Cultural Highlights

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Whangarei Library Pou

© Diane Stoppard

Whangarei Terenga Paraoa was a well established and thriving Maori settlement by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1769. Many prominent hill and land features around the harbour and river valleys show some sign of having been part of a pa (fortified village), garden or food storage pit.

Whangarei Harbour was a waypoint for Maori tribes from the north travelling south by waka (canoe). Early missionary records show as many as 3000 Maori would camp on the shores of this bountiful harbour and organise their journeys. Legend has it that these great assemblies gave the harbour its true name – Whangarei Terenga Paräoa, meaning ‘the swimming place of the whales’, as whales gathered there to feed during summer. Paräoa is Mäori for the sperm whale, and was highly regarded by Maori. Symbolically the paraoa represented persons of chiefly status. Often the chiefs of Ngapuhi met in Whangärei to mobilise their war parties.

The carving of the kohatu at the summit of Parihaka.
The carving of the kohatu at the summit of Parihaka.

Parihaka
Parihaka was sculpted by early Maori inhabitants into a pa, or great fortress, and was reputedly the largest in all New Zealand. More than 100 household terraces and 322 storage pits have been recorded. Battles were fought at Parihaka and after the people of the pa were overwhelmed by attacking forces in the battle of Oparakau in 1827, a large section of the mountain was declared tapu (sacred). Parihaka takes its name from the haka, or war dance, of defiance performed from the steep slopes and cliffs, or pari, of the pa. A special carved kohatu (rock) at the lookout summit represents the mauri (life essence) of the mountain, inspiring a sense of gravity and significance to the lookout.

Heritage Trail As part of the Hatea Loop - Huarahi o te Whai, read the heritage panels telling the stories of both Maori (Te Tangata Whenua – the people of the land) and European settlement.

See treasures of the Ngati Awa and Nga Puhi, the first peoples of Te Tai Tokerau/Northland at Kiwi North.
See treasures of the Ngati Awa and Nga Puhi, the first peoples of Te Tai Tokerau/Northland at Kiwi North.

Kiwi North - Museum & Heritage Park
The Fraser Collection of Maori taonga at Kiwi North include important treasures to the Ngati Awa and Nga Puhi, the first peoples of Te Tai Tokerau/Northland. The Museum also has a 200-year-old waka, a fine collection of korowai (cloaks) and beautiful bone, stone and wooden artefacts representative of early Maori technology. Enjoy photographic collections chronicling early Maori life in Northland.

The Sculpture Trail
The Sculpture Trail, part of the Hatea Loop - Huarahi o te Whai,  includes many contemporary and traditional works by local artists that tell the stories of, and reflect on Whangarei's unique culture.

Whangarei Falls - Otuihau
Otuihau is a picturesque 26 metre high waterfall and picnic spot. Traditionally this area was a good fishing spot for local Maori. The base of the falls may once have been tapu (sacred) as the pools were known as an area of healing and used for washing the wounded.

Ten Carved Pou
Ten carved pou (carved poles) representing many of the cultures that enrich Whangarei can be seen at the entrance to the Whangarei Library. Five of the poles were carved by, and represent, Maori. In what is believed to be a world first, the rest have been carved or decorated by other cultural groups and one, the Generic Pou, represents all cultures.

Te Matau a Pohe
The name, Te Matau a Pohe, of this rolling bascule bridge means ‘The Fish Hook of Pohe’ and reflects the early history of the people of this area. The design is inspired by the shape of Maori fish hooks and the prows of waka (canoe). Pohe was the Maori chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei. He was skilled in manufacturing traditional fish hooks that settlers used in preference to the standard English hooks made of steel. Pohe also built bridges between the two cultures during the first years of English settlement amongst Maori, and used his ranking to protect many of the first settlers from being killed. See and walk across the bridge as part of the Hatea Loop - Huarahi o te Whai.

Te Matau a Pohe - The Fish Hook of Pohe, the rolling bascule bridge crossing the Hatea River, Whangarei
Te Matau a Pohe - The Fish Hook of Pohe, the rolling bascule bridge crossing the Hatea River, Whangarei