Te Ruapekapeka Pā

The Project
Placement of the pouwhenua
Unveiling the pouwhenua

 ngati hau pou and flag
Pouwhenua and the Ngati Hau flag
Restored carronade


This pouwhenua was blessed on the 10th January 2010. The pouwhenua represents Ngati Hau Tūpuna Kahukuri and Houtakowera and the five marae that make up Ngati Hau; Maraenui, Akerama, Whakapara, Pehiaweri, Te Maruata.

A carronade (small canon) that was used during skirmishes at the pā site was also unveiled after some restoration work was completed on the canon.

The concept for the pouwhenua began around 2002 when Master Carver Shane Whatarau returned from the Waikato to his home in Akerama. He was talking to people about the iwi and hapū associated with Ruapekapeka that had already put their representation at the Pā site. It would be appropriate for Ngati Hau to do something as well.

The land at the top of the pā site was succeeded to by Ngati Hau people and this is where the pouwhenua is located. Not on the pā site reserve lands. You can find out more about the pā site on the Ruapekapeka Pā website here.

Shane Whatarau was one of the people that supervised the project. He began carving at Rawhiti under Master Carver Hiko. He then worked with Moka Puru on carving the gateway for the Tumatauenga Marae at the Waiouru Army base. Respective tribes carved different parts of the marae, Nga Puhi carved the gateway. One of the figures on this gateway represented Whina Cooper, Moka Puru was Whina’s son-in-law.

Shane continued his studies in the Waikato at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. At the time the wānanga didn’t have a whakairo degree programme, Shane was in the group to complete the inaugural degree.

When he returned to Ngati Hau Shane set up a whakairo programme in Whangarei. Carvers from Whakapara began the course and in 2006 carved the tomokanga at the Whakapara marae as part of the practical component of the course. They moved on to help carve for the Akerama marae wharenui with other whānau from Akerama, Takahiwai and Utukura.

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royce and shayne carving  Royce and Shayne sorting the designs
te raa and son never to young  Te Raa showing his son the carving
terry shayne stacey   Shayne (middle) with Terry and Stacey
alan ahlliday painting
Alan Halliday painting
aunty mu inspecting the pou   Aunty Mu inspecting the carving
hoisting the pou
Hoisting the pou on to the truck
on the truck
It takes a lot of planning to get it right
pou just about on the truck   Just about there on the truck
something to tell the grandkids  Something to remember forever

Te Ruapekapeka Pouwhenua Project                                                    back to the top

A Totara log was gifted by the Hauraki whānau, they live at the foot of Ruapekapeka. The log was milled in 2006 and taken to the Whakapara marae to be carved.

The lead carvers were Shane Whatarau (Akerama Marae) with Te Raa Nehua and Royce Anderson (Whakapara Marae). Shane said that everyone was welcome to come to help with the carving or just to watch and support. The kaupapa for the project was to be inclusive so that people young and old, male and female could feel part of this.

There were weekends designated for carving and dates were advertised through whānau networks so people could come along. You didn’t have to be a carver, the carvers gave guidance for anyone that wanted to pick up a chisel and put your hand to the pou. There were also other ways that you could support, helping to clean up, making a cuppa, or just being there and being interested.

Placement of the pouwhenua

The pou was painted and moved to the Ruapekapeka site on the 2nd January 2010. Preparation of the site included laying a concrete pad reinforced with steel and constructing four foot high steel clamps to support the magnificent pou.

Two smaller concrete pads sit alongside the pad for the pou to support flag poles. The two flags that will fly will be the 1835 Declaration of Independence flag representing the united tribes also known as Whakaputanga and a flag with the Ngati Hau logo.

It was a brilliant day, blue skies and sunshine. The crane arrived at the marae at 8.30am and the carvers and supporters gathered to make sure their taonga was transported safely. Some sat by watching with anticipation, some carried out last minute tasks like painting steel supports and places on the pou that had been missed and others including wives, children, nieces, nephews mothers and cousins of the workers went on ahead to the site at Ruapekapeka to make sure the site was ready to receive the pou. Wives, sisters nieces and nephews of the workers.

