Te Mata Peak's secrets revealed


We're all familiar with the "sleeping giant" story attached to Te Mata Peak but there are many points of history and untold stories behind the famous landmark which make it one of Hawke's Bay's hidden gems.

The challenge of revealing some of those stories has been taken up by Waimarama kaumatua Robert MacDonald, who heads Waimarama Maori Tours.

The Maori tourism operator is well known for its recreation of the Hakikino Pa. Mr MacDonald was asked if the Pa and its people had a connection with Te Mata Peak which could add interest for visitors.

"We believe there were three distinct groups of people who occupied the area of the [Heretaunga] plains," he said. "One of them was Rangitane which became the dominant tribe and us at Waimarama, we were part of it. Hakikino was a Rangitane fortress."

It's during this period between 1300 and 1550 that the legend of Waimarama chief Te Mata was recorded.

"We put our man Te Mata up here [on the peak], stating that this was our boundary," he said.

"Anyone going past may have been dispatched because they were going through his territory.

"The people on the plains sent a maiden, Hinerakau, to distract him and she did just that, to the extent she set him several tasks.

"One was to bite his way through what was, at the time, a continuous range on the peak, so the people on the plains could access the Tukituki River."

Te Mata did as his beloved asked but died doing so. Hinerakau, distraught at his death, threw herself from the peak.

"People on the plains may say Te Mata got what he deserved but, from our point of view, it is a love story," he said.

"Hinerakau never intended him to die."

The story of Te Mata is part of the overall two-hour tour which begins at the mountain top where Mr MacDonald can reference landmarks toward Waimarama to the east.

To the west across the plains he can mark where significant battles took place which influenced change, leading up to the musket wars at the Treaty of Waitangi.

"We're then able to leave the peak, and drive out to where these battles took place, so people can see where all the changes took place over history."

He said his offering was very popular with visitors looking for a point of difference from the "commercialised" history often rolled out on tours. The ability to be "on demand" was also an advantage, he said.

"There are lots of points of history still untold as you know. Our [Waimarama] occupation of the peak was only brief, five minutes if you like in the bigger scheme of things.

" But that is the period which I focus on in our tour."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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