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Road into Puarakanui | by Alpat
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Road into Puarakanui

Lore and History

of the

South Island Maori


W. A. Taylor 1952


Leaving Old Waikouaiti or modern Karitane we pass south. Okai hau is the outlet to the sea of the Omimi Greek. The full name of the site of the Omimi railway station is Te Mimi e te haki. The location of the Seacliff Mental Hospital is Turau aruhe. Waikoko is the Seacliff Creek. Potaerua represents the bush at Seacliff and the bight on the coastline towards Omimi is Rau-one. Warrington, the aristocratic weekend resort, bears the name of a famous greenstone weapon Aka hau. Whaitiri-paku was the name of an old native village at what we now call Evansdale. The Evansdale Stream below its Kilmog branch, was an eeling place called Wai moi (sour water). The streams entering Blueskin Bay travelling south were the Totara, Waiputi and Waitete (the latter erroneously spelt Waitati). Waitete means "bubbling water", and no one who has lived alongside its course would question the translation as being truly descriptive.

The Orokonui Stream drains the northern slopes of Mount Mopariui entering the mouth of the Waitete not far away from the Orokonui Mental Hospital. Blueskin was the name of Waitete in the early days. The early settlers named it such after a well-tattooed Maori called Te Hikututu, whose nickname was Blueskin.

A Ngai Tahu chief named Tutakahikura visiting Southland, coveted the wives of a Ngati Mamoe chief named Tutemakeho when the latter chief was away foraging, and abducted the women. A chase from Southland resulted, and Tutemakeho fortunately caught up with the abductor at Pae Kohu (place of frogs) or Green Hill on the divide between the Silverstream and the coastal valleys. It was decided by the warriors to fight the matter out in gladiator fashion at Waitete. Tu te makaho won back his wives, taking them back to Otaupiri. A leaderless hapu of the Ngai Tahu returned to Canterbury.

Approximately 12 miles from Dunedin is Purakaunui page 120wrongly spelt Purakanui, which boasts a large native reserve, and its native inhabitants, who originally hailed from Kaiapoi, are proud of the fact that they are descendants of Ngai Tahu, who were there long before the fall of Kaiapohia, and are not begotten of refugee stock. Away back about the year 1750A.D. the War God Tu controlled the lives of the inhabitants of Purakaunui. Three cousins of chief rank but with no trace of family affection kept the Ngai Tahu Tribe in almost an unbroken state of strife. Their names were Moki II, Taoka and Te Wera. Te Wera of Huriawa Pa at Old Waikouaiti dwelt for a time at Pukekura Pa at Otakou Heads. When there the paramount chief Tu ki taha rangi died, also Moki II's son. Te Wera was accused of practising makutu (wizardry) on his kinsfolk and killing them. Te Wera fled away to Purakaunui where Te Rehu, his sister's husband held sway. Moki II was not to be outmatched; so he sent a surprise war party to Purakaunui kainga under the chief Kapo. The house of the chiefs was surrounded and most of the inmates slain, including a chief named Patuki. Te Rehu and Te Wera made a miraculous escape, indeed a wailing for their decease had commenced at Huriawa when they arrived. Safe back in his fortress Te Wera waited and gathered together his warriors. He then set out for Pukekura on which he exacted full vengeance.

Taoka took up the Pukekura cause and besieged Te Wera at Huriawa. He failed to capture that pa, so he turned his attention later to Mapou tahi on Goat Island Peninsula where the railway skirts the Blueskin Cliffs near the tunnel. When Taoha arrived at Mapoutahi in mid-winter, his scouts found the narrow neck of land which gave access to the pa well guarded. One exceptionally wild night, however, the sentries were withdrawn, and dummies put in their place. The ruse worked until Taoka went forth and did scouting for himself. He discovered the true position and Mapou tohi Pa was stormed. Only a few persons escaped by swimming and scaling the vine ladders on the Blueskin Cliffs which had been used for bird nesting.

The name for Goat Island is Mata awhe awhe (dead gathered in a heap), and its isthmus is called after Pakihaukea, its unfortunate defender. The portion of the Blueskin Cliffs nearest to Waitati is Wata awa awa (edge of the valley). The bay east of the peninsula is Paua nui (large ear shell fish). On October 22nd, 1930, Goat Island Peninsula, area 4 acres, was vested as a scenic reserve under the control of the Otago University. Why the Maori people were not favoured with possession is not clear.

