Thursday, June 18, 2009
My time in Opotiki was all too short – a drive through basically; a few loops around the main streets; a few stops for the all-important photographs – and then onward around East Cape. This small Bay or Plenty town, sitting on the banks of the Otara and Waioeka Rivers, is the gateway to East Cape and it has a rich Maori history. Long before European settlement it was a bustling Maori community and Pa Kowhai extended all along the river banks. It was home – and still is of course – to the people of Te Whakatohea and evidence of early Maori settlement has been found in ancient pa sites at Tirohanga, Makeo, Paerata and Tawhitirahi – all close to Opotiki. Today the Whakatohea Trust Board manages the iwi assets including dairy farms, buildings, mussel farms and educational programmes.
Opotiki itself is rich in colour, texture and pattern. I particularly liked this enormous carved pou (post) that stands at one end of the main street. It depicts the area’s history from the arrival of pakeha to the development of trading, agriculture and horticulture. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to find out who the carvers were but maybe we can just enjoy it for the bulk and heft it adds to this quiet little town’s streetscape. www.opotikinz.com