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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

A pou whenua recognising a traditional pā site uncovered during road safety improvement works has been unveiled today on State Highway 29A at Matapihi, Tauranga.

The pou unveiling and blessing was hosted by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and local hapū this morning.

In March 2017, contractors were preparing the site for the installation of a median safety barrier on SH29A near Matapihi, when they discovered the Tukiata Pā site. The trench was about 40 metres long and appeared to have been used as a coastal defence from the 1830s to 1860s.

Waka Kotahi Portfolio Delivery Manager Darryl Coalter says the 2.94m high pou whenua acknowledges the traditional pā site, as well as the connections of tangata whenua to the area.

“We are proud to have worked with Ngāi Tukairangi, Ngāti Hē, Ngāti Tapu and Heritage New Zealand to recognise the cultural archaeological features discovered during the safety barrier installation works.”

The pou whenua, by the highly skilled and well-established carver and artist Pohe Luttenberger, includes three components; the top portion will cast its gaze towards Mauao, the middle portion will face the coast, and the lower portion will look back to the mountain ranges of Maungamana and Mangatawa, Kopukairoa.

With more than 25 years’ carving experience, Pohe Luttenberger’s previous works include pou whenua of Te Ranga and Pukehinahina, and Waharoa at Romai (Tahuwhakatiki Marae).

The pou whenua is accompanied by a kōhatu (large rock) which has been sourced from Ngāti Hē rohe as a memorial to the Tukiata Pā and the commanders of the pā, the Tīpuna Tareha Kiharoa and his brother Manihera.

Ngāti Hē Hapū Trust Chair Mita Ririnui says, the discovery of this important ancestral site in 2017, reaffirmed the presence of Ngāti Hē in this part of Rangataua Bay prior to European settlement.  

“The pou whenua and kōhatu will stand as a bold reminder to the nation of the struggles endured by tangata whenua to retain and protect mana over the area. They also recognise the kotahitanga of the three hapū to bring this project to life for the future generations.”

Installation of the pou whenua began on 17 March, following a blessing of the site. Construction re-started in early May following the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

Waka Kotahi is working with the hapū to develop an educational resource to enable students and the community to learn about the regional and national significance of the Tukiata Pā site and what it means to mana whenua.

The pou whenua surrounded by attendees of this morning’s blessing and unveiling

Attendees check out the kōhatu at this morning’s blessing and unveiling

Left to right: Carlo Ellis, Puhirake Ihaka, Tauranga City Council (TCC) Mayor Tenby Powell, TCC Deputy Mayor Tina Salisbury, Master Carver Pohe Luttenberger, Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Gary Webber, Waka Kotahi Portfolio Delivery Manager Darryl Coalter, Waka Kotahi Pou Arahi – Regional Advisor Maori Erin Wilson

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