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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


From Tara to the Pakeha.

(By A. P. Godber.)
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The Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial erected on waterfront, Petone.

The solitary canoe bearing evident signs of its adventurous voyaging, slowly rounded the cape and opened up the stretch of water later known as Raukawa (Cook Strait). The keen- eyed, brown-skinned strangers eagerly scanned the bays and cliffs of this new world. Kupe, their valiant leader and discoverer of these islands, was a noted Polynesian navigator. He gazed admiringly across the white crests of Raukawa's currents, to where the snow-crowned summit of Tapuaenuku sought to pierce the blue heavens. Excited comments from his followers drew Kupe's attention to an opening into the new and pleasant- looking land which promised a haven from the tumultuous surges, and, maybe, a change of diet in the dense bush which clothed the hillsides.
In accord with old custom, names had been bestowed upon striking features of the landscape. The two islands in the harbour entrance were similarly dealt with. The islands were called Makaro and Matiu, respectively, after the two daughters of Kupe. To-day, the Pakeha knows them as Ward and Somes. The year would be about 925 a.d., and Kupe records that he saw no living inhabitant. With grunts of satisfaction, the heavy seagoing canoe was hauled up upon the sand beach, which became known as Pito-one (the end of the sand), corrupted by the Pakeha to Petone. Some time was spent exploring, and recuperating after the long voyage; and then Kupe and his companions continued up the west coast of the North Island.
The newly-discovered harbour remained untenanted, until Tara and Taupoki, the two sons of Whatonga, came south from Heretaunga, Hawke's Bay, to settle at Pito-one. From Tara the harbour received its Maori name Whanga-nui-a Tara (the great bay, or harbour of Tara). Tara's descendants were known as Ngai-Tara, and as time went on gradually spread round the harbour shores.
As population increased in the northern districts, tribe after tribe found it advisable to move southwards in the steps of Tara and Taupoki. Ngati-Mamoe, Ngai-Tahu, Ngati-Ira, Ngati-Kuia, Ngati-Kura, Ngati-Kahungunu, were the names of some of the new visitors. The two first-named found it convenient to migrate
to the South Island, around 1600. The Ngai-Tahu still reside there. Ngati-Ira then became the general name for the local people.
In 1819–20, a large taua (war party) many hundred strong, under Tu-whare, Te-Rauparaha, Tamati Waka Nene, Patuone, and other Chiefs, came down to Whanga-nui-a Tara. After camping for a while at Te Aro the Taua descended upon the Ngati- Ira at Pito-one and massacred many of that ilk. It should be said that Te-Rauparaha never took part in any fighting in this district. The taua then proceeded further up the valley, dealing death and destruction to all who crossed their path. Satiated with their cannibal feasting, the taua retraced their steps, to find Pito-one deserted, all the survivors of Ngati-Ira having sought sanctuary in the dense bush. In 1821, Ngati-Ira again suffered from an invasion by other tribes. For some time they lived in more or less agreement with these unpleasant neighbours. When a possibility of further trouble was suggested to them, they quoted the old saying of Ngati-Ira: "Kia Mahaki ra ano te Kauwae-o- Poua, Katahi Ka riro te whenua" (when the jaw of Poua becomes loose, then will the land pass to others). In other words: "while we have any fighting men left, we can hold our own."
During 1825–26, a section of Ngati-Mutunga and Atiawa, who had found it advisable to depart from their homes near New Plymouth, tried conclusions with the Ngati-Ira for possession of Pito-one lands. Under the Chief Te Puni, Wharepouri and Wi Tako Ngatata, Atiawa drove Ngati-Ira into the Wairarapa, and assumed control of "the end of the sand."
Wharepouri made a voyage to Sydney about 1828, in Jacky Love's vessel. Te Puni showed a much less warlike disposition after settling here, and was a firm friend to the pakeha. He did much to curb the more sanguinary proclivities of Wharepouri, Taringakuri and others. Taringakuri (dog's ear) was a Ngati-Tama Chief, also of Taranaki. Although his home was at Kaiwhara- whara, he spent much of his time at Pito-one and Heretaunga. Wi Tako Ngatata was a contemporary of Te Puni. and is buried in the little Roman Catholic Cemetery. His name has been perpetuated in the Wi Tako Prison Camp at Trentham. Te Puni, Wharepouri, and Taringakuri were signatories to the "Treaty of Waitangi."
To-day, the exact sites of many of the old pas are largely a matter of conjecture. Much information is shown on a map compiled by Messrs. Elsdon Best and McLeod, and published by the Lands and Survey Department. These gentlemen deserve the thanks of succeeding generations for their efforts to localise some of the old Kaingas.
Puwhakaawe was the Chief of the Hikoikoi pa on the western banks of the Hutt River, captured in 1821. Ngutu-ihe (beak of the
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Port Nicholson, showing Maori place names

