muri Whenua.

10 Shades…then , in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’, he mumu Māori, who decides not to take the path to Rēinga and remains with his whānau and the warriors he fought with on a Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua battefield. In the poem one of the greatest struggles the central character has is accepting a memorial inscription raised near the battlefield. History, so the saying goes, is written by the victors. While this may be partly true these are also the days where indigenous voices outside the majority culture may also contest such histories.

He Huinga Kupu Constructing ‘Vocabulary’ for A Nation

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2022. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues

Catherine Griffiths Cover A Vocabulary
Catherine Griffiths, typography, cover ‘A Vocabulary’

He Huinga Kupu ‘A Vocabulary…’

rangihīroa, Mōteatea ‘lament’, A Vocabulary
Bruce Connew, 'Heke's Pā', A Vocabulary, Te Uru
Bruce Connew, ‘Heke’s Pā’, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, Auckland, NZ

Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’. Opening Saturday at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, Tāmaki Makaurau, AUCKLAND, NZ, 12 December 2020 @ 4pm. The book, preview images and text are available through Vapour Momenta Press, 2021

Bruce Connew, Wakefield…’Author of the System of Colonisation‘, from monument, London, in A Vocabulary, 2020

For the last 2 1/2 years I have been working on text for ‘Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary’, However, both the artworks, my exhibition text and the accompanying book are now available and quietly on show prior to the more official opening this coming weekend. Yesterday, I got a chance to have sneak preview with the support staff at Te Uru, the artist, his partner Catherine Griffiths (the book and exhibition designer) and the Director Andrew Clifford. The show looks as good as I had envisaged it from the printed samples and jpegs that the photographer has been feeding me for many months now. It is a handsome catalogue and a fine looking exhibition. For those who live nineteenth century New Zealand history there are the familiar names in unfamiliar contexts. The monumental text from which these images have been extracted ends up strangely re-formulated. I have often wondered what the revolutionary exchange between Braque and Picasso felt like in Paris in 1907/1908 when a new language of Cubism was being invented. There is something unexpectedly exciting in the framing of monument text that is taking place in Connew’s work. Is it historical short-hand, historical pun, uneasy veneration…? A new vocabulary is indeed in formation…

Connew, A Vocabulary
Bruce Connew, Hori Kerei, ‘Sir George Grey’, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020
Bruce Connew, Te Kooti/Titokowaru, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020
Detail, Connew, A Vocabulary
Detail, Connew, ‘A Firm Friend of the Europeans...’, A VocabularyTe Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020/2021
Kenny Willis (Kaiwhakahaere Whakaaturanga me nga Whakaurunga, Te Uru) preparing samples of my text, including excerpts from Mōteatea ‘lament’and the essay ‘Ka Kakati te Namu, Ka ora tonu te kōrero ‘the sandfly nips…the conversation continues’ in the accompanying book, ‘A Vocabulary’

M a C VII: HOW WE BELONG – Te Parawhau and the Mangrove Tree

This post considers the connections between a native tree and a Northland hapū through the naming of one of their community buildings. It explores the importance of the local natural environment and its role in shaping an architectural metaphor.

Ko te hana ‘the radiance’ o te rau manawa ‘mangrove leave’

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2018-2022. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for written enquiry are as follows:  The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

Tangihua te maunga

  Kaipara te moana

 Te Parawhau te hapū

 Tirarau te rangatira

Te Aotahi te kāinga


Te Ihi Kikorangi Toka Panoho, Pāpā outside wānanga at Te Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria, 2016


E ngā pihirau o te manawa raki, e ngā paiaka e whakamarumaru ana kei raro i te ātārangi o te maunga Tangihua. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā koutou katoa.

Kia mahara ki ngā kupu aumihi a tā tātou matua Kōwhai Tito. Kua whakatakototia te rangatira ki te pūtake o te kaupapa ataahua nei, arā ko te wānanga pihirau. Ka tupu te kōrero whakarite no tana mātakitaki o te uru manawa me ngā pihimano hā e tupu ana kei raro i ngā kāpuhipuhi o ngā manawa Kaipara. He rākau kōwhai kākāriki he kōhanga o ngā ika tini, ngā manu maha me ngā ngārara nui. He aha te kaupapa aweawe o te karere nei? Maaku e ki atu, e wha ngā meanui: te mauri o Te Parawhau, te hau o Kaipara, te mahi a te uri whakatipu me te meanui he whakawhānaungatanga hoki. Heoi rā, hei whakaaroaro mā tātou.

