Kohatu display makes history

By Alexandra Newlove

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The 1040kg kohatu was airlifted on to the new lookout at Parihaka on February 10, ahead of its unveiling on Saturday. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The 1040kg kohatu was airlifted on to the new lookout at Parihaka on February 10, ahead of its unveiling on Saturday. Photo / Michael Cunningham

From the tip of the Mount Parihaka's new hexagonal lookout, master carver Te Warihi Hetaraka watches a reverent queue circle past to hongi the kohatu rock he has carved as the structure's centrepiece.

It symbolises the return of the maunga's correct name, from the misnomer "Parahaki" to Parihaka, and the life force that emanates from it with an etching of the face of earth mother Papatuanuku.

A single tear on the face of Papatuanuku symbolises pain, while her korowai was to whakapaingia, or celebrate, the green belt and oceans visible from the maunga which cloak and protect Whangarei.

"For me it's great to see the community ... endorsing reinstatement of the name Parihaka. For so long we kept it [the correct name] alive, passing it from generation to generation," Mr Hetaraka said.

Standing at the peak of the 241m mountain, it's easy to see why the location has been vital for Maori. Sweeping views allowed early detection of invaders from the south or up Whangarei Harbour, as well as being the scene of passive resistance against European land seizures in the 1800s.

Whangarei District Council staff and hapu representatives had worked together on the lookout project.

Te Parawhau kaumatua Te Ihi Tito attended Saturday's celebration, 13 years after he was sent on the fated mission to tell councillors that Maori had once and for all had enough of hearing the incorrect "Parahaki" name. He appealed to then-mayor Craig Brown. "He [the mayor] listened. He said, 'I believe you,'" Mr Tito said.

What followed was a racially charged movement against the name reinstatement. But "Parihaka" was officially recognised by the New Zealand Geographic Board in 2005, shortly after which a new reserve management plan required an upgrade of the maunga's facilities.

Mr Tito described the weekend's proceedings as "brilliant".

"I can't believe it, really. This is what it's all about, Pakeha and Maori mixing - it's brilliant."

Mayor Sheryl Mai said the council considered the lookout project as key in acknowledging Parihaka's history.

"This has been achieved through a design that mimics the parapets of the pa that once stood there, with stainless steel panels that describe its history, and a panorama that identifies the locations it overlooks."

Landscape architect Bruno Gilmour had worked on the project and said he was "elated".

WDC's parks and recreation manager Paul McDonald said he was looking at the possibility of CCTV to protect the lookout from vandals. "But at the end of the day we trust people will respect it for what it is," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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