Ruapekapeka Pou - Ngati Hau

  Background Carvers Project 
  Placement of pou Unveiling  


Work has started on the ‘Ngati Hau Pou’ for the Ruapekapeka Pā site. The carving will represent Ngati Hau Tūpuna Kahukuri, Hautakowera and all the marae that associate with these Tūpuna.  

The carving will be unveiled on the 10th January 2010 at the Ruapekapeka Pā. A carronade (small cannon) that was used during the skirmishes at the pā site is currently being restored and will also be unveiled on that day.

The concept for this 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 to Ruapekapeka that had already put their representation at the Pā site. It would be appropriate for Ngati Hau to do something as well.

 starting the pou

Mahi begins on carving the pou at the
Whakapara Marae.

 Te mahi under way

Royce Anderson begins the mahi whakairo

Shane Whatarau will be supervising 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.


Shane Whatarau carver
Shane Whatarau carver from Akerama  
 Te Raa Nehua carver
Te Raa Nehua carver from Whakapara

The project 
The pou for Ruapekapeka was on the agenda for their next project. A Totara log was gifted by the Hauraki whānau; the whānau live at the foot of Ruapekapeka. The log was milled in 2006 and taken to the Whakapara marae to be carved.

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

There will be weekends designated for carving and dates will be advertised through whānau networks so people can come along.  You don’t have to be a carver, the carvers will give guidance if you want to pick up a chisel and put your hand to the pou. There are also other ways that you can support from helping to clean up, making a cuppa, or just being there and being interested.

 Contact Te Raa Nehua 09-4339871 if you want to know more.
 Never too young to learn
You're never too young too learn. Te Raa
showing his son what it's all about
 A job for everyone
Everyone is welcome to come along
and help where ever they can
 Royce and Shane designing
Royce and Shane looking for the wood to
take shape

 Modern times modern tools
A mixture of old and new - if our Tupuna had
chain saws you can bet they would have used


Placement of pou


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.

 te raa karakia
Te Raa Nehua saying the karakia before
lifting the pou to the truck for moving.

 out of harms way
Tepora and kids watching from a safe distance. These kids will remember this
expereince for the rest of their lives.

 on truck ready to move
The pou is safely on the truck ready to move
to Ruapekapeka.

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. Raewyn Anderson, Tepora Kauwhata and Dale van Engelen felt it appropriate to  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 pa site watching their creation being set in it’s final resting place. Visitors to the pa 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.
 royce welding prep
Royce Anderson preparing the supporting
 site prep for pou
Royce and Wayne Anderson work on getting the site ready for the pou. 
 pou arriving ruapekapeka
The pou arriving at Ruapekapeka.

 welding and painting
Lyall Anderson welding the clamps into place while Te Raa adds finishing touches to the paint.

 pou settling in
It was hot work getting the pou settled in
but everyone worked together to make
sure the job was done properly.
 carvers watching
The carvers watched as the pou they have worked so hard on is set into it's final resting place overlooking the mounds that mark the tunnels that were used in the battle at the Ruapekapeka pa site.
Everyone gathered at 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 Ruapekapeka. When it was restored it was found to still have gunpowder in it. The damage to the barrel was believed to have happened around the 1940’s when someone put dynamite in it.

The carronade was used during the battle at

The sign on the restored carronade

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.

People gathering for the karakia and mihihi
in the early morning.
The sun is rising as the ceremony proceeds
Sleeping bags to keep warm int he early morning.
 waiting for mihi
People waiting for the mihimihi
 reps from DOC
People from the Department of Conservation talking about the carronade and how it was restored.
 waiata tautoko
Waiata tautoko Charles, Raewyn, Tepora and Te Raa. Boss tipene Kaikorero.
  The pou whenua represents two ancestors of Ngati Hau, Hautakowera (from where we get Ngati Hau) and his son Kahukuri.   The pou stands overlooking the trenches and mounds where Kawiti and his people were bombarded by the British for ten days from 1st January to the 10th January 1846. They were outnumbered 3 to1 and it is only because of the innovative design of the trenches that they were able to survive the attack for so long. At the end of the battle the remaining defenders escaped into the surrounding bushes and the British did not pursue them because they knew it would be futile. This battle marked the end of the war in the north. 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 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.

 pou overlooking site
The pou stands at the top of the pa site,
it looks magnificent.
 ngatihau flag
The Ngatihau flag and the 1835
Kotahitanga flag flew alongside the pou.

 shane and dion
Two of the carvers
Shane and Dion.

 prep for firing
The gun club came along to demonstrate
what a canon sounds like. Here they are
getting ready to fire. 

 setting fire
Boom!! Alan sets the charge. Smoke, flames.
Imagine what it would be like if it was the
real thing.


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.
The plaque that sits at the bottom
of the pou.

Back to top 


Page last updated 8 Oct 2011