Mark Adams, he uru manawa, the beginnings of a mangrove ‘avicennia marina – subsp. australasica’ forest, Waionui Lagoon, Kaipara whanga ‘harbour mouth’, 1995

Mangroves are defined by the presence of trees that mainly occur in the intertidal zone, between land and sea, in the (sub) tropics. The intertidal zone is characterised by highly variable environmental factors, such as temperature, sedimentation and tidal currents. The aerial roots of mangroves partly stabilise this environment and provide a substratum on which many species of plants and animals live. Above the water, the mangrove trees and canopy provide important habitat for a wide range of species. These include birds, insects, mammals and reptiles. The soft substratum in the mangroves forms habitat for various infaunal and epifaunal species, while the space between roots provides shelter and food for motile fauna such as prawns, crabs and fishes. Mangrove litter is transformed into detritus, which partly supports the mangrove food web...Due to the high abundance of food and shelter, and low predation pressure, mangroves form an ideal habitat for a variety of animal species, during part or all of their life cycles. As such, mangroves may function as nursery habitats for (commercially important) crab, prawn and fish species, and support offshore fish populations and fisheries

Aquatic Botany, volume 89:2, August 2008:155


noun: ‘shoot, sprout’

verb: ‘to spring up, to begin to grow.’


(numeral) hundred(s)


rangihīroa, ngā pihi o te manawa ‘pneumatophores’, te repo o Te Atatū, 2018

Names have power. Names have meaning. Names define ngā tangata whenua ‘people of the land’. Names are tapū. Māori employ and bestow ngā ingoa ‘names’ not simply to define or to honour the ancestors and their taonga tuku iho but also to encapsulate the hau ‘essence’ of a place, ngā tūmanakotanga ‘the aspirations’ of its people and to whakamana ‘empower’ an important object or form. Every important building, every waka, every special landscape feature and every precious structure in Māoridom has a name. But who would feel inspired by a sign written name that sits upper case atop this Te Parawhau building – in a small isolated Northland community? In response an anthropologist might well extol the importance of the emic approach, of being a participant in a community and of having access to greater insight into the values and aspirations shared within a group of people. A local might simply talk about tūrangawaewae, tapū and mana whenua.

Mark Adams, Te Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria, 19 January 1995

Attending a tangi at Tirarau mārae in 2017 it was somewhere in the 27 metres that separate the meetinghouse Tirarau and the Pihirau whare kai behind it (see above image) that nomenclature was disclosed in six words. One of my uncles – Te Ihi Tito – called out to me, ‘Hey, you know the story behind the name…’ And out the kupu spilled – like a silver bellied tuna slipping softly out of a supplejack hīnaki.

It was given by Kōwhai Tito. [I remember seeing his portrait with family inside Tirarau. Now the shoots started popping up. One here. One over there. And then another. And the whole wānanga started coming alive].

Mark Adams, Pihirau te whare kai, ko Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria, 13 January 1994. Referenced in chapter entitled Te Hana ‘the radiance’ (MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, Batemans, 2015: 58).

On the surface Pihirau is a half-round barn. Aesthetically it might be read as a rather pragmatic structure. It’s form was popularised by the English in their air force training huts during World War II. In turn it was borrowed widely throughout Northland from the 1960s onwards for farm hay barns and vehicle, implement storage and workshop spaces on rural and sometimes in town industrial areas. Maximising the use of internal space it is a building type whose redefinition in this mārae context has always fascinated me. It is the same old ancestral kaupapa and values that have always informed the landscapes, the architecture and the artforms of the indigenous north.

I actually love PIHIRAU’s beautiful combination of abstract shapes and the bare minimal functionalism of the half round corrugated iron barn with its two enormous upright rectangular doors and the voluminous interior. It does its job. I also was delighted in the 1990s to see prints of Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers lining the interior. I like the McCahonesque rendition of text that sits slightly oversized atop the stark geometry of the half circle. I accept it’s an art historian talking here and the accompanying sensibility places me in the minority as Te Parawhau is currently considering an overhaul of both the design of the meetinghouse and of the whare kai.  Hei aha. Whatever shape or form the final building takes, for me, the important issue is the hau, the ‘essence’ of the building; its name PIHIRAU, its giver, its history and the wider botanical, geographical and anthropological significance of this ingoa tūturu ‘authentic name’ are maintained. It is these areas, and ngā tikanga ‘customary values’ that underpin them, that form the heart of this essay and help define how we, as Te Parawhau and as Māori, belong to the landscape and to the natural environs.

Leading senior Māori artist Cliff Whiting, in his work with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, once remarked he experienced some difficulty convincing his pākehā colleagues in the New Zealand Historic Places Trust that these kinds of ideas emerging out of the aspirations and sensibility of grass roots communities were actually of primary significance.

