Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Marae Dream Come True

When Te Tauraka Waka a Maui Marae was officially opened at Mahitahi (Bruce Bay) in South Westland on January 23, 2005, there were celebrations all round – and rightly so, for it was the first marae seen on the South Island’s West Coast for almost 140 years. Both West Coast hapu – Kati Waewae and Kati Mahaki ki Makaawhio – had lost their traditional marae with the onset of the gold rush; and it wasn’t until the Ngai Tahu claim in 1996 and a land exchange with the Department of Conservation in 2002, that a new marae became possible.
Inset pounamu (greenstone) in koru pattern
Painted rafters
But it’s been worth the wait and it’s a big improvement over their previous meeting place, the old Bruce Bay Community Hall. When I visited the marae in February I was amazed by the beauty of its whare tipuna (ancestral house), which boasts a magnificent collection of carvings – inside and out - created under the leadership of Canterbury-based Maori carver, Fayne Robinson (Kati Mahaki); and exquisite tukutuku panelling designed by Puhanga Tupaea (Kati Mahaki). The whole complex is nestled into a native bush backdrop just across the main highway from the pretty horseshoe sweep of Bruce Bay. And true to the runanga’s links to West Coast pounamu resources, the whare tipuna and many of the carvings feature exquisite pieces of pounamu, including the rare, soft blue pounamuu called Aotea, which is only found in two places in the world – in Chile and in the Makaawhio River. Samples of local pounamu have been inset into a traditional design in the forecourt of the whare tipuna, as shown in the centre photographs. The Nga Whakairo o Waho (outside carvings) in the lower photograph are, left: Rakaihautu and right: Hotumamoe. The carvings on the front of the house and inside the wharenui represent important tipuna (ancestors), landmarks and taonga (treasures) of the Kati Mahaki people.


  1. This is beautiful marae, thanks for sharing

  2. It is beautiful but the interior is even more beautiful The interior carvings are quite something~!But not allowed to photograph inside


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