Near Mapou tahi the canoe of Waiti named Tau a Tara-whata was wrecked a few centuries ago. Mihiwaka (lament for a canoe) is the hill which separates the Purakaunui Valley page break



Maori Place Names

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Mrs Mere Harper—Old Waikouaiti

page 121 from Otago Harbour. Aorangi (light of heaven) is the hill across Purakaunui Bay near the site of the old whaling station. Opeke is the foot of Foote's Greek. Ko te wai a pukuraku is a small watercourse near the sand drift to the railway line. Haereoa, Teoti Wahie and Noah were the leading men at Purakaunui in the forties. The present native inhabitants of the reserve are half-castes, being descendants of the old whalers. The Purakaunui Reserve was set aside in pursuance of the infamous Kemp Deed.

Near Purakaunui is Long Beach, known as Whare wera wera, which contains a native reserve of a few hundred acres. The original trustees of this poor quality reserve were Tamati Tiko, Te Ati Poroki, Hipa Porekaha, Riki Tuete and Haereroa. The land is of sandy nature, with, however, miniature lagoons through which a very wandering stream passes, and in the days when the Piorakaunui district once held a large native population, provided good eeling places. There is no doubt that the Maoris living between Purakaunui and Otago Heads suffered severely from European diseases during the period sealing ships were frequenting the coast. The cold-water treatment by the tohungas of influenza and measles could only result in one way—death.

South of Longbeach is Murdering Beach which should be known by its Maori name of Whare ake ake. On December 24th, 1817, a Tasmanian brig named the Sophia, commanded by Captain Kelly, anchored there to trade with the Maoris. However a man named Tucker was recognised as a person who at Riverton traded in dried Maori heads. Such sacrilege quite rightly brought down on the pakahas the anger of the Maoris. Tucker fell to the blow of a mere wielded by Te Matahaere, as did two or three others. The remaining boatsmen returned to the ship for reinforcements, and in the skirmish the Maoris were defeated, and prisoners taken back to the Sophia, including the chief Korako, a progenitor of the Taiaroa family. The Maoris rallied under the chief Tukarekare, and in canoes attacked the ship, but without success. Korako rejoined his friends by jumping overboard to the canoes. The Europeans then killed their other prisoners, and sailed away to Otakou Heads where they destroyed the native village.

The bay south of Whare ake ake is called Kaikai after a Ngati Mamoe man dwelling there in a cave in the early days. The proper name is Takeratawhai. The cave belonging to Kaikai is now used as a sheep pen. A heavy "tapu" rested on Murdering Beach until it was lifted by a North Island tohunga at the request of the Purakaunui Maoris. The three bays south of Purakaunui have been the happy hunting-grounds of curio collectors, alas many not venerating the burial-places. It has been estimated that 3½ tons of worked greenstone has been page 122recovered. In 1912 a large part of this collection passed to British and American museums.

In 1926 a curious adze hogbacked with a very narrow cutting edge was found. Mr Washbourne Hunter was the land owner in the early days, and during his time 400 curios were discovered. Two dozen greenstone tikis have been found at Whare ake ake. The late Mr Murray Thomson, who had a weekend house at Murdering Beach, was an enthusiastic collector, and he assisted greatly the archaeological section of the Otago Institute during a fortnight of March 1935, in cross trenching, digging and searching every nook and corner of Kaikai, Murdering and Longbeach, and the chance of finding a good cache of curios is now very remote. Though a "green-stone workers' factory" the meres found have invariably been executed in slaty stone.

When Edward Shortland visited Purakaunui in October 1843, the Maori population had dwindled to 32 persons. Pukai-a-te-ao and Kaitipu of the Huirapa hapu had succeeded Urukino in the leadership. When Mantell made his census of Purakaunui in connection with the sale of the Ngai Tahu Block the inhabitants numbered 46. The majority of the people belonged to the Ngai tuna hapu. The Huirapa hapu (mostly females) counted 8 and the Ngati Tuahuriri 2 persons. The few Maoris who now occupy Purakaunui are half-caste descendants of whalers. The settlement is now a popular Dunedin weekend resort. The little fenced-in cemetery on the Purakaunui Spit alone reminds the visitor of the Maori backgroundOld Waikouaiti and Purakaunui are usually by-passed by motorists journeying to Dunedin who travel on the Main Road. The Main Road from modern Waikouaiti to Waitati crosses over the well-known Kilmog Hill, Kilmog being a corruption of the Maori name of the plant Kirimoko known to botanists as Septospermum ericoides, which grows profusely in the locality.


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Taken on June 27, 2011