He once noted fundamental differences in Māori and pākehā perceptions regarding mana ‘prestige and power’ in the buildings and historic sites his organisation was charged with protecting through their identification and conservation. He, and others like Ngāti Porou leader Apirana Mahuika, understood it was not solely or wholly a matter of size, grandeur, or historicity. Instead they rightly highlighted the less tangible legacy of the mana in a name, an individual or in an event as of supreme local value. All of these areas of ancestral importance were understood as enhancing the prestige and the treasured wānanga ‘narrative’ of a particular site.

In its naming the humble wharekai PIHIRAU at Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria fits into this kind of paradigmatic shift that leaders, across the indigenous world, make in their references to landscape, buildings and history.

The true reference in the dining hall name is to the thousands of pneumatophores that push their way up through the mud, intertidal silt and leaf debris of the mangrove forests that line pehu on the Kaipara waterways and its voluminous delta. That image of shoots pop, popping up here and over there is an evocative one. In its wider sense the Te Parawhau kupu pihirau meaning ‘hundreds of shoots’ is a word picture referencing the hundreds of acres of mangrove forest that capture the hau of the Kaipara waterways (one of which sits alongside the PIHIRAU dining hall) and indeed typify inter-tidal areas around the whole Northland takiwa. Hundreds of shoots, hundreds of possibilities.

rangihīroa, pihi rau, manawa pneumatophores, Te Atatū, Waitematā, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2018


...pencil-like roots that stick up out of the dense, wet ground like snorkels. These breathing tubes, called pneumatophores, allow mangroves to cope with daily flooding by the tides. Pneumatophores take...oxygen from the air

As a vigorous coloniser the mangrove has often fared badly in the nineteenth and twentieth century New Zealand psyche regarding perceptions of its usefulness and its central role in estuaries. The manawa is often wrongly cast as a scourge to development and as a troublesome, undesirable plant to both the New Zealand farm and to a real estate industry obsessed with uninhibited coastal views that involve water. Less known and less understood is its enormous botanical wealth, its central role in the seafood chain, its breakwater, storm and earth stabilising properties and its natural beauty and charm. Manawa grow and colonise where the tide take their seed pod. Where the fruit wishes to turn and to drop its roots to settle appears to be an intuitive decision.

Pihirau resonates many other connections with te ao tūroa ‘the natural world’, mahinga kai ‘food gathering areas’ and with te whakareretanga a ngā tupuna – ancestral legacy. Indeed pihirau, in its natural state, cannot be separated from any of these areas. This is why  Kōwhai Tito’s employment of the metaphor is so compelling. The leader’s kōrero whakarite is a richly layered one connecting the numerous oxygenating roots of the manawa with the complex umwelt ‘the environment’ of the mangrove (i.e. an organism’s unique sensory world).

Matua Kowhai’s metaphor concerning the growth and the fertility of the uru manawa has the propensity to say something profound about the fecundity of Te Parawhau but also quite possibly about human identity. Might the central tinana ‘trunk’ of the manawa, for example, be thought of as akin to the central line of the whakapapa with the hundreds of roots that radiate outwards (a number of times beyond the tree canopy) the many tātai that flow and feed back into the rākau?

In the link between mangroves and the haumako ‘fertility’ of ngā mahinga kai the connection with food and abundance is simply extravagant. Uru manawa host the life cycles of many other insects, birds and fish that in turn have historically sustained and provided for Te Parawhau. Mānawa are sea gardens and home to the karatī (baby tāmure), parore, kopīpiro, ngāoheohe, kātaha, mohimohi, kokowhāwhā, kanae raukura, pepe mango and tuna kawari ‘spotted mud whelk’, tuangi ‘cockle’, werewere ‘barnacle’, parore tio ‘oyster’, papaka and the karahu ‘sea snail’. In and amongst their canopy live many birds: the pōpōtai, riroriro, piwakawaka, matuku moana, pīpīwharauroa, matuku-hūrepo, kōtuku ngutupapa, pūkeko and the kawau tūī.

The birds take the locations of their homes very seriously. In the early evening just before the sun would set behind Omokoiti I have observed the kāhu flying back through South Kaipara valleys to their nests out in the Kaipara mangrove forests. Uru manawa are then vibrant symbols of whenua papatupu. By this I am broadly referencing Te Parawhau land and intertidal sites involving food provision, mahinga kai/mahinga ika and places for the cyclical nurturing and the growth of numerous organisms, plant materials (swamp paru hei ngā tae), birds and fish used by tūpuna.

