Whatipu, Waitakere, Auckland

Whatipu, Waitakere, Auckland

With several pa sites, middens, terraces and caves, Whatipu is considered one of the richest areas of Maori prehistoric artefacts in New Zealand.

Whatipu is located at the southern end of the Waitakere Ranges, around an hour’s drive from Auckland city and up to 45 minutes drive from Titirangi village. The settlement is found south of Karekare, famously known as the setting for Jane Campion’s film The Piano.

Once known for its wide variety of fish, shellfish and shark, Whatipu was used as a Maori seasonal fishing settlement. Tribes migrated from the Taranaki region to Whatipu around AD1200, where, on a clear day, they were still able to see their beloved Mt Taranaki. Hence, they named the main bay at Whatipu, Taranaki Bay.

In the seventeenth century, members of Ngati Awa iwi left their homes in Kawhia, guided by Maki of North Taranaki.

Maki led his people to Muriwai, where they settled and eventually Maki took control of all the Waitakeres. To this day, Maori originating from the Whatipu coastline are known as Te Kawerau a Maki, after their forefather.

The Te Kawerau people lived peacefully in their new homeland until the 1820s, when the Waitakere coastline was invaded by Northland’s Ngapuhi iwi. Armed with muskets, Ngapuhi massacred Te Kawerau iwