Historical and associated iwi/hapu/whanau
Ngati Whakaue Te Ure o Uenukukopako / Ngati Whakaue
General Nature Of Wahi Tapu
Paepaehakumanu Motutara is a large area of low-lying land located on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua and to the east of Rotorua’s town centre.
The area is known now to the general public as The Rotorua Government Gardens and boasts a beautiful setting including the likes of green bowling lawns, rose gardens and bathhouses. However, beneath the long modified grounds of the Rotorua Government Gardens, the general nature of Paepaehakumanu Motutara includes sacred ngawha (springs), battlegrounds, urupa, burial places and pa or kainga. Traditional resources are still gathered at the site to this day.
Te mauri o nga wai - The life essence of the waters
The Rotorua region is well known for geothermal source and its great lakes; the name Rotorua is derived from the Te Arawa tradition that Lake Rotorua was the second lake in the region to be discovered by Ihenga, who was a young Te Arawa man, and grandson to Tama Te Kapua (who voyaged on Te Arawa waka). Ihenga, is said to have been hunting with his dog when the dog ran away; when the dog returned it regurgitated a meal of half digested fish. Ihenga realised he was near water, so he searched until he discovered Lake Rotoiti and later, Lake Rotorua.
Lake Rotorua was therefore named Roto (lake), Rua (two or second). It is known that many of the lakes of Rotorua have come to be the resting place of some of Te Arawa’s most ancient taonga (treasures). Since time immemorial the wai (waters) of Rotorua have been central to the survival of the people as a source of geothermal heat, a food source and a resource for natural materials that were used in everyday living. The waters also provided a source of healing; a source of spiritual sustenance and some of these bodies of water came to be the repository for some of Te Arawa’s most ancient and revered taonga. ‘Te mauri o nga wai - The life essence of the waters’ is not only attributed to these great lakes that surround the greater Rotorua region, they also apply to the natural hot water springs and pools, dotted around the central city and particularly the area identified as Paepaehakumanu Motutara.
The geothermal features of Paepaehakumanu Motutara were created according to ancient Maori teachings, by Ngatoroirangi, the tohunga (priest) who guided Te Arawa canoe to Aotearoa. Anxious to explore, he travelled east from Maketu, down the coast until he reached what is now known as the Tarawera River. Naming it Te Awa-o-te-atua he turned inland and followed it upstream un-til he reached Ruawahia, the central peak of what is generally called Mount Ta-rawera. It was here that he had a remarkable experience.
Ngatoroirangi met a spirit in the form of a person named Tama-o-Hoi, who ob-jected to the tohunga trespassing over what he claimed as his country. He used sorcery in an effort to destroy the tohunga, but failed - his power was no match for the tohunga from Hawaiki. Using a much superior spell, Ngatoroirangi caused Tama-o-Hoi to sink into the ground and then continued on with his journey. It is said that the crater there is the telltale sign of what happened there Ngatoroirangi finally reached the magnificent mountains that now form Tongariro National Park. In order to view the extent of this new country he climbed towards the summit of Tongariro, the third highest of the three mountains in the central North Island. As he neared the top he was affected by the intense cold; so severe he feared he would die. Ngatoroirangi called to his sisters Kuiwai and Haungaroa to send him fire. The tohunga’s sisters heard his plea and sent him the sacred fire that they had brought from Hawaiki (the ancient homeland). The sisters summoned the two tipua (mountain and water spirits that dwelled underground) Pupu and (Te Hoata) to carry the fire to Ngatoroirangi. Pupu and (Te Hoata) travelled by a subterranean passage to the top of Tongariro where Ngatoroirangi and Ngaruhoe were, just in time to save the life of the tohunga. Wherever they paused and rose to the surface they left part of the fire that they carried. At Whakaari (White Island) some 40km off the coast; at Tikitere, Te Whakarewarewa, Waaimangu, Waiotapu, Orakei Korako, Wairake, Tokaanu and finally the three mountains Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruawahia. Ngatoroirangi was saved and the chain of thermal activity has been of great value to the people of Aotearoa ever since.
Another aspect of the legend is that the great eruption of Tarawera in 1886 was blamed by some on this Tama-o-Hoi who, it was claimed, was so enraged at having been so long confined in the ground, gave vent to his feelings by caus-ing the disaster. There are several thermal areas within the landscape of Paepaehakumanu Motutara, all imbued with mauri (life principle). One large thermal area is known as Te Kauanga, said to be short for Te Kauanga a Hatupatu - Hatupatu’s swim’ It is said that the tupuna Hatupatu, on escaping from the clutches of the forest bird-woman Kurangaituku, dived into the lake at Te Kauanga and swam under the surface until he reached Mokoia Island. The thermal pools of Te Kauanga were said to possess healing qualities and were traditionally used for centuries to cure ailments, as well as restoring oranga (life) to ones wairua (spirit). While some hot pools such as these were used by the general population of people. There were also other hot pools that were particularly sacred because they were intimately associated with te ira tangata (the life principal). Hinemaru and Oruawhata represented the latter, and warranted a higher spiritual conduct as they were used in the context of te mauri o te tangata (the life force of the individual) and in some cases tupapaku (the mortal remains of someone passed). Hinemaru was a hot spring located on the nearby Motutara Island, east of Motutara. Ngahihi was a noted tohunga (priest/medicine man) of Te Arawa, and leading up to his death he was taken to the Hinemaru hot spring to bathe in the healing waters. Tohunga were highly revered men of rare ilk, they were often looked up to as the mediums between the world of mortals and the higher realms of nga Atua Maori (the Maori Gods). They were well versed in karakia (incantations) and were often considered so tapu that they could not make direct contact with common elements such as food or anything that was less than absolutely pure, lest their mana tohunga (power as a priest) be compromised.
Motutara, being an island, was physically disconnected from the main complex of Paepaehakumanu Motutara. The decision to regularly take the ailing tohunga to Hinemaru, away from the habitual activities and common influences of food cultivation and bird snaring may have been a precautionary action, so as not to compromise the improvement of the tohunga’s condition, or the common wellbeing of the people who lived on the mainland at Paepaehakumanu Motutara. Oruawhata was a boiling thermal pool, slightly southeast of the present steam vent bearing the same name. An additional and early name for the Oruawhata pool was Te Puia o Te Roro o Te Rangi (The hot pool of Te Roro o Te Rangi). The name was given to mark the identity of the Te Arawa chief, Te Roro o Te Rangi. It was in his time, that a series of disputes between Te Arawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa took place which led to an attack on the Rotorua district by the Taupo tribe, under the leadership of the Ngati Tuwharetoa chief Tamamutu.
After the attack by Ngati Tuwharetoa, it was considered by the people of Te Arawa that the remains of their chiefs should be interred in a way that would ensure that they could not be desecrated by any other tribes, to desecrate one’s remains was an act that was demeaning not only to the physical remains but also the wairua of the deceased chief. According to Don Stafford, the Oruawhata pool is where the tupapaku (corpse) of Te Arawa chiefs were placed to ensure their undisturbed passage to te ao wairua (the spiritual realm). After being scraped by tohunga, they [the remains] were carried there in baskets on the backs of men who were for the timebeing exceedingly tapu and there they were thrown, ‘kia ngaro tonutia’, so that they might be ‘utterly and forever concealed’. It is said that Oruawhata was so named because Hatupatu stripped himself of his flax woven garments there and hung them up on a tree, making a whata (tree-storehouse) of it, prior to his herculean dive, thus escaping from the bird woman Kurangaituku.