rangihīroa, manawa seedling, Te Atatū, Waitematā, 2018

                       Oyster-studded roots

                 of the mangrove yield no finer feast

                 of silver bellied eels, and sea snails

                       cooked in a rusty can

 Hone Tuwhare,‘Friend’, Small Holes in the Silence, Vintage,2016:44

Haruhiko Sameshima, pehu, Kaipara river, Kaipara ki Tonga, 26 September 1996

The genus and local essence of matua Kōwhai’s image then is botanical. Long misunderstood the Te Tai Tokerau manawa is in fact unique to northern New Zealand (i.e. north of Ohiwa-Tai Rawhiti and Kawhia Tai Hauauru – see earlier Google map) and to the world. Avicennia marina: subspecies – Australasica is the only one native mangrove that grows here and is the southern-most edge of mangrove forestation in the world (a family that includes around 70 species). More importantly, for this essay, the manawa is a feature of Northland’s harbours and estuaries and in particular – the Kaipara. Since 2010 it has been acknowledged as a protected native tree.

It is difficult to get across how special these inter-tidal rākau are, in their forest setting, without physically seeing them from the water. En masse they rise up majestically 4 or 5 metres above the Kaipara waterways and in other harbours further north like Whangaroa they have a very domineering appearance over their surrounds. Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed by these sombre, deep green forests as one quietly passes by them on open water? Ihenga, a Te Arawa ancestor visiting whānau in the North, once complemented his hosts and extolled the value of the roasted para ‘king fern root’ as kai and as the essence of the region. However, when out on the water one cannot avoid seeing the hau manawa, the vitality of a mangrove forest, unimpeded by farmers or by developers and growing freely as they should, as today ‘the essence’ of Kaipara itself. The manawa really does belong to Kaipara and to Te Tai Tokerau.

Mark Adams, mangrove forests banks and mouth, Ōtamatea, lower Northern Wairoa, Kaipara, another aerial image taken 27 October, 1998. According to Northland Regional Council estimates Kaipara, as with four other major Tai Tokerau harbours, has around 1000 hectares of mangrove forest. Manawa perform an essential role in helping filter the harbour system, in retaining and making use of mobile sediment, in stabilising tidal fluctuation and in protecting against, absorbing and nullifying the adverse effects of breakwater, floods, storms and coastal erosion and in providing spawning grounds for important Kaipara species. The scale of the forestation in sites such as the Kaipara Harbour can be seen in Adams image taken from the air. Simply through their sheer ability to survive a rapidly changing deforested and even urban environment demonstrates in itself the way they continue to play a very important role in New Zealand’s coastal and estuarine ecosystems.

Returning to Whiting’s view of taonga the value Māori place on treasured forms relates not simply to what you think you see in the empirical, the scientifically verifiable cosmos in front of you but rather to the entire natural world in which the little things seen immediately are more broadly related. The ‘intangible’ is rarely what a satellite camera, or what a Mark Adams large format analogue camera can pick up. The ‘other’, in relation to a building such as PIHIRAU, is a different world entirely accessed and received through kōrero, ritual, whakapapa, long-term trust and through familial belonging. Let me, though, entertain this tangible area a little longer here to further explore this kaupapa.

Expectations of easy, accessible knowledge are both public and global. The Google Earth search engine promises, for example, ‘to explore the far reaches of the world, right in your browser’. Request ‘Tangiteroria’ (i.e. the location of the Pihirau building) and a globe will spin away from Africa and South America out into the vast blueness of the Pacific ocean and then down to Aotearoa, down, down further still into the North Island and then Northland closer and closer until…It tantalisingly hovers, stuck in the clouds, somewhere over the tiny Tai Tokerau settlement. Here buildings and ground features become a blur. Without paid access, to further cameras and greater detail, there is no more photographic information.

There are however limitations to what Google can offer. Here’s what the net search says. Tangiterōria lies 179 kilometres away from Auckland by road. It involves 2 ½ hours travelling time north of Tāmaki. It is 3.02 pm. It is early July 2018. It is the day after Matariki ‘Māori New Year’. This, appropriately for this discussion, is a time Māori traditionally made plans and envisaged the future. A reading tells the searcher a temperate 13 degrees celsius has been reached. It is mid-winter weather typical of this time of year in Aotearoa. There is further local information regarding broken cloud that can be seen covering, obscuring parts of the region.

Through the patchwork of cloud Google allows a searcher (if one knew what one was looking for!) to roughly sight the Tirarau mārae complex, the river that it sits beside and further structures that sit downstream. One can follow mapped coordinates. A tiny nineteenth century Anglican church is positioned alongside a Te Parawhau urupā. The Pihirau building is a part of this eclectic group. The rough layout is useful. It provides a plan view of the mārae and surrounds documented (i.e. from the ground, by boat on the Kaipara waterways and from the window of a hired plane) in images throughout this essay. From the height of the satellite one can make out the layout of the orange roof of Tirarau meetinghouse with its porch at the front and with its grey lean-to (that holds its paepae of ancestral leaders) at the rear. The pale brown rectangle of Pihirau dining-hall is discernible along with the urupā and small whare Mihinare (lower right) 250 metres downstream on Pukehuia Road running parallel to the meandering brown upper Northern Wairoa River and the fertile oxbow of Piritaha opposite. Speeding towards Dargaville across the bridge (a little further upstream) spanning the upper reaches of the Northern Wairoa River on State Highway 14 (the grey straight road that doglegs upper centre) one might also easily miss Tangiterōria altogether. The place it is that small.

