Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 19, June 1975



On account of the heavy rain when the party arrived we were unable to visit a number of the principal historical attractions in the area, but there were compensations: After the midday meal in one of the local community halls where we spent most of the afternoon, Mr. Keys, a prominent member of the Taupo Historical Society, entertained us with an intensely interesting account of the life and times of the earliest known history of the Maoris and first white settlers. He had many stories about the notorious Te Kooti and the battles he had with the different tribes in this district and the Bay of Plenty.

The night was spent at the Spa Hotel which is situated in one of the many thermal valleys. The accommodation in small cabins was most comfortable, although a little unusual. This particular valley, as with the whole of the Taupo district is full of the history of days gone by. The famous lounge at the hotel is a wonderfully preserved Maori meeting house. Some of the ancient carvings depict the birth of a child and of its careful upbringing by mother, Whaea, to be one of the leaders of the tribe. Other carvings showing the defeat of the tribe by the white newcomers were of unusual interest.

On Sunday a delightful scenic drive homeward round the eastern side of Lake Taupo brought us to the well known Ministry of Works town of Turangi and its most interesting Museum. Even the clean streets and modern shopping complex were well worth the visit. A short journey from here took us past the small Maori settlement of Tokaanu, which is well known for its many fishing lodges, fine Motor Hotel, motels and hot baths of varying degrees of temperature, to a gem of a Maori Pa at Little Waihi. Time did not permit us to stop off to try out the hot pools or feed the tame trout that abound in the nearby stream at Tokaanu.

Little Waihi is an outstandingly beautiful Pa in an unusual lakeside setting and was recently the scene of a National Re-union of the Maori Battalion. A picturesque waterfall on the bush clad hills which rise steeply behind the Pa was put to good use by local people, in generating electricity before any national service was available. There is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church on the Marae. Its exceptionally fine tuku-tuku work in the favourite red, black and white was thoroughly appreciated by all the party. At the burial grounds we inspected many monuments to the memory of numerous chiefs and leading members of tribes over a span of many years.

Carving is obviously one of the many strong points of the Tu-whare-toa culture and their splendid Meeting House at Little Waihi is an outstanding example of this exacting and painstaking art. The House is the third that the Tu-whare-toa have built since coming to this area from the Waikato. All have been named Tapeka, which means to carry (the mana of the tribe). In this tribe the Mana is embodied in a daughter of a paramount Chief. It is difficult for a European to understand exactly what Mana means, but wisdom, knowledge and spiritual power are some of its attributes. The daughter who gives indications, of being born with this remarkable gift, is called the Puhi. The Puhi is isolated from the other members of the tribe, until an occasion arises when it is necessary for her to transmit her Mana to other members of the tribe. A war expedition would be such an occasion. The Puhi stands astride on the Marae and all those about to leave the Pa for forthcoming attacks, must crawl beneath her and thus receive the sacred Mana.

It was of interest to learn from one of the Elders of a tribe, that every member of the Pa was a descendant of an original great Chief te Heu Heu, who led his people to Little Waihi.