Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 48, September 2004

The Waihi Leader of Tuesday 11 May 2004 reported on a weekend visit by nearly sixty students from Te Wananga O Aotearoa, New Zealand's largest tertiary institute, to the Waihi Community Marae. The students, from the Hauraki District, stayed on the Marae as part of a required component to their Te Ara Reo (pathway to language) night class.

Marae member, Guy Spurr, who holds a Master's degree in education, including Maori language, presented a history of the Marae to the students.

"Waihi's early residents grew up around Pukewai (Martha), the small hill, literally with a heart of gold. Early Maori had no knowledge of the gold but knew it was a special place. Tribes from the four winds came to live and to mine the gold, creating a melting pot that became the Waihi community. As Waihi grew, Maori found it more difficult to hold tangis and unveilings amongst neighbours who were less culturally informed. This created the desire for a marae and Ngati Waihi was formed.

"When the South Auckland Education Board moved Waihi's Intermediate School to the College and Waihi South to the old Intermediate site, the Marae site became vacant. Ngati Waihi renovated the old school, but three days before it was due to open it was destroyed, along with other buildings in the area, by an arsonist. Ngati Waihi was heartbroken by the setback but insurance agreed to replace it. Maori architects drew up novel plans for the new buildings. Ngati Waihi clung to their dreams and never lost site of their original vision.

"The Whare kai, built first and opened in 1990, has eight sides - one wall for each of the seven main whaka from the original Maori migrants and the eighth representing the Endeavour and all who followed her. In the meantime a Skyline garage served the purpose of a wharenui, until that was opened ten years later, in 2000. Original plans included five sides - four representing the tribes who came from the four winds and the fifth representing people of the other fifth wind, including Pakeha. Once inside though, people soon realised there were six walls. The sixth wall was said to be there for anyone who was unable to identify with the other walls. Another theory adds a spiritual dimension, saying the wall is for remembrance of loved ones.

"Pukewai Hill is mostly gone, but in our hearts it isn't, and because of Ngati Waihi's links with it, a large quartz rock from Pukewai was laid under the centre pole, the foundation of the wharenui. Now we have the Wairua or heart of the hill, no matter what happens to it," says Mr Spurr.