Here is the point in all this detail. One could read this technical, geographical information, provided 244 metres in the air via the satellite camera and not be any clearer regarding the cultural significance of the view. The more comfortable Māori way of dealing with this obfuscation would be to weave this bricolage of ancestral sites into the broader whakapapa and family to which these buildings and wahi tapū properly belong.

This belonging involves the intangible, the invisible, the spiritual, the cosmological, the ancestral and is a constantly referenced co-existent tūrangawaewae ‘place to stand’ in Māori thinking and kōrero. The ‘other’ map that Google doesn’t reference, that I am outlining here, is one frequently referenced by Māori in ngā kōrero whakarite ‘metaphors’ and ngā waitohu ‘symbols’. The primary purpose of applying these philosophical constructs is whakawhanaungatanga or making the taonga belong within its family context. This might be a botanical family, an ancestral family, an architectural family and/or a language family. In the Māori world everything must belong.,174.04734499,14.00976237a,700.76238616d,35y,-0h,0t,0r/data=Cn8aVRJPCiQweDZkMGM3NDFhNDgzZDFhZDk6MHg1MDBlZjYxNDNhMzA4YTAZ-OkuPybpQcAhnpGt023BZUAqFVRhbmdpdGVyb3JpYSBNYXJhZSBOWhgBIAEiJgokCcslw2wcCz9AEc0lw2wcCz_AGdiygG1Rm0NAIZK1T3meZlLA

Google maps, 2019 (above link ): Tangiterōria  showing Tirarau mārae (est. 1958 and at lower centre of image)  from a satellite camera 715 metres above. The wider context of the maps include nearby State Highway 14 crossing the upper northern Wairoa at Tangiterōria half-way between Dargaville and Whāngārei . The Te Parawhau leader Te Tirarau’s pā (established 1838) sat on the edge of the oxbow of the nearby river which carries the same name Te Aotahi.

In terms of people belonging to their landscape the manawa helps one belong. It takes the map somewhere else. Further, the central role of maharatanga ‘memory’ and whānau networks, as they pertain to ancestors renders Tangiterōria, perhaps surprisingly for some, a richly layered site through a broader web of interconnections with other rivers, tūpuna, taniwha and terrain.

Long before satellite cameras were sent into orbit or even cameras from balloons were first employed for military reconnaissance during the Napoleonic era (Franco-Austrian war 1794) our tūpuna conceptualised the land from the air. Te Parawhau, and speakers from many other northern rohe, have traditions of orators skilfully employing the aerial view – what I will describe as the vantage point of the manu karere ‘messenger bird’. This keen awareness of geographical context, the conceptual layout of the land goes well beyond early Māori excursions into cartography (i.e. see Tuki – Ngāti Ruamahue, Wainui, Whangaroa – map of Aotearoa drawn for the Governor of New South Wales in 1793) and back to our proto Polynesian ancestors and their discovery of land in the Pacific. Ngāpuhi regularly use the Te Tai Tokerau region to spatialise te whare o Ngāpuhi composed of key iconic mountains that encircle the rohe.

The Māori map, as with all Polynesian spatialising of the Pacific, esteems broader family connections. These are relationships and networks, not cartographical in nature, that avoid the isolation and the weakness of singular components. It is the Polynesian hero Māui who is celebrated in Aotearoa as using the magical jawbone matau of Muri-ranga-whenua to fish up the North Island of Aotearoa from his vessel – te waka a Māui ‘the South Island’.  Many of the landscape features of the North Island, as with many islands throughout the South Pacific, are read as the distinctive body (i.e. mouth, tail, spine, fins and so on) of a living form that relates back to those who originally discovered the lands. In the case of Aotearoa it is an ika ‘fish’ or te hutinga-a-Māui that is referenced in a number of our origin stories. Māui is not just a mythical hero, Māui is made to belong. He is both an ancestor and he claims the land – that is ancestral.

