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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


from Kupe to Pakeha

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The Raising of the Flag

A Re-enactment in Petone, in 1940, of the raising of the New Zealand Flag, by Col. William Wakefield, in 1839—see page 30. The flag in this picture is the original flag.

Ancient Navigators: Kupe—Toi—Whatonga.

The first discovery of what is now known as Port Nicholson, on the northern shore of which Petone lies, is generally ascribed to Captain Cook; but centuries before that great navigator saw from the heads that magnificent harbour, enfolded in the embrace of its forest-clad hills, and capable of floating the navies of the world, another, and still more adventurous navigator with his companions, had not only looked on the harbour, but had actually landed on its shores, and that nearly nine centuries before Captain Cook.

Kupe's Voyage.

Kupe and Ngahue were dwellers in the Society group of Polynesian Islands in the eastern Pacific, 2,000 miles from New Zealand, about one hundred years before the Norman conquest of England, somewhere about 900 A.D. We admire the heroism of Cook who, in his tiny ship, navigated the oceans of the world and added materially to the glories of England's seamen; but what of the heroism of Kupe and his companions who, in open canoes (possibly double or else outrigger craft) without compass or chart, ploughed the seas for 2,000 miles to make landfall at the North Cape, a thousand years ago. What courage, what endurance, and what mighty faith these men possessed. Pity is that we have no record of their objectives or their navigation methods. It was the wife of Kupe who, one morning, gazing intently ahead across the stinging waters, saw the first sign of land, and called out: "He Ao! He Ao!" a cloud! a cloud!) speaking of the white cloud which was hanging over the land.
Elsdon Best, speaking of the incident, says: "…. and so New Zealand gained its first name Aotea (white cloud) afterwards lengthened to Aotea-roa, presumably on account of its size."

Kupe Visits Petone.

These voyagers stayed for some time in the far north, and then ran down the east coast, exploring the coastline on the way, and spending some time in Port Nicholson, probably landing, as did the first white settlers, on the Petone beach.
We would give much to have his description of it, and to know what changes have been wrought by earthquake, flood, and the slow march of time in that intervening 1,000 years.
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Te Puni's New Pa (Te Tatau-o-te-po) behind the Pito-one Pa

(By courtesy J. W. Marshall)
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Te Puni's Pa, Pito-one, showing Colonel Wakefield's Quarters and the Chapel.

The bell used for calling the worshippers was presented by Bishop Selwyn, and sometimes was rung by him before the services. It is in the possession of Mrs. Hapi Love, O.B.E., a descendant of Te Puni.
(By courtesy Mr. R. H. Hunter)

Arrival of Mouriuri.

The first settlement of New Zealand was apparently the result of accident, and our next visitors came, not from design, but on the wings of a storm. When it happened is quite unknown, but some time after Kupe's voyage (if we accept the tradition that he found the land uninhabited), there landed on the shores of northern Taranaki three canoes which, tradition tells us, came from some place west of New Zealand. The voyagers called their homeland "Horanui-a tau" and Haupapa-a nui-a tau," names quite unknown.
They were a darker skinned race than the Polynesians with heavier features and without the keen intelligence of the Maori. Possibly people of Melanesian origin, but sufficiently allied to the Polynesians to be able to understand their language. These people settled along the coastline, never penetrating far inland, and gradually increased in numbers till a large part of the North Island coast was thickly inhabited and, when the Maori returned again to New Zealand from Polynesia, he found these Mouriuri in possession. There are certain things which would link these Mouriuri with the people of New Guinea, which would agree with the tradition that the original voyagers of these folk were driven on to the New Zealand coast by a westerly wind.

Toi and Whatonga.

We now come to the romance of the settlement of the Maori in New Zealand, indirectly caused not by a westerly but an easterly wind.
It was a holiday in Hawaiki (probably the island we now know as Tahiti); Kupe had gone to his rest about 300 years before, and his early voyage to Aotearoa was a tradition. The chief entertainment for the day was canoe-racing, held for the most part within the lagoon; but the chief event was an open sea race, in which the various chiefs with their prize crews competed. While this was in progress a strong easterly storm arose and several of the canoes ran before it or were blown out to sea. Among the canoes which did not return was that of the young Chieftain Whatonga, a grandson of Toi. Time passed and Toi, anxious concerning the fate of his grandson, set out in search of him. Searching through the island groups he arrived at Rarotonga, and there, failing in his quest, he decided to go on to the fabled land of Aotearoa seeking, if by chance, his grandson had reached that far-off shore. Toi said to the Rarotonga "I go to seek my young relative in the green land of the far expanse of ocean. Should any come in search of me, say I have gone to that far land—that is if I ever reach it—should I not do so, then I will be lying in the depths of Hine-moana."
The old man, however, missed his mark and landed at the Chatham Islands. Taking a fresh bearing, the heroic navigator sets sail again and lands at last in New Zealand, near where Auckland now stands. He had failed in his quest, and feels now too old for further voyaging and settles down with his crew among the Mouriuri at Whakatane.

Search for the Seeker.

Let us now return to the grandson. Blown out to sea he finds refuge in one of the islands where he stays for a time, and then returns to Tahiti, only to discover that his beloved grandfather has gone to seek him. Whatonga immediately decided to go in search of his grandfather, and choosing a suitable canoe, the "Kurahaupo," he makes ready for his long voyage. Elsdon Best gives the following description of the canoe:
"Her washboards were lashed on, all her timbers were treated with vegetable gum, shark oil and ochre. Then a crew of hardy trained deep-sea sailors was selected, men accustomed to the ara-moana (searoads) and inured to all the dangers of the great ocean. Of paddlers were selected fifty and two, of ship's husbands four, of anchor tenders two, of sail tenders four, of steersmen two, of fire tenders two; evidently the crew was divided with watches. Thus the crew consisted of sixty-six persons, and there were several women also on board."
Whatonga reached Rarotonga safely, and there heard that Toi had gone on to Aotearoa, and so he followed. The "Kurahaupo" made landfall near the North Cape, where the crew stayed for a while to refit and re-provision. She then ran down the west coast, and at northern Taranaki Whatonga learned from the Mouriuri people that Toi was at Whakatane, so the "Kurahaupo" was turned back and rounding the North Cape was run down the east coast to Whakatane.
Again quoting from Elsdon Best:
"The long double quest that had called for so much ocean roving was over at last, so Toi and Whatonga, with their companions, dwelt in a new land never again to roam wide seas, or look again at their old home in eastern Polynesia."

Other Voyagers.

There were other romantic voyages, such as the flight and chase of Manaia by Nuku from eastern Polynesia to Cook's Strait, ending in a sea fight and a reconciliation at Paekakariki; but these do not concern our story.

The Founding of Pito-One.

The connection of the story of Toi and Whatonga with Petone is that Petone was first settled by the descendants of these sea rovers.
Whatonga, after staying a while at Whakatane, moved on down the east coast to Mahia, where he settled and had two sons Tara and Tautoki, who some years after went adventuring for themselves, and coming south, founded a settlement in Port Nicholson, naming the harbour "Te-whanga-nui-a tara" (The Great Harbour of Tara). These two brothers founded the tribes of Ngai-Tara and Rangitane, which occupied the shores of the harbour and the Wairarapa districts for many generations.
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Laying a Wreath on the Grave of Te Puni.

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