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No. 10 (April 1955)
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PANIA OF THE REEF

THE LEGEND

I te mea kua oti te ahua o te wahine nei o Pania te whaka-kohatu (bronze) e te ropu pakeha e kia nei ko te Napier Thirty Thousand Club a mea ake nei whakaturia ai ki te taha takutai o Nepia — Marine Parade — E tika ana kia korerotia nga korero o tenei wahine tipua a Pania, kia matau ai te hunga i na kite i te kohatu whakamaharatanga mona e tu ana i Nepia nei.

Na tetahi tohunga o Itari i waihanga ki te whakaahua o tetahi kotiro Maori i tukua atu i konei, a he mea whakairo he ahua o te wahine nei tona atabua, ona tukemata ano ka te whakatauki ra, ‘ko nga tukemata whanui o Kahungunu.’

Ina nga korero mo Panía

Ko Pania inaianei he papa kohatu e wha maero pea te tawhiti atu ki waho o Hukarere. Nepia — Napier Breakwater — kau mai ai te wahine nei ki uta i nga abiahi i te toonga o te ra, a hei te ata po i mua atu o te putanga mai o te ra ka hoki ano ki tana iwi i te moana. Ko te wahi nohoanga o Pania i na haerenga mai ki uta ko roto i tetahi pu harakeke, tipu ai i te taha o te puna wai maori i te putake o te kari o Hukarere tata atu ana ki te moana. I tetahi ahiahi ka hiainu wai tetahi rangatira e noho pa tata ana ki reira ka haere ki te puna nei me tana taha ki te inu wai. I a ia e inu wai mai ana i tana taha ka kite atu ia i a Pania e noho mai ana i roto i te pu harakeke. Ko tana haerenga atu ka mauria ki tana whare ka moe raua. Otira i te ata po ka hoki ano a Pania ki tana iwi i te moana, hei te ahiahi ka hoki mai ano ki uta ki tana tane. Ka taka te wa ka whanau te tamaiti a Pania he tane, maheni tonu kahore he huruhuru o te mahunga, tapaia tonutia iho ko Moremore. I tenei wa ka pa te awangawanga ki tana tane kei tiro tana tamaiti i te iwi o te moana, katahi ka haere ki te Tohunga ki te ui tikanga e mau ai tana tamaiti raua ko te whaea. Ka mea te Tohunga me tuku a Pania raua ko te tamaiti kia warea te moe ka uta ai he kai maoka ki runga i a raua, me ta maoa kai, kia kore ai e hoki ki te moana. Otira ana ano te raruraru kaore pea i pai te tamaotanga i nga hoki i hoki ano a Pania ki tana iwi i te moana oti atu. Ko te tamaiti i hurihia bei mango, Taniwha, ko ana wahi nohoanga ko Hukarere — Napier Breakwater

(Kei tua te roanga atu)

 

Pania today is a ledge or reef of rock, commonly known now as the Napier breakwater, lying about four miles beyond Hukarere point.

This was the home of Pania, a beautiful sea maiden who, in ancient times, daily swam shorewards at the setting of the sun and returned to her sea people before the break of day. While on shore she hid herself in a clump of flax beside a freshwater spring at the foot of Hukarere cliff, close by the sea.

One evening a chief who lived in a nearby Pa became thirsty, and went for a drink at the spring. While drinking from his calabash he spied Pania sitting in the middle of the flax bush. There and then he took her to his home, and they became man and wife. But always, every morning, Pania would return to her sea folk and every evening come back to her husband.

After awhile Pania gave birth to a son who was completely without hair and so was named Maremare, ‘the hairless one.’ With the birth of this child, Pania's husband became concerned that he might lose him to the sea people. So he consulted a tohunga, in the hope of finding how to keep his child and wife with him always. The tohunga told him to place cooked food upon the mother and child while they slept, and they would never again return to the sea. Evidently something went amiss. Perhaps the food was not properly cooked; for Pania returned to her people never to return.

The child Moremore was turned to a shark (taniwha) which lived in the waters around the reef off Hukarere, and at Rangatira, the entrance to the inner harbour at the delta of the river called Ahuriri.

When fishermen of today tell the legend of Pania, they claim that at ebb-tide she may be seen lying outstretched at the bottom of the rocky shelf, with her hair still as black as ever and her arms stretched shoreward.

According to old Maori folk, however, she was turned into a fishing rock, from which various kinds of fish might be caught. Within the hollow of her left arm-pit only rawaru may be caught, and from her right arm-pit snapper alone, while her thighs yield only the hapuka. In the days of old these fishing grounds were sacred, but today, being frequented by pakehas, the place has become common to all and fish are no longer plentiful.

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THE STATUE

— me Rangatira kei te Ngatuawa o Ahuriri. Ko Pania inaianei e ai ki to korero a te hunga mahi ika, i na purata te moana ka kitea tonutia iho e takoto tapapa ana, pango tonu nga makawe o te mahunga, a ko nga ringaringa matoro mai ana ki uta. E ai ki nga korero a o matou pakeke he toka ika inaianei. Kei roto i te keke maui he rawaru anake nga ika o reira, kei te keke matau he tamure anake nga ika o reira, kei waenganui i nga kuha he hapuku anake nga ika o reira.

He tauranga tapu i te wa i a ratou, na te pakeha kua noa noaiho, kua kore e rite te nui o te ika ki reira me te wa ia ratou.

Over thirty years ago the late Rt. Rev. F. A. Bennett, then Bishop of Aotcaroa, accompanied members of the Thirty Thousand Club on a drive round Napier and suburbs. He pointed out many places of historical interest associated with the days when Maoris occupied Mataruahau (the Napier hills), and the Whanganuiorotu (the Aburiri Lagoon); days before the pakeha came in his sailing ships from far across the sea.

When passing the tall bluffs near the break-water, the Bishop recounted the legend of the Pania Reef. Until that time it was not generally known. The romantic story greatly appealed to several members of the Club.

The suggestion was made that a statue be erected to perpetuate the legend in bronze. There were many delays of one kind and another, but the time arrived when a Maori girl was required as a model for the statue.

The ready co-operation of Miss I. L. Hunter, Principal of the Hukarere College, proved invaluable. Several students were selected as prospective models. The girls, attired in traditional dress, posed on a pile of cardboard (to represent the rock).

Photographs were taken, and from these Mei Irihapiti Robin, of Kohupatiki, was selected. The grace of the natural, easy pose she took for the photographs has been faithfully portrayed in the finished statue.

Photographs, drawings and detailed instructions were then forward to the sculptor at Cartara, Italy. So that there would be no mistake, a piupiu was sent for the sculptor's inspection.

Picture icon

Pania: Bronze.

It would have been disastrous if he had ma a piupiu look like an Hawaian grass skirt. Careful drawings of a tiki belonging to the Robin family were also sent to ensure accuracy.

As the work on the statue progressed, photographs were taken and sent back to New Zealand, until ultimately the photograph of the finished work was received. When this was approved by the Club the clay model was recast in plaster and then in bronze.

When unveiling the statue on June 10, 1954, the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. S. G. Holland, said that he had heard the story of the legend and thought it a delightful tale. The Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. W. N. Panapa, and the Mayor of Napier, Mr E. R. Spriggs, also spoke.

A pleasing and appropriate feature of the unveiling ceremony was the singing of the students of the Hukarere Maori Girls' College. Mei Robin, who is a prefect of the college, was given an ovation when she appeared on the platform to present shoulder sprays to the wives of the official guests. At the conclusion of the ceremony she consented to be photographed with the statue of which she was the original.