As part of his evidence, presented by Te Parawhau at a Waitangi Tribunal sitting, matua Te Ihi Tito employed this kaupapa in his whaikōrero. Sometimes matua is the manu karere ‘messenger bird’ that soars above his vantage point to swoop down over parts of the tribal region he wishes to pick out. During the tribunal kōrero he is also (i.e. in terms of shared whakapapa) the water that starts from within the mists that starts to rise from our shared cosmology (i.e. te wehenga o Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku) and the rain that falls as the tears from the skyfather. Empathising with the mamae of Tane’s forcing the primal parents apart matua moves on to the water that wells up from within Papa and our local matapuna, that collects in our watersheds and that courses through the network of waterways that broadly and more deeply establish our kotahitanga ‘unity’ throughout our Te Tai Tokerau rohe.

At various points in his gathering of these waters matua refers to links between Te Parawhau, Te Uriroroi and, in the wider tribal sense, to te whare o Ngāpuhi. The land is a tinana with arteries pushing around the blood that connects its tāngata whenua. These estuarine lands, historically not quite land not quite water, are lungs inhaling and exhaling; tai pari, tai timu. They, the pukapuka ‘lungs’, are named. They are the vast marshlands of Hikurangi and the tide of Rahiri, our northern eponymous ancestor. The mention of the latter ancestor hints at tapū sites like the impregnable pā of Whīria connected with both the eponymous tupuna but also with occupation as far back as our proto Polynesian ancestor Kupe.

rangihīroa, wānanga run by Ngāti Hau o Mangakāhia, atop Whīria, Pākanae overlooking whanga Hokianga 2015

Mark Adams, looking across the Papakanui Spit, Kaipara ki Tonga and Te Moana tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki towards Pouto, North Kaipara Head

Mentioning the wider highways of water also alludes to the passage of ngā tūpuna between northern affiliations like Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Ngiro and Ngāti Ruangaio and back to the inner reaches of the Hokianga, to Ngāti Hau of Ōmanaia. This is a landscape alive, bursting with lifegiving properties, with mana, with hau and with mauri. It speaks with the language of memory; te maumaharatanga o te waiheke and of tātai ‘plans and ancestral lines’, of whānau and of begetting.

There is a fluid movement between the spiritual and the physical landscape (i.e. Google map). There is here a mahere pae tukutuku ‘site map’ brimming with taniwha and portents that inhabit waterways. Listening to the kai kōrero the listener sees what these beings see. The listener sees the portent of Rangiriri – the frightening black tōtara log that punches against the violent tidal shifts and undertows of tidal Northern Wairoa. The taniwha on whose branch a kawau ‘shag’ quietly sits. The listener experiences the mountains the log quietly passes, and nearer the graveyard at the meetingplace of Kaipara’s five rivers the listener hears the awe-inspiring rumble of Te Moana tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki.

Mark Adams, View from Ngitu Pā over Papakanui Spit, looking towards Te Moana tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki, whanga Kaipara, 21 September 1996. This lagoon below is associated with the taniwha Pokopoko.

In this taiāwhiotanga o ngā whenua ‘encircling of the land’ recounted in Te Ihi’s wānanga one witnesses all these geographical components operating as part of the breathing pneumatophores of matua Kōwhai Tito’s manawa. The waterways and the ancestral pathways are the oxygen that provides sustenance for the central growth of the tinana ‘the body’ of the manawa. What else does one need to breathe and to belong?

Ka moe a Mangakāhia, ka moe i te Wairua, ka puta ki waho ko te Wairoa me tona mana a Hoeroa, ko Pokopoko, Kahukura ngā taniwha ā ko Rangiriri te rākau whakangautai...Ka rere te tai tapu ki Waihīhī kei raro ngā maunga Whatitiri, Tangihua, Tūtamoe, Tokatoka, Maungaraho, Maunganui, me o rātou whakataukī e...                  

Te Ihi Tito, kaumatua, Te Parawhau


Hamish McDonald, logo design for PIHIRAU Productions company, 2008

M a C VI : R E A D I N G the S I G N S – the uneasy confluence of past and present in historic Kerikeri


© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2022. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows:       

r@ngihīroa, our rivers are dying, signage, 2018

The hinterland clearly signals ones arrival in Kerikeri. Miles and miles of citrus orchards set on heavily watered volcanic soils offer signs as to the nearness of the town. Apart from grand frontage driveways these deeply set māra sit mysteriously behind their enormous hedges of tall bamboo, Australian gum and native evergreen. This is a place whose very name suggests fertility, verdant gardens and the abundance of pure water. ‘Dig, dig’ might be one colloquial translation.

As a child travelling on Northland’s railway buses (towards Whangaroa and Muriwhenua or south back to Whāngārei and then east to Dargaville) inevitably meant briefly stopping in most northern towns along the way. There was always something magical about the steep drive down to this inlet. If you sat left window-side you might catch the first glimpse of the white timber weatherboards of the colonial mission set back behind the huge patchwork of stone comprising historic Kemp store. Intuitively, even as a child travelling with family, one knew one was moving through a special, perhaps even sacred, space.