By courtesy Lands and Survey Department, Wellington.
W. T. Mill, Esq., Surveyor-General (1928)
garfish) was situated at the base of the hill, below the present read to Wainui-o-mata. Moera (sleep in the sun) is an old Atiawa name.
A village to the east of Waiwhetu was Ohiti (be cautious). Streams east of the Heretaunga (Hutt) River, were Okautu and Awamoto, or Awamutu (end of river) so called because the stream rises abruptly from the ground. Te Puni had his pa towards the western end of the beach. Heretaunga was the name of what we now term the Hutt River. It was given by Tara, or Tautoki, in memory of that other Heretaunga, near Hastings, Hawke's Bay. Pae-tutu (a perch of tutu or near a tutu tree) was an Atiawa village to the right of the Pipe Bridge.
The hills above Pito-one to the north, and north-west, were known as Te-raho-o-te-Kapowai, after Kapowai, an ancestor of Ngati-Kahungunu. Quite a long name was given to the small gully alongside the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Te-tuara-whati-o- te-Mana (the broken backbone of Te Mana). History does not disclose whether the injury was the result of coming home late some dark night, or the result of a fight. Te Mana was a Chief of Ngati-Mutunga, and is credited with naming the gully where the Woollen Mills are—Koro Koro (throat). Possibly Te Mana could see a resemblance to taking a drink in the passage of the bubbling creek. He might also have been following the old Maori custom, when coming into new territory, of a Chief calling parts of the landscape after some portion of his body. This had the effect of making such places tapu, and securing them for the chief's personal use. A peak on the Maungaraki Hills rejoiced in the title Puke- tiro-tiro (the hill with a wide view).
In Percy Smith's History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast an interesting description is given of a peace pact between Wharepouri and Ngati-Kahungunu which is well worth recounting.
The year would be about 1834. The peace-making was done at Pito-one. The Chief Tu-te-pakihi-rangi, of Ngati-Kahungunu, made a speech saying:
"Although I gave you no reason to come against me to kill and rob me of my lands, do not be anxious about it. Live all of you of this side of the mountains (Remu-taka), you on this side, I on the other. Behold! here is Te Kakapi, neice of my friend Te Wharepouri, who will act as a go-between— she and Waipunahau. They are both he ika toto nui no te whatu-kura-a-Tane, piki ake, heke mai' 'The God of the pakeha shall be our god. Although they are a new people we will cherish them, notwithstanding that their weapons, the muskets, are evil. I have now set up our daughter Te Kakapi as a go-between. Hold on to this rope!"
To this speech Ngatata, Te Puaha, Pakau, Te Puni, Te Kawa- kawa, Kuru-Kanga, and others consented to this peace made with Ngati-Kahungunu.
Pito-one and the adjacent lands were never so closely settled as in districts further north. Neither did the local tribes who were in occupation from time to time fortify their pas to the same degree as their compatriots in more northern territories. This would account in some measure for the ease with which the earlier tribes were ejected. The population of Pito-one ten years after the coming of the pakeha was set down as 136, and that of Waiwhetu as 48. The numbers must have been much larger prior to the advent of the white strangers.
The scribe gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness to the writings of the late Elsclon Best and Percy Smith, Polynesian Journals, Officials of the Turnbull Library, and others whose writings remain, but whose names, not noted at the time, are now lost in the fogs of the past. Heoi Ano.
Mr. Godber adds the following note on the possible origin of Pito-one:
"If, as Mr. Hapi Love states, the word Pito-one is a Ngati-Ira word, this tribe may have had in mind the troubles of their migration southwards from Waiapu. What more natural than, when they arrived at their safe haven, they should declare that this was 'the end' of their present troubles; 'the sand' of the beach giving ease in hauling up their canoes and stores of shellfish."
"I feel sure," states Mr. Godber, "that there is a deeper and more poetic meaning in the word Pito-one than the mere description of 'the end of the sand.'
"The western end of the beach offers a little better shelter from the southerlies, and there may have been other considerations, not apparent to-day, which decided the location for the pa."
Mr. Godber was asked if he could give any information regarding a fight which took place at Phuara-Keke-tapu (a site just north of the present Ford works) in which the Ngai-Tahu took part, and his reply was that it probably took place just before 1600 a.d., in which year the Ngai-Tahu migrated to the South Island, and, indeed, the fight may have been a contributory cause of the migration.

The First British Ship.

"So far as we have any reliable report, the first British vessel, to actually enter Port Nicholson was the Rosanna (Captain Herd) in the year 1826. This vessel brought out from England about sixty would-be settlers. They seem to have been in search of a location where they could procure flax and spars. The Rosanna visited Stewart Island, and then came up the east coast of the South Island, and entered Queen Charlotte Sound, after which she came to Port Nicholson While tying in this harbour Captain
Herd named it Port Nicholson, after a sea captain who had become Harbourmaster at Sydney."
Another early arrival was the Lord Rodney.
"The Atiawa tribe was not strong in numbers, and at Wellington they were situated 'between the devil and the sea.' They possessed but indifferent friends in Ngati-Toa at Porirua, while the Wairarapa Natives were actively hostile. In 1835 Atiawa were weakened by the migration of the Mutunga clan, under Pomare, to the Chatham Islands. At that time some of the Maoris were living on Somes Island, and the Lord Rodney was lying there in November, 1835, when the Maoris seized her and compelled the captain to convey many of them to the Chathams, where they much enjoyed themselves in slaughtering and eating the unwarlike descendents of refugees who had fled from New Zealand twenty-six generations before."
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Mudgway's House, Tennyson Street, Petone

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