Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 17, June 1973


The Waihi Historical Soc. had one of its most enjoyable outings in April when we visited places of interest in Tauranga. Appreciation was extended to Miss F. Clark (Vice Pres.) for her wonderful work arranging the trip and to her Uncle Mr. E.L. Adams who was the speaker and guide.

Our first stop was for morning tea at the Memorial Park and Fountain, after which we inspected the new 57ft. long Maori Ceremonial Canoe, Te Awanui recently completed by Mr. Tuti (Tony) Tukaokao. It was a magnificent piece of work with carving running the full length of the gunwale culminating in the rising bow with the tattooed figurehead below. No less beautiful was the stem-like stern piece with the Maori Sea God, Taronga, at its base. Thirty-two paddlers could man the canoe and the full crew would be 35. It was explained by Mr. Adams that a Maori canoe does not ride the waves but cuts right through them which results in the canoe shipping an enormous amount of water and necessitates baling all the time.

Tony Tukaokao has incorporated carving forms from throughout New Zealand. The base of the prow features a carving form used by the Ngapuhi people, and others are from Taranaki, Gisborne and the East Coast of the Bay of Plenty to Te Kaha. There was also carving he had learnt in Rotorua from the Arawa people. He had followed no definite plan but had incorporated his own ideas on sections of the design as he went along so that it would be different from anything he had already carved. The original Kauri tree which had stood for 300 years on the farm of Mr. R. W. Kennedy at Waitawheta, was cut with traditional Maori ceremony. Elders from Ngaiterangi, Ngaiti Ranginui and Ngaiti Pukenga tribes carried out the ceremony of blessing it at its base before it fell. Prayers were incantated and ceremonial water was splashed at its trunk (5ft. 3 inches at its base). Tane, the mythical Maori God of the Forests, was paid due homage, and clearance was asked for the disturbance of his domain.

The veteran bushman, Mr. W.A.P. Baker, took three quarters of an hour to fell the tree with a chain saw. It was decided to build the canoe in two sections as the tree was not big enough to shape one of that size. The two halves were joined by a mixture of butt and lap join resembling a dovetail. The join is pegged like the blade of a cricket bat. Extras, such as decorative pieces and the narrow solid seating, were made from the limbs and any usable timber cut from the tree when it was felled. A further visit was made to Waitawheta for this. A Tanikaha [tanekaha – E] tree was donated to make the paddles. At present the canoe is housed in a make-shift shed but a new shelter is to be built in a more appropriate place.

At the Tauranga District Museum we were most interested in the exhibits which have been gathered since 1969. The Speaker there was the M. Soc. Pres., Mr. L. Nichols who later showed us round the 14 acre site now being reclaimed for a comprehensive Museum which will become a "Pioneer Park or Village". It will include many outdoor exhibits such as Timber and Flax Mills, Mine, Church, Stables, Hospital, Shopping complex (with the now famous Blacksmith Shop), Factory, Pioneer Cottage and Maori Pa and Village.

We lunched under the trees at the lovely Hairini Marae adjacent to the Ranginui Meeting House where the Speaker was Mr. Kuri Te Kani who explained many of the carvings and details of the building. (There are 22 maraes in the Tauranga district from Bowentown to Papamoa.) Final stop was at Yatton Park where Miss V. McMillan of the Tauranga Hist. Soc. told us its history.