Kauhanga a Riri - Battle sites
As was alluded to earlier, a series of disputes between Te Arawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa had led to a planned attack on the people of Te Arawa by the Taupo tribe Ngati Tuwharetoa, under the leadership of their chief Tamamutu. Te Roro o Te Rangi and his brothers Tunohopu and Te Kata had been warned of the attack and in confidence, they assembled a party and prepared to meet the Tuwharetoa ope taua (war party) at the area now referred to as the Government Gardens. The Te Arawa party however, was astounded to find that they were completely outnumbered by the Tuwharetoa warriors and that there was only a slim chance that they could withstand the assault from Ngati Tuwharetoa. Turning to face his followers, Te Roro o Te Rangi addressed them all, speaking words that have since been passed down to succeeding generations in the form of a whakatauki (proverb). Te Roro o Te Rangi raised his voice to the winds so that the words may be carried forth to all who gathered to fight for him. He said, ‘Ruia taitea, ruia taitea, kia tu ko kaka, ko ahau anake’ (‘Shake off the sapwood, retain the sound and strong heartwood’ or ‘Let those who are afraid leave now. The strong will remain and face the foe’). Despite predictions of disaster from their accompanying tohunga, the Te Arawa force stood firm, awaiting the onslaught.
The battle, known as Tawharakurupeti, resulted in an overwhelming victory for Tamamutu of Taupo with Te Roro o Te Rangi, his brother Te Kata and almost all of their fellow warriors being killed. Tunohopu however, battled his way towards the lake, defending himself and inflicting casualties on his pursuers because of his strength and skill. Reaching the lake at Te Toto o Hinemaru, Tunohopu backed into the water still fighting off his enemies. At last they called a halt, declaring that a man so brave should never die because of superior numbers. Tunohopu was thus spared.
The bodies of a number of Te Arawa slain in the battle were taken back to Taupo, to a place named Kowhaiataku, where they were exhibited and then eaten. As a result of this incident, some of the descendants of Te Roro o Te Rangi adopted the name of Te Kowhai. A stream of thermal water enters the Lake Rotorua at the point where Tunohopu made his escape. The same stream which originally followed a natural course from the Oruawhata pool was also known as Te Awa A Te Roro o Te Rangi, further marking the identity of the Te Arawa chef in the Paepaehakumanu Motutara area. Another place associated with battle was given the name ‘Te Toto’ meaning ‘The Place of Blood’. It is a marshy area of shallow ponds along the lakeshore which marks the site of a fierce battle named Te Whakarua, a war between two Te Arawa sub-tribes, the Ngati Uenukukopako people of Mokoia Island and the Ngati Whakaue people. The people of Ngati Uenukukopako left Mokoia Island (in the middle of Lake Rotorua) for the mainland to claim the small island of Motutara as compensation for an adulterous affair between a woman of their tribe and Manawa of Ngati Whakaue.
The people of Uenukukopako planted crops to establish their right to the land but the Ngati Whakaue people then came and uprooted the crops. This provocation led to a series of fights between the two tribes until finally Ngati Uenukukopako were forced to flee after their chief Te Arakau, was captured by the Ngati Whakaue and killed. Later, a treaty made at the Ngati Whakaue meeting house, Tama-Te-Kapua at Ohinemutu restored peace.
Urupa - Burial Grounds
There are a number of urupa at Paepaehakumanu Motutara, however, as has already been noted the remains of ancestors and chiefs were not always interred into the ground. Some were placed into hot pool chasms like the Oruawhata pool or in other places such as burial caves and rocky areas when only bones were hidden there. There was a constant awareness in early Maori times, that koiwi (human remains) of ancestors were always vulnerable if not buried cautiously and at worst could become desecrated by enemy tribes. There are a number of different types of burial ground at Paepaehakumanu Motutara.
Tamakomako was a small urupa amongst the rocks on the southern edge of Te Maunga-o-Te Kiritere. In April 1884, quarrying was carried out at Tamakomako and remains were uncovered. The discovery of koiwi ceased quarrying operations immediately and the presence of the urupa, always believed to be there by Te Arawa descendants, was confirmed. Te Papa-o-Te Arawa is a large, flat, sinter outcrop near Te Papa-a-Tamarangi, now almost at the Rotorua lake edge and adjacent to a popular walking track. This too was once a place where the bones of revered ancestors were placed, however tradition notes that most remains in this area were removed by the Te Arawa people at the time of the Ngapuhi invasion in 1823; they were taken to Waiharuru and placed in the thermal pool there to avoid desecration. ‘The Rock of the Arawas’ is a long flat rock near Te Toto which marked the entrance to a tapu burial cave. Similar to the precaution taken by Te Arawa people prior to the invasion by Nga Puhi, the bones were removed from this place when the land was taken over by the Government. The cave has long since been filled in, but there are several large rocks on the edge of Motutara golf course which possibly mark this sacred spot.
