A sacred site in Pirongia has been recognised with the unveiling of a carved waharoa (entranceway), mānuka palisade fence and three carved pou (posts) to commemorate the people who lived and died there in 1822.
The entranceway (waharoa) and posts (pou) were unveiled in December in the presence of King Tūheitia Paki, Cabinet Minister and Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, local iwi, representatives from Northland iwi, Waipā deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk and other dignitaries.
The Waipā council's iwi relations adviser Shane Te Ruki says: "Mātakitaki is a place of great cultural significance to the local hapū and iwi. It was there that the dark spectre of musket warfare cast its shadow for the first time in the Waipā."
In May 1822, Mātakitaki Pā witnessed an invasion by Northland iwi under the Ngā Puhi chief Hongi Hika.
The pā, a place of refuge, was overwhelmed by Hongi Hika and his musket-bearing warriors as they laid siege to the fortified settlement.
A reported 1500 people died in the battle and while escaping from the crowded pā.
The carvings are the work of Māori artist James Webster and his team of carvers, developed in collaboration between Pūrekireki Marae, Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Hikairo and Waipā District Council.
The installation took place under the guidance of local kaumātua.
The waharoa, which stands at the entrance to Mātakitaki, forms the shape of a rūrū (owl) as a kaitiaki (guardian) of the surrounding lands.
The three carved pou represent the three adjoining pā - Mātakitaki, Tauranga Kohia and Puketutu, located on a peninsula formed by the Waipā River and its tributary the Mangapiko.
Te Ruki said: "Today's dedication enabled the sharing of stories, contemplative moments, tears and the strengthening of relationships between the tribes and the connections between all who attended.
"It is an important milestone in the ongoing work being done to commemorate events that brought monumental change to tribal life."