Whakapara Marae sits on a hill overlooking the Whakapara River, north of Hikurangi and south of Kawakawa. I found it by turning down yet another Northland side road and I’m so glad I did for it has a fascinating story. It’s one of five marae that make up the hapu of Ngati Hau (Akerama, Pehiaweri, Maruata and Waihou are the other four), and it is home to the descendants of Eru Nehua and Te Tawaka, who had fourteen children - nine of whom went on to have families of their own. Land was set aside as a Maori Reserve here in 1913 and was gazetted in 1966. The original wharenui on the site was called Hukarere but it fell into disuse in the 1950s and was filled with hay and left to become overgrown with gorse when many of the local whanau moved away from the area.
It wasn’t until the land marches of the 1970s that interest was revived and Eru and Te Tawaka’s te uri (descendants) (among others), made a commitment to rebuild a marae on the site. This is the new wharenui – Te Iho O Nehua - which was opened in 1998 during a torrential storm (seen as a blessing by the locals); and the new gateway – Tomokanga Te Whei O - opened in 2006. It was made by some of the whanau, who attended carving classes for that purpose. I haven’t been able to find out anything about the canoe, which sits to one side of the wharenui.
Across the road, I found the cute little St Isaac’s Anglican Church and the large memorial to Tupuna Eru and Te Tawaka. Eru had donated the land for the urupa (cemetery) and the church, which opened on August 11, 1898 – also, strangely, during continuous rain. Opening services at the time were conducted in te Reo Maori and although the church continues to be under the guidance of the Anglican Diocese, care and maintenance duties were handed back to the descendants of Eru and Te Tawaka in the 1980s. The little red tool shed at the rear of the church, was built in 2004 with money raised by staging a Gravediggers’ Ball.