Otukopiri is an extensive lake edge area west of Motutara where an ancient urupa was situated. The urupa was said to be within the rock outcrop known as Te Papa-o Te-Arawa and it was in this vicinity that the war party of Te Roro o Te Rangi arrived when preparing to face an Ngati Tuwharetoa army from Taupo. Omarumatua was another lake-edge rocky bay on the south-eastern part of what is now the Rotorua Government Gardens (Former Sanatorium Reserve). It is now part of a wildlife refuge but historically it was claimed as a small urupa in which Katikati and Paea were buried.
Pa - Kainga
In early Maori times, Paepaehakumanu was an area of largely swampy and sulphurous land. Although it seemed unsuitable for permanent occupation, cultivation of the drier areas of land gave reason for a prolonged stay, though this was still seasonal. A pa existed at the northern-most point of the area (the present site of the boat ramp) but provided little advantage and was soon after abandoned. Traces of modest earthworks were said to be visible during the 1880s.
The earliest ancestor to occupy the area of Paepaehakumanu was Rangiaohia who lived there alongside Te Whawhai. One of the last occupants of the site was Te Araki Te Pohu. Te Araki was an old tattooed chief and fought with Te Arawa forces in many of the land wars of the 1860s. Te Papa a Tamarangi is another site associated with occupation however it is also considered that this area was no more than a cultivation area and temporary kainga.
Occupation at Motutara was spasmodic and sparse, as most of the area was swampy or sulphurous like the land at Paepaehakumanu Pa. In spite of this the northern mainland point seemed to have been occupied and cultivated for many generations. The Motutara Point was once well above lake level, as were most of the lake edge areas; however this has definitely changed over time. Te Aa is said to have been one of the earliest to cultivate it, and stayed there while Te Rangitoheriri owned both a cultivation and a house here. The house named Te Kaho was shifted to Ohinemutu after his death. Another who lived there occasionally with his two wives was the old warrior Te Araki who also lived as Paepaehakumanu. Traditions claim that the mainland Motutara had been protected by defensive earthworks since the times of Te Aa and that these were extended and strengthened immediately after the Ngapuhi invasion in 1823. No traces exist today though remnants were said to have been visible during the 1890s. Moturere Island although now partially submerged and known as ‘Floating Island’ is now little more than a patch of pumice sand with a few stunted manuka bushes. This island was once a secure hiding place, used by the Chief Pukuatua as a refuge during the wars of the 1860s.
Timanga is another pa based on an island. Tradition says that Timanga was once a much larger piece of land enough to allow a living area for a number of families. The land mass has been described as the site of a pa belonging to Ngati Korouateka, however the only known and named occupant was Aterea (father of Mohi Atarea), who resided there during the 1860s.
‘Nga Hua o te Taiao - ‘Environmental Resources’
Although many aspects of early and traditional Maori living, as they were known at Paepaehakumanu Motutara, have been lost, some of those early Maori ways of life have endured to the present day. As was the case in all early Maori settlements, the environment was a great resource. At Paepaehakumanu Motutara, the geothermal resource provided heat. Harakeke (flax) provided material for a number of uses; and there was a wealth of other traditional Maori herbs and plants that were and still are recognised as a source of food. These herbs and plants also assisted in the relieving or curing of internal and external ailments.
Rarauhe (Bracken fern) had edible roots as did the Raupo (Bullrush), and like the berries of the makomako (wineberry) and karamuramu plant, the roots of the former could be eaten raw. In some cases the leaves of plants were boiled as was done with puha (sow thistle) and the young shoots of the ponga (tree fern), which were boiled then eaten. The boiled leaves of the kawakawa plant, or alternatively the dried leaves stewed like a tea, made a healthy refreshing drink, and the squeezed berries of the tutu also rendered a sweet juice, as did the nectar of the whauwhau (five finger).
