When his fortunes seemed at their lowest ebb, Tawhiao, the second Maori King said, ‘Alexandra will ever be my symbol of strength of character: Cambridge a symbol of my wash bowl of sorrow; and Ngarua-wahia my footstool.’ Ngaruawahia was the place where his childhood and early adult years were spent, but it had been included in the land confiscated following the Waikato wars. and the prophecy that in the days of his grandson it would again become the footstool of the Maori King seemed most unlikely to be fulfilled.
However, in the time of Te Rata. the land on which King Tawhiao's spring was located, then overgrown with scrub and gorse and used by the local residents as an unauthorised rubbish dump, was bought. In August 1921. King Te Rata signed a declaration of trust indicating that the land was for the use of his tribe and of all who would acknowledge his chieftainship, and that it could be used without
charge by the homeless subject to their recognition of his position as chief.
A year earlier, when the development of the site was discussed at a tribal meeting, it was a granddaughter of King Tawhiao, Te Puea Herangi, who took up the challenge, left her home at Mercer and settled at Ngaruawahia. By August 1920, with a group of volunteers, she had begun the task of clearing blackberry, fern and gorse. Most of those who accompanied Te Puea in her move were her orphaned relatives who had lost their parents in the 1918 influenza epidemic. With the help of her husband. Tumokai Rawiri Katipa, Te Puea directed the work and acted as landscape designer, building architect and works supervisor.
Times were hard and fund-raising stopped, so many of the young people had to find work. At the end of 1921 the main hall at the Mercer marae was dismantled and re-erected at Ngaruawahia as Kimikimi. and used as an assembly and dining hall. Additions were made during the next year and at the same time Te Puea organised a concert party for fund-raising. Named Te Pou o Mangatawhiri it became known as the TPM Concert Party. Kimikimi was again enlarged and upgraded in 1923, the TPM Party raising money during a North Auckland tour.
The next marae project was the meeting house ‘Pare-Waikato’ which was opened in March 1927 after two years of fund-raising in the Waikato. The new project was the building of a carved house, to be called Mahinarangi. Invitations to Te Puea and her TPM Party came from many parts including the East Coast, where the hospitality was lavish. This East Coast visit led to Sir Apirana Ngata taking a great interest in the Mahinarangi project, and he supervised the tukutuku work, found a builder to complete the plans, and arranged for expert carvers from Te Arawa to do the interior carving. The building was opened in March 1929 by the Rt Hon. J. G. Coates, former Prime Minister and Minister of Maori Affairs.
Turongo House was opened in 1938. exactly nine years later, and on the same day Te Puea was invested with the C.B.E. She continued to work hard for improvements to the marae until her death in October 1952.
The 50th Anniversary celebrations began in August 1971 with a reception for all the kuia moko who could travel to the marae. It was truly moving to see these old ladies
being welcomed onto the marae, and they all enjoyed being guests of honour in Mahinarangi.
It was hoped to present 50 girls to Dame Te Atairangikaahu at the Debutante Ball, but an overwhelming response meant that over 100 made their curtsey. A thanksgiving service was followed by the cutting of a Jubilee Cake. Perhaps the most exciting events were the canoe parade on the river, when the three canoes, Te Winika, Tumanako and Rangatahi, manned by 120 chanting oarsmen swept down the river and twice turned in midstream, raising their whitetipped red paddles in salute while their voices echoed across the water, and the mass haka performed by all the paddlers in front of Mahinarangi. Members of the TPM Party performed their old songs, and younger groups also entertained. In a quiet moment, Mr Hugh Ross of Wanganui returned King Tawhiao's sword, which he had held since 1956. It had been stolen by a boy of 14 from Tawhiao's room while his body was being carried to Taupiri.
Members of Parliament and local dignitaries spoke of Te Puea, her vision and her hard work. In paying his tribute to Te Puea, the Hon. Duncan MacIntyre. then Minister of Maori Affairs, said, ‘I pay my
One of the highlights of the hui was to see the three canoes. Te Winika, Rangitahi and Manuanui surge down the Waikato river, the voices of the paddlers carrying across the water. As each canoe came opposite Mahinarangi, crew members raised their white-tipped red paddles in salute before moving up-river
After referring to the story of Turongo and Mahinarangi, he said, ‘Since the decision to have this marae, there have been 50 years of work and progress, and you are still involved in work and progress Today our papers are full of protest statements and of people telling the Maori people what is wrong with them. I have always believed that to progress there must always be an emphasis on the progress already being made, so that the public are told what is happening and are encouraged to continue their help and work for the future. For what worries me is that in their very protesting, those who are asking for Maori values to be maintained, for Maori attitudes to be respected, are themselves sometimes destroying those very attitudes
and ways of life that they say they want preserved and taught.
‘In the short time I have come to know you I have learnt that what happens here on this marae represents that very strength and security that many of the young people want, and I pray that this marae will continue to nurture the young people and indeed take in those who need help and sustenance.’