Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 2 (Spring 1952)
– 3 –

Picture icon

Watching the dedication ceremony, Tikitiki.

Maori World Shows Gloom
at Loss of Sir Apirana

The most important event in the Maori world during the last quarter was undoubtedly the gathering at Tikitiki and Waiomatatini on July 13, commemorating the death of Sir Apirana Ngata. Although a few interesting plans and aims for the future were discussed at this hui, it was mainly an occasion for memories.

Many of those present had worked with Sir Apirana on projects often bringing spectacular changes in the lives of Maori communities. Others had known him only from a distance, but all had personally experienced his leadership and his spirit. None of these visitors could see Puputa or Pukemaire Hills without being the more vividly reminded of the greatness of Apirana's leadership.

On Saturday, July 12, visitors from all tribes arrived at a large number of East Coast pas, stretching from Waiomatatini and Ruatoria as far as Te Araroa. That night was spent in listening to speeches in the meeting houses, and dancing in the adjoining halls for the younger generation. At Tikitiki there was great activity behind the scenes; there was a meal for some 3000 people to be prepared, and all through the night one could see smoke rising and people working around the hangis.

On Sunday morning the weather was perfect. At nine in the morning large crowds started to arrive at the Tapatahi pa, overlooking Tikitiki. Soon the marae was filled to capacity with cars, buses and trucks, and the vehicles began to be parked up the road rising towards Pukemaire. The official party arrived a little after ten, with the Prime Minister (the

– 4 –

Rt. Hon. S. G. Holland), the Hon. E. B. Corbett and Mr. H. Dudfield, M.P., and the Leader of the Opposition (the Rt. Hon. W. Nash), accompanied by the Hon. C. F. Skinner, the Hon. E. T. Tirikatene and Mr T. Omana, M.P. By this time there were between 2000 and 3000 people on the marae.

The welcome hakas were performed by schoolchildren from the Ruatoria and Tikitiki Schools, and followed with a spirited haka led by Pine Taiapa, and composed by the late Sir Apirana Ngata in honour of Lord Bledisloe for the great hui at Waitangi in 1934.

Of particular interest, this fine haka, besides recalling one of the great moments in the life of Sir Apirana, was intended as a handsome compliment to the Prime Minister, who was the chief guest of the hui. The welcome speeches for the Ngati-Porou were recited by Hamana Mahuika, Arnold Reedy and Pahau Milner (deputising for Hone Ngata, who was in ill health). Turi Carroll spoke for Ngati-Kuhungunu and Rei Vercoe for Te Arawa. Mr T. Omana, M.P., and Mr H. Dudfield, M.P., also delivered speeches.

Picture icon

The Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. S. G. Holland, handing over the Ahuwhenua trophy to Mr Kopua Waihi, the winner for 1951. Mr Waihi was awarded the prize for breaking in difficult country and making an efficient dairy farm of it, which is now entirely free of debt. Production from the farm is going ahead every year. Apart from dairy cows, sheep are kept and an orchard is maturing.

Most of these speakers had been closely associated with the late Sir Apirana. They had seen him champion his ideas among his own people in the early days, when they were still far from generally accepted. They had seen the farms and meeting-houses spring up around them on the East Coast, and they had witnessed the revival of arts, crafts and traditional knowledge. Later, they had seen other Maori tribes follow the lead, and found themselves in the forefront of a powerful national movement.

First of the guest speakers was the Hon. E. T. Tirikatene, who paid a tribute to the late leader in the name of the South Island Maoris. He was followed by the Rt. Hon. W. Nash. Mr Nash caught the feeling of the gathering well when he recalled a saying frequently used by the late Bishop Bennett: ‘Put the shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ Knowing that Tapatahi was the very marae on which Sir Apirana Ngata had expounded his greatest projects, he felt that this, to the Maori people, was indeed holy ground.

Rich in memories the ground certainly was; everyone's thoughts were drawn back to the past. Strength could be drawn from this, as the Hon. E. B. Corbett said in his speech: ‘Time is well spent in casting back the mind upon those men who have shown their people the way, and held singular places in their community and the life of the nation.’ But then Mr Corbett also said: ‘Sir Apirana Ngata was the greatest of all Maoris. We shall never see his like again.’ This was undoubtedly the dominant thought at the hui. Many of the speakers said: ‘There will never be a hui like this again. This is the last great hui on the East Coast.’


This was an expression of grief, natural enough at the time. Did it go further? Is this really the present mood of the East Coast? To the visitors it appeared to be partly so. The gloom that still lies over Ngati-Porou, two years after Apirana's death, appeared as a very painful and powerful unspoken tribute to his memory.

The Prime Minister noticed this feeling, too, when he commented on the saying that ‘this was to be the last great hui’, and declared: ‘These gatherings are the Parliament of the Maori people. It would be a great pity if they did not continue. Sir Apirana would wish them to continue. Gatherings like this should continue to be held from time to time, to discuss the affairs of the Maori people.’ He continued: ‘We think of the example Sir Apirana gave of adventurous leadership, and must hope that those who take up his work will not fail in inspiration. We know that his work will live, and we believe that his example will not be forgotten by the young men who must come forward and dedicate themselves—as he did in his youth—to the service of their people.’

