Written by Robyn Kamira
16 November 2009
Matihetihe marae is a coastal marae about 10 kilometres north of the Hokianga harbour, and a similar distance south of the Whangape harbour. It is nestled beside the sand dunes. Beyond is the great Moana Tapokopoko-a-Tawhaki (Tasman Sea).
It is reached via West Coast Rd, Mitimiti and the land it sits on is Tao Maui Reserve 1B2 and C2 (Parirau-a-Paparangi Trust).
The area is a typical wild west coast and in pristine condition. It is surrounded by unspoiled or regenerating native bush and a marine environment that provides food to the local community.
The name Matihetihe refers to the tumbleweed (tihetihe) that grows abundantly in the sand dunes.
The marae is within the bounds of the Hokianga, an area rich in history and the returning place of Kupe via his re-adzed waka called Ngatokimatawhaorua which was commanded by Nukutawhiti.
Matihetihe is one of 23 marae that are part of Te Rarawa iwi (tribe). Its hapu (subtribe) Te Tao Maui and another hapu of note is Te Hokokeha.
The marae consists of a wharenui Tumoana; a wharekai, Nga Ringa Rau o Te Akau; the old wharekai, and an ablutions block. Next to the marae complex is Hato Hemi the catholic church building also owned by the marae. Above on the hill is the wahi tapu (cemetery) called Hione (Zion, what was its original name?).
The wharenui you see here was built in 1953 and Takou Kamira was its first tangi. It had the help of men and women who rushed because at the time Takou was dying and they wanted it to be ready for him. It had no verandah originally.
The old wharenui was located across from this site further from the dunes but facing towards the sea. I’ve been told that it was blown over in a storm.
The old wooden building behind the large wharekai today, was originally located at the school opposite the flag pole. Children used to watch films there. It was also used as a store room for sport equipment and later, it became an art room. When the school could afford to get a bigger building it was donated to the marae and became the wharekai.
Once the large, new one was built around 1987/8, the old building became Te Akau Social Club with a bar, pool table and dart board, where people played … and fell to sleep on the train seats. It became the place to be on a thursday night.
Atama Paparangi, a Rangatira in the 1800s, embraced the catholic faith and demanded total allegiance from his whanau and everyone associated with Matihetihe marae. He placed a wooden plaque in the wharenui proclaiming his religious beliefs with “Kia aroha ki te ariki – Kia aroha hoki ki te whakaritenga” – advocating that people should love god and that which is set out by the church. This allegiance saw the catholic church agree that the church Hato Hemi could be erected.
Atama also ordered the exhumation of the remains of all pre-christian burials from the wahi tapu upon Hione to be transferred to Pipiro (now named Waihopai). It is said that Waihopai (leave it for good) was named following the transfer. During his lifetime, no non-catholics were allowed burial at Hione. This is not adhered to today.
In 2009, Matihetihe took part in a hapu planning exercise and many of the issues arise from a depleting population. In short, this effects the presence of kaumatua or kuia to perform more formal duties at the marae, workers to help with the upkeep and events at the marae, and people who can assist with environmental matters including the native bush, the dunes and the sea.
Matihetihe Hapu Plan Draft, August 2009 (Author Georgina Martin)