Today the town area and surrounds of Kerikeri have been transformed. It has become the wealthy retirement capital of the north. It possesses a vastly expanded range of commercial ventures and shops, residential houses, retirement complexes and a booming real estate industry. As with other regional centres in New Zealand this blossoming has also brought with it ongoing stresses on its land and the viability of its one major local waterway that runs into the Bay of Islands. Aside from these environmental stresses Kerikeri, in its waterside historic quarter, possesses a whakapapa that feels tangible, compelling and immediately available. But is it? Many important early colonial Māori sites around Aotearoa require reconstructions, carefully rehearsed narratives and powerful imaginations on the part of the viewer/visitor to make sense of earthworks, remnants or archaeological ruins…

r@ngihīroa, Kemp store (left edge), Mission House background, Kerikeri, 11 March 2018

Historic Kerikeri seems to wear its history on its sleeve. The sheer volume and permanency of its Georgian style stone store (1832) and the extant condition of the mission building (1822) sitting alongside it is compelling. It makes one feel history is in the air. The buildings seem to speak for themselves. To me they appear statements about the strange new missionary culture that arrived further south on Christmas Day 1814 on the beach of Ruatara’s Rangihoua. For a moment of time this place was a key site bringing dramatic changes to all tribal rohe throughout the country. Kerikeri was the canary in the coalmine of its time.

r@ngihīroa, Kemp store,  Kerikeri, 11 March 2018

The buildings speak about the permanency of the colonial vision and a determination to protect and maintain a very different aesthetic and cultural sensibility. I would however, maintain that the real historical power of the Kerikeri site is present in the fortified coastal pā Hongi Hika had set up across the inlet at Kororipo. Is it significant the bridge connecting the historic Māori dimension of the inlet has been removed? Looking across the inlet one sees the back of a sign and a dead end street adjacent Kororipo pā. To make any sense of what that whakapapa might mean a visitor would have double back around Kerikeri and visit an archaeological reconstruction and the usual heritage information.

Meanwhile on the mission side of the ford reminders are vivid. On a recent visit inside the stone store a portly middle aged woman wearing 1830s English garb (i.e. funny hat and apron) rang a bell. In her distinctly English accent she announced to all potential customers a mission tour was about to start, ‘…tickets can be purchased for $10 at the counter’. Avoiding the coercion I  promptly escaped outside to a truncated wharf overlooking the inlet. Here more information, more signage, clarified what the historical English presence on this side of the ford meant. You really can’t get away from it. The various contributors to Binney’s edited work ‘Te Kerikeri 1770–1850 The Meeting Pool‘ claim Kerikeri constitutes a merging of the two cultures. I usually warm to the use of these kinds of metaphors and their potential for suggesting middle ground. However, bearing in mind all one really can experience today at the Kerikeri inlet (south), indeed in the township itself, is largely mono-cultural visible and tangible confluence must surely be strictly historical. Reading or listening to the history on offer simply reinforces this position. Take the sign at the wharf and its account of rangatiratanga and mission activity:

The Kerikeri Inlet later became the key launch site for Ngāpuhi waka tauā...Campaigns that set forth from here had dramatic ripple effects on iwi boundaries throughout the North and South Islands...Kerikeri became home to a community of god-fearing families from the British-based Church Missionary Society. Iwi competed with each other for the trade opportunities that both whalers and missionaries brought and politics in the Bay of Islands could be complex and difficult. It was 1819 when Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika strategically secured the CMS’s second New Zealand mission station on his land right here.

r@ngihīroa, wharf looking towards Kerikeri river ford and Kororipo pā area upper far right, 11 March 2018

Right here, as in right here. Behind the sign the view extends across the inlet. I have always found it an inspiring and picturesque panorama with the flicker of light across the little waterfall, the ford, to the far left where the Kerikeri river empties into the waterway connecting the site downstream with other parts of the Pēwhairangi coastline. Something though is not quite right about the pristine and romantic view of the past. Something is not right about the presentation of this past and its relationship with the present. Were one to pursue the water metaphor Binney once employed about the Kerikeri basin one might conclude, here at least in a conceptual sense, only one stream is flowing. Not much confluence is now taking place in this inlet.

