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Maori history in Piha

November 29, 2018


The Maori where settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in canoe voyages some time between 1250 and 1300.Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts, also war parties where made in these times with their famous Hakka dance. Early Maori formed tribal groups based on eastern Polynesian social customs . The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand, starting in the 17th century, brought enormous changes to the Maori way of life. Maori people gradually adopted many aspects of Western society and culture. Initial relations between Maori and Europeans were largely good-natured, and with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the two cultures coexisted as part of a new British colony. Rising tensions over disputed land led to conflict in the 1860s. Social upheaval, decades of conflict and epidemics of introduced disease took a devastating toll on the Maori population. Luckily this population recovered and is now about 15% of the New Zealand population, and is also present in Australia and England.




How the settlements where divided


Te Kawerau a Maki are the Maori tribe of the West Coast. The main Te Kawerau settlements were on the coast and large areas were cleared of forest to grow crops and so that settlements could be better defended.

There were a number of Kawerau pa (fortified village) sites on the lands in the Piha area. Lion Rock was the site of Whakaari pa, and Te Wahangu was on the land at the north end of the beach.The main pa was Maungaroa on the ridge above the lagoon and there was a fourth pa on the land halfway along North Piha beach called Otokitoki


The hill to the south of The Gap was traditionally used by Kawerau a Maki fishing parties and there are  terraces, pits, and rock and cave shelters all over Piha. The large number of sites indicate that Piha was, at different times, home to large numbers of Maori.

The final settlement was in the Wekatahi Stream valley where a hapu had gardens which they traded with Pakeha settlers(New Zealanders with European descend).This explains the name Garden Road – it was originally called Maori Garden Road – for the road that runs from the Wekatahi to the Piha Village.


Today, Te Kawerau a Maki descendants regard themselves as holding ‘mana whenua’ or ‘traditional ownership’ of their Waitakere domains. They still own Taitomo Island (Camel Rock). Lion Rock is now owned by the Crown. Waitakere City Council has recently provided land at Te Henga for Te Kawerau to build a marae. This was the final West Coast settlement of Te Kawerau who today have a papakainga (a traditional village house) in Makaurau Marae at Ihumatoa at Mangere.






Archeologic finds

A recent archaeological dig at Te Ahua pa above Mercer Bay a spot along the left ridge of Piha found an abundance of artefacts and materials, that add to our knowledge of how Maori lived around Piha in the mid to late 15th century.

In 1977 Bruce Hayward and Jack Diamond recorded five terraces, a storage pit and shell and fish bone on the site, but this has been covered up by dense coastal vegetation.

Seventy-five artefacts were found in the recent excavation.

Seven bone fishhooks were found, and the shellfish remnants found on the site showed that the inhabitants were eating tuatua, mussels and white rock shells. Over three kilos of bone were recovered on the site, mostly fish – eight species, mainly schnapper, blue moki and trevally.



The Maori names and the meaning


There was not one Maori occupation of Piha, but a continuous habitation over many hundreds of years, leaving lots of names on the landscape.Many of the earliest names are taken from their Pacific homelands. Hikurangi is one of these and it has considerable significance to the Te Kawerau a Maki people.

Pakiti Rock should be Pakirikiri, the rock where you catch cod. This name was changed over a long period.


Piha was a name given to Lion Rock, referring to the way the waves part as they hit the rock.

The Piha Stream as we know it, had the name Waitekahu, referring to Kahukeke, the wife of Rakataura. About 600 years ago, a party from the canoe explored the whole of the Waitakeres and Kahukeke thought Piha exceedingly beautiful. Because of her love of Piha, the party stayed for some and hence her name was given to the stream the water of Kahua.






Source: Welcome to Piha.

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