Te Raa Nehua conducted the karakia just prior to lifting of the pou, an acknowledgement to Tane who provided the timber, the atua and our tūpuna. It was an awe inspiring moment when the pou was lifted and swung gently around to be placed on the truck. For some it was like an awakening of the taonga in preparation for the journey to it’s resting place, others felt a sense of our tūpuna being there, an emotional resonation with their wairua. There was a sense of calm and the lift went smoothly

At the site brothers Royce and Lyall Anderson and their cousin Wayne Anderson donned on their overalls and welding gear to set up the pads and the steel clamp. The truck with the pou and crane arrived and everyone watched as they maneuvered into place beside the concrete pad. Kaikaranaga Raewyn Anderson, Tepora Kauwhata and Dale van Engelen performed the karanga to welcome the pou to it’s resting place

Everything went smoothly lifting the pou from the truck, laying it gently to the ground while the supports and painting were completed. The carvers relaxed on one of the mounds from the tunnels on the Ruapekapeka Pā site watching their creation being set in it’s final resting place. Visitors to the pā site were treated to a once in a lifetime view of all of this. Some from Wellington reported they followed the truck from the main road and were fascinated to see the pou being erected.

Once the pou was in place the workers and whānau sat together under the shade of a nearby tree to share lunch.

out of harms way

arriving at the marae

royce welding
pou settling in
site preparation
last minute touches

Unveiling the pouwhenua                                              back to the top

Everyone gathered at Te Ruapekapeka at 5am to begin the slow walk up through the gateway onto the pā site. It was still dark, just before daybreak when the hikoi began, the karanga started ‘haere mai ki te whenua o tātou tupuna”. People carefully made their way through the mounds and trenches on the pā site, it was hard to see and the only light came from the Te Karere TV camera. The call continued until the group was gathered in front of the newly restored carronade for karakia and mihimihi. This carronade was one that was used during the fighting at Te Ruapekapeka. When it was restored it was found to still have gunpowder and a cannon ball in it. The damage to the barrel was believed to have happened around the 1940’s when someone put dynamite in it.


The karanga went out again and the group proceeded up the hill towards the pou whenua for karakia and mihimihi to unveil the magnificent carving. The ceremony was conducted just before the sun started to rise; it was an awesome sight to see the pou come to life with the rising sun. Mihimihi included kaumatua from the iwi and hapū of Ruapekapeka and representatives from the Department of Conservation who worked with locals to restore the carronade and organise the unveiling ceremonies.


The pou whenua represents ancestors of Ngati Hau, Hautakowera (from where we get Ngati Hau) and his son Kahukuri depicted at the top. Heads protude from the korowai representing tupuna of Ngati Hau. These tupuna were not named to allow Ngati Hau decendants to name them whenever they visit. This kaupapa includes all uri of Kahukuri hence no one is excluded. The pou stands overlooking the trenches and mounds of Te Ruapekapeka Pa. Tangata Whenua were outnumbered 3 to1 and it is only because of the innovative design of the pa given by the Tohunga Penetana-Papahurihia that they were able to survive the attack for so long. At the end of the battle the remaining defenders withdrew into the surrounding bushes behind the pa where the British did not pursue them far because they knew it would be to dangerous and futile. This battle was the last in the north against the Redcoats.

After the Battle of Te Ruapekapeka, many of the defenders went to Pukepoto, a maunga situated toward the southern boundary of Ngati Hau.


Some of the carvers and their family and friends spent the night before the unveiling sleeping in the trenches just below the pou whenua, wrapped in their sleeping bags to keep warm. No doubt there were thoughts of what it must have been like to sleep there during those early days, to be at the pā site when the cannons were being fired. There is a peacefulness that surrounds the whenua now. Others spent the night at the Akerama marae talking about Te Ruapekapeka and the kaupapa for the ceremonies the next morning.


The gun club attended the ceremonies and set of small shots (no cannon balls, just wadding) to give people a feel for what it sounded like to hear the cannons firing.


This was a special occasion and all who attended will remember it for years to come. If you get a chance to visit the site you will not be disappointed.

charles raewyn tepora te raa boss
Charles, Raewyn, Tepora, Te Raa and Boss
morning pink sky
Early morning sunrise
Doc reps
DOC representatives mihi 
sleeping bags  
Sleeping bags for overnight stay
firing the caronnade
Firing the canon - so loud
Huia hank barnor
Wayne, Huia, Hank, Barnor - watching

Page last updated 9 Jun 2012