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No. 5 (Spring 1953)
– 39 –

CARVED MEETING HOUSE FOR WAIWHETU

Early last century, a large group of people from Te Atiawa, North Taranaki, left their homes and migrated south to occupy some of the lands which were unoccupied as a result of Te Rauparaha's conquests in the Wellington and Horowhenua districts. Some of the Te Atiawa people settled at Waikanae and Plimmerton. Others occupied the Hutt Valley, which was then deserted as was the area around the whole of Wellington harbour, even though it had been settled for about four centuries previously.

The original tribe of the district was the Ngai Tara, the descendants of Tara-nohu, a son of Whatonga of the Kurahaupo canoe. These people named the harbour Te Whanganui a Tara, which is still the correct Maori name, Poneke being simply a corruption of ‘Port Nick’ or Port Nicholson.

The Ngai-Tara were succeeded by the Ngati-Ira, a tribe of mixed ancestry, principally Kahungunu and Ngai-Tara. They were heavily defeated by Te Rauparaha, and the survivors took refuge in the Wairarapa.

When the pakeha arrived to settle in Wellington in 1840, they were welcomed by the Atiawa folk of Pitoone (Petone) and Waiwhetu under the leadership of Te Wharepouri, Te Puni, Porutu and others. These chiefs proved very staunch friends, and it is largely due to their help and protection that the settlement was able to become firmly established.

The friendship between Te Atiawa and the people of Wellington has continued to the present day, and it is this mutual respect that is prompting a number of prominent pakeha to lend their support to an interesting and important Maori undertaking.

It may be a hundred years now since a carved meeting-house was built in the Wellington district, and although the Maori residents are served by the Ngati-Poneke hall and Te Tatau o te Po meeting-house at Petone, it has long been felt that the time has arrived when a fully carved house should be built. The Maori population of the district is increasing rapidly, and will no doubt continue to do so.

For some time the Maori people of Waiwhetu, under the energetic leadership of Ihaia Puketapu, have been raising funds, and a wide public appeal is about to be made to the citizens of Wellington and the Hutt Valley to help in the erection of a first-class carved house and a dining-hall at Waiwhetu.

An architect's drawing of the hall is published above. To comply with the building regulations there are modern features in the building, but the interior will be in the best traditions of Maori decoration. Most of the carving and tukutuku will come from the fine house built for the Centennial Exhibition in Wellington in 1940.

A feature of the marae will be a series of carved figures standing round the fence, each of which will represent one of the principal canoes of the migration from Hawaiki. This is to show that all tribes are now represented amongst the Wellington Maoris, and that every tribe in New Zealand will have an honoured place in this house.