After the speeches the official party and some of the prominent people present climbed the little knoll known as Te Patoiti, where the beautifully carved St. Mary's Church stands. It

– 5 –

Picture icon

Unveiling of the memorial.

is a memorial to the men who fought in the First World War, and was opened in 1926. The planner, naturally, was Apirana Ngata. The front of this church is turned away from the Waiapu River, probably because the steepness of the hill makes access to the side facing the river more difficult. Yet the finest view over the whole of the historic valley is from that lower side of the church. The memorial to Sir Apirana has been built on this side, overlooking the river and directly facing his native Waiomatatini. It has a strategic position that was also recognised in bygone ages. The Hauhaus were entrenched on this spot, and were defeated here by Apirana's ancestor, Major Ropata.

The memorial is a simple stone obelisk, on which words are engraved which have the following meaning in English:

This stone was erected by the people in memory of SIR APIRANA NOHOPARI TURUPA NGATA, born on the third of July, 1874, deceased on the 14th of July, 1950. It testifies to the love that was felt for the vine that bound the churches and the tribes of the Maori people together, the pillar on whom Maoridom rested, the guiding star of the people.


Elder, Farewell.
Father of the Maori Battalions of the two wars,
Go to your ancestors who rest in the world of darkness,
Leave pain and gloom behind you.

A torch of wisdom is chiselled on the stone, and forms the main decoration. Apirana became a leader through his wisdom and learning. He was looked up to for his knowledge, in both Maori and Pakeha fields. So, from its strategic position, this torch of wisdom now overlooks the Waiapu Valley.

Only a chosen few could climb the knoll, Te Patoiti, and have a close view of the dedication service of the memorial. The others stood below, across the road, on the paddock in front of the marae entrance. They watched the splendid robes, the solemn chanting and praying, the delivering of the speeches, the singing of the hymns. They were fascinated by the moving ceremony on the hill, which they could partly follow.

Bishop Panapa conducted the service, and made a short speech, mainly about those possessions in New Zealand which belong to the Maori race, and the Maori race alone. He spoke especially of the Maori language. Then the Very Rev. J. G. Laughton read a lesson from the new Maori Bible.

Sir Apirana had led the committee that made this translation; it had been his last great work of scholarship. This dedication ceremony was the first service at which the new Maori Bible was read.

At the end of the service the group by the church sang the hymn that used to be Sir Apirana's favourite:

E te Atua, kua ruia nei o purapura pai.’
O God thou hast sown thy good seed

The sound floated down to the spectators below. The Prime Minister removed the precious cloaks from the obelisk. The party near

– 6 –

the memorial then dispersed. Some stayed by the obelisk, sobbing.

During this meeting at Tikitiki there was little time for the discussion of current problems. These remained in the background, although a few questions, not of fundamental importance, were brought forward.

One request made to the government was for a Maori contingent to go to the Coronation next year. The Prime Minister appeared favourably disposed to this.

Another request was for the sale of Hereheretau station by the Crown to Maori trustees, to administer it for veterans of the First World War. There was some talk during the hui of using the proceeds from the farm, not for direct distribution to the many veterans, but for an ‘Apirana Scholarship Fund,’ to enable Maori students to follow university and post-graduate courses, and also to study overseas. No decision was reached, but the government seemed prepared to consider selling Hereheretau.

Picture icon

Religious service at Waiomatatini.

After the meal at Tikitiki a long procession of buses, cars and trucks started on the dusty, winding road to Waiomatatini.

This remote place used to be Apirana's home and retreat. Here is the famous ‘Bungalow’ where Apirana, in his richly carved and decorated study, so often—with many friends, in long discussions—thought out his plans and found solution for grave problems. People have a special reverence for the name Waiomatatini. That reverence becomes stronger as they approach the meeting-house Porourangi. Puputa rises directly behind it, a steep hill richly covered in untouched bush. Puputa is just as it was some generations ago; it belongs to the Maori world of old. Apirana is buried here. Porourangi impresses by its power, and by its beauty delights those who come closer.

At Waiomatatini little happened that can be adequately described in a magazine. Some 1500 people arrived from all over the island, including all the special friends and the closer associates of the leader. The ceremony was simple and quiet. The Very Rev. J. G. Laughton gave a long address, in Maori, describing Apirana's life. This address will long be remembered. Hymns were sung by the people, led by a group of clerics, standing in front of the meeting-house. The gravestone was dedicated. In small groups the people slowly climbed to Puputa's top, and paid their respects at the graveside. Groups continued to go up and down until darkness fell, and a meal was served with charming hospitality.

Many of the Parliamentary party stayed at Waiomatatini until late in the evening, among them Mr Corbett and Mr Nash. Those of the people who did not have necessary business to attend to stayed all through the night, listening to many excellent speeches in Apirana's memory.