In contemporary Kerikeri, with its abundant shopping, its booming real estate, its expanded commercial and community enterprises and its pākehā retirement homes, one feels an urgent need to locate another flow. The musical term counterpoint might seem appropriate. I have been reading the useful collection of essays, ‘Voyages and Beaches: Pacific Encounters, 1769-1840’. That publication portrays colonial Aotearoa in its broader Pacific history as messy, layered and not at all harmoniously blended. Referencing an alternative point of view, as a student, I remember Binney provocatively using the phrase mōkai ‘pet’ to describe the early nineteenth century Māori position on missionaries and traders. She described them as assets useful to ambitions of hapū.

In the Kerikeri signage I have quoted the Māori presence might easily be misinterpreted as simply aiding the colonial project (i.e. see wording regarding CMS Kerikeri – and strategically secured land – 1819). Little mention is made of the actual purpose of the powerful leader Hongi Hika securing land at Kerikeri through war from Ngāti Miru and Wahineti. No suggestion is given of the subservient role missionaries actually performed. The very lives and livelihood of the CMS families relied entirely on the beneficence and on the protection of powerful Māori patrons. In such public offerings one is not likely to find details such as Hongi Hika commandeering the Kerikeri Mission blacksmith to cast musket balls for his tauā and their war expeditions south. Nor will one find reference to the role of later disgraced CMS missionary Thomas Kendell in purchasing for and trading muskets with Māori. These kinds of conflicting narratives bring much more balance, ambivalence and interest to the reading of New Zealand history and key sites like Kerikeri. Locally such wānanga also bring greater spatial reality to the mission station behind the wharf sign and the imaginary early nineteenth century flotilla in front. One might better envisage the trade that had already taken place between Hongi and Kendell prior to the former assembling his well-armed warriors en-masse adjacent where the wharf now stands.

Māori historian Pat Hohepa in his Voyages and Beaches… essay, ‘My Musket, My Missionary, and My Mana’ writes the following:

Ruatara [at the Rangihoua Mission] and Hongi Hika [at the Kerikeri Mission] began the battle to attract and hold missionaries, thinking they would have the kind of political power their own tohunga had...Missionaries had their own opinions of their worth. But later, Ngāpuhi realised that missionaries - apart from [Thomas] Kendell for a short while – had less mana for them than local traders. The traders lived with and among Maori, absorbed into their culture and mores as pākehā Māori, and sided with them in their hapū skirmishes. The missionaries with their wives lived in a mission with other missionaries, usually separated from Māori community control, with ghettoism a real danger.

My thoughts go back again to the earlier Kerikeri inlet image where one looks across to cut-off Kororipo pā largely separate today from the better known mission centre. There are serious spatial problems, in the middle ground, with the central waterway (i.e. minus the linking bridge) now separating the two sites. There are also problems with the environment in which these important historical sites are located. The Kerikeri river’s matapuna, its headwater, begins in a more pristine condition within Pukeiti ngahere horomata, north-east towards Kaeo around 20 kilometres inland. By the time it reaches the Taumarere inlet enormous changes have taken place in its health. It has moved through heavily planted lands with over fertilised soils and intensive residential and commercial runoff. The Kerikeri inlet sign (below) at the end of that journey vividly describes the effects of this treatment of the taonga and the current condition of its confluence on arrival in the basin. Bright red and fluorescent yellow and sponsored by the Far North District Council and Northland District Health Board the placard advises:


  This water is polluted   /  Tēnei wai e mōrikarika ana i te tutae
  No swimming              /  Kaua e kaukau i tēnei wahi
  No Shellfish collection  / Kaua e kokohi mātaitai, kaimoana rānei

r@ngihīroa, wharf sign looking out across Kerikeri river basin, 11 March 2018

The English version says the inlet is polluted. The Māori translation specifies why it is polluted. ‘Tutae’ refers to excrement or ‘shit’ without the same vulgar sensibility it has in English. The title also infers the nature of the health risk in te reo. ‘Hauora’ has a number of affiliated meanings: hauora tinana ‘physical health’ and hauora wairua ‘spiritual health’ are two important dimensions. It is normal for Māori to see the two as symbiotic. What we as New Zealanders do to the land or waterways affects both our physical and our spiritual health. I would also add another dimension to this balance (perhaps more properly – imbalance). What we do to the telling of our histories also affects our hauora as a nation.

Considering the invisibility of a Māori presence in such an obviously Māori site do similar considerations need to be flagged (i.e. as they are in the Health Warning)? Does there need to be signage alerting the viewer as to the pollution and alteration of indigenous histories being emptied out in our public spaces?

Kerikeri inlet is only one of numerous polluted historic waterways throughout Aotearoa. However, is physical health the only measurement of our nation’s degraded waterways? Is it possible our histories sometimes suffer from a lack of clear balance and a lack of cultural and archaeological complexity appropriately acknowledging the importance and vitality of the indigenous component? My ten minutes are up. I can hear the mission bell ringing. Another guided tour is about to begin.