Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Auckland's Maori heritage: Trek through the city reveals hidden stories from past

Ngarimu Blair, a director of Ngati Whatua Orakei and Waterfront Auckland, took property editor Anne Gibson on a 3.5-hour hikoi from one of the city's highest points to the CBD. Follow their tracks to understand this place he calls Tamaki Herenga Waka (the `resting place' or `tying up place of the boats').

Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). Photo / Richard Robinson
Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill). Photo / Richard Robinson

1 Begin atop Maungawhau (Mt Eden, mountain of the whau tree) and imagine classical Maori society: "Archaeologists estimate up to 3000 people lived on the slopes, around the 1600s. Then in 1720, they moved to Maungakiekie because the soils had lost their nutrients.

"When [Captain William Cornwallis] Symonds came here, it was dense trees because they had moved [to the next maunga]. But they would have planned to return in time, taken down the trees and cultivated here again."

Ngarimu Blair of Ngati Whatua. Photo / Greg Bowker
Ngarimu Blair of Ngati Whatua. Photo / Greg Bowker

2 Look across to Maungakiekie: "That had 5000 people in seven towns on its slopes." Look down to the southeast: "The abundance, the luxury, the wealth of Auckland, 300 years ago the gardens were epic, stretching up to 2km, from Ellerslie to Maungakiekie, up to 28 varieties of kumara, taro, hue [gourds], people were gathering karaka berries, fern roots."

3 Look into the crater. "It was called the food bowl of Matahoho [God of Volcanoes] and the ledges towards the bottom are man-made, a civil defence mechanism, giving offerings to the gods."

4 Walk down towards Clive Rd. See the big indentations and plateau areas alongside the path. Food storage houses and residences were once here.

5 Sea shells are clearly exposed in the soft earth on the paths, evidence of kaimoana being brought to Maungawhau. So, sadly, are koiwi [human remains], "about twice a year. We go and look after them". Kaumatua are called and the deceased reinterred, if possible, or moved. This maunga is the urupa of possibly hundreds of koiwi.

6 Follow the track down past the crater north towards the city, on to the summit's Puhi Huia Rd, seeing groups of rocks which once stacked up into mounds for warmth to strike kumara tubers ready for planting out.

7 Look out on the way for the distinctive native wide-leafed green whau trees from which this maunga takes its name. "The wood is so light, it was used to make rafts and as floats for fishing nets. The leaf was used if you were caught short in the bush and the sap was used for mummifying corpses."

8 See the outside of the unusual bush-covered house at 26 Clive Rd, Whare Tane, registered with the Historic Places Trust, once the home of artist Trevor Lloyd, who built up a substantial collection of Maori artefacts from finds he made while combing the beaches and headlands of Auckland's west coast.

Look behind the vines above the garage door on the street to read Te Whareka (the house of the car).

9 Walk down Mountain Rd, past Auckland Grammar School, then enter the Auckland Domain (also called Tokiwhatinui) which is off Park Rd beside the Auckland City Hospital. A village, Te Wai Kohanga, once stood here, overlooking the fields when they were a vast wetland area, or raupo, providing waterfowl, eel and village-building materials.

10 Pass the ponds and note the kiekie (vine or epiphyte) from which Maungakiekie takes its name, growing up the trunks of trees in a shady glade. "That's a change, a native invading the exotic trees."

11 Between Grandstand Rd South and the Auckland War Memorial Museum is a stand of trees on a hill where the Maori King Te Wherowhero once had his house, now marked by a totara, surrounded by moss-covered brown wood palisade fencing. This was the site of a peace-making meeting between Tainui Ngati Whatua and Nga Puhi, when Matire Toha, a niece of Hongi, was given as a wife to Kati Takiwaru, the younger brother of Te Wherowhero. The totara was planted in 1940 by Te Wherowhero's granddaughter Te Puea Herangi, to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Ngati Toa rangatira Te Rauparaha stayed here at Te Wherowhero's cottage after his release from nearby Mt Eden jail by Governor George Grey. "Hundreds of Maori would visit him there to pay their respects but he was a broken man by then."

A totara tree, planted in 1940 to commemorate 100 years of the Treaty of Waitangi, is a hidden treasure in Auckland Domain. Photo / APN
A totara tree, planted in 1940 to commemorate 100 years of the Treaty of Waitangi, is a hidden treasure in Auckland Domain. Photo / APN

12 Look towards the hill where the War Memorial Museum now stands, called Pukekawa, or sour hill, because no kumara would grow there. But after the land wars finished in the 1870s its name was changed to mean "hill of bitter memories, as a memorial to those who fell in the Musket Wars".

13 Standing in the Domain beneath the War Memorial Museum, look towards Newmarket to see Fred Graham's impressive sculpture, Kaahu Pokere, (black hawke), which is Ngati Whatua's kaitiaki or guardian.

14 Walk down Lovers Lane, the bush path in the Auckland Domain, past the stream with a waterfall on the northern edge of the Domain. This is Te Ako o te Tui (teachings of the tui) which flowed into the Te Toangaroa Bay where the former Carlaw Park is. The reclaimed land now leaves little sign of what was once there, except perhaps the name, Beach Rd.

15 Emerge from the quiet shady bush into the now car-dominated Grafton Gully. "I always like doing that, to show people the contrast."

The Waipapa fishing village once stood near the intersection of Beach Rd, Parnell Rise, Stanley St and The Strand. Look up to where the High Court stands on the former pa site of Te Reuroa.

16 Walk up to Eden Cres, where the University of Auckland's Law Library carpark has a large stone wall as a backdrop, the remnants of a water-bottling factory. In the vines on this wall is a black polythene pipe with a tap on the end. This is Te Wai Ariki (chiefly waters) "in reference to how important it was".

17 At the intersection of Emily Place and Shortland St, beneath ancient pohutukawa, is the Churton Memorial at what once was Britomart Point. This marks the site of the original St Paul's, the first Anglican church in colonial Auckland. The present-day St Paul's is on nearby Symonds St.

18 Walk down Shortland St to the sculpture outside the BNZ on the Queen St corner. This is by Maori artist Fred Graham, an anchor stone to symbolise the area's importance for waka and commerce. The original foreshore area near Fort and Shortland Sts was a historic waka landing site. This is a significant site for Ngati Whatua and Ngati Paoa as a historical arrival and departure point.

19 Look across the road to Te Waka Taumata o Horotiu, or Resting Waka, a 7m taurapa (stern post) by Fred Graham, corner of Queen and Swanson Sts, outside Burger King. The sea birds indicate passage from here towards an area on the other side of the city.

Te Waka Taumata o Horotiu.
Te Waka Taumata o Horotiu.

* Ngarimu Blair can be contacted at Ngati Whatua Orakei's offices in Quay Park, phone (09) 336 1670, but he leads only a few tours a year. Try www.tamakihikoi.co.nz or phone 021 146 9593 for Maori guided tours of Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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