For internal ailments the plants could be boiled and the ‘tea’ would be taken. The curing properties of the kanuka or manuka (teatree) were enhanced when the leaves were placed into a hot pool or spring, which suited the environment at Paepaehakumanu Motutara. A pool of such was believed to cure rheumatics. Drinking the stewed tea made from the leaves of the kawakawa (Pepper Tree), harakeke, puha, karamuramu, hue and whauwhau was also believed to provide relief for stomach pains, and bowel or bladder problems.
As the plants used for rongoa Maori were essentially the fruits of Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) and gathered according to tikanga, it was not favourable to waste parts of any plant that could be used for other purposes. So while boiling the leaves of these plants and drinking the tea cured many internal ailments, the remainder of the plant was also used for relief of external injuries such as burns, boils, wounds and minor skin conditions.
For boils, the pith of a Ponga trunk was used as a poultice; and the plume of the Toetoe was also used in this way. In some cases the boiled leaves of certain plants like the Makomako was applied to cuts, burns, wounds and boils, while in other cases the bark or leaves of a plant like the Raurekau would be bruised until it was tender enough to apply onto ones skin. Raupo leaves provided bandages while the ashes of the burnt Rarauhe were used for burns. Kawakawa was recognised as a cure all and even absorbing the oil or juice of the Kawakawa into ones aching gums was said to provide some relief for toothache.
The Paepaehakumanu Motutara area covered a large area of land that must have made the environmental resources invaluable to its occupants. It is fortunate that the plants collected then can still be accessed now, albeit, other aspects of the Paepaehakumanu Motutara will never be seen or accessed again as they were then, by the Te Arawa ancestors who lived there.
Although the cultural landscape has been adversely affected, and there is little surface evidence to even hint of the battles that took place on the site, or the ancestors with whom the site is associated, it is undoubtedly significant to the people of Te Arawa and even more so to the people of Ngati Whakaue. Wai mauri (healing waters), kauhanga a riri (battle sites), urupa (burial grounds), pa or kainga (seasonal occupational areas), these components of Te Arawa’s early Maori history are all encapsulated into the area of Paepaehakumanu Motutara, as is their wairua.
For the people of Ngati Whakaue, and to the wider Te Arawa rohe the area of Paepaehakumanu Motutara will always be significant and special to them. It is not only a repository for ancient taonga, as the ancestors buried there will have been regarded; it is also a repository for the many old stories that tie into the site. The landscape also remains as a special environment, which receives into its ‘arms’, the Te Arawa descendants who still gather natural resources there. It is the tribal history such as that associated with Paepaehakumanu Motutara that distinguishes the Te Arawa people from other iwi, just like the numerous hot springs and taonga for which the land of Rotorua is known, that including the traditionally and spiritually sacred Paepaehakumanu Motutara.
Public NZAA Number
11th May 2011
Report Written By
J Schuster, T Ngata, G Henry, D Robson, L Pattison
Riley, Maori Healing and Herbal, New Zealand Ethnobotanical Sourcebook, Paraparaumu: Viking Sevenseas N.Z. Ltd, 1994.
Ben Te Amohanga Manley, Whiria Te Kaha, 2009
An Historical Narrative of the Pukeroa-Oruawhata Lands and Trust
Savage Paula, 1980
The Government Gardens, Rotorua District Council
Stafford, D.M. 1994
Landmarks of Te Arawa Volume 1: Rotorua, Reed books.
Stafford, D. M. 1995
Te Whakarewarewa, A Brief Guide To The Place And Its People, D M Stafford/NZ Maori Arts & Crafts Institute.
Stokes, E. 2000.
The Legacy of Ngatoroirangi, Maori Customary Use of Geothermal Resources (University of Waikato).
New Zealand Government Railways Department. 1937
Tohunga, Stories in Place Names, The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Vol 11, Issue 12, Mar 1937), New Zealand Government Railways Department, Wel-lington, p.34.
A referenced registration report is available from the Maori Heritage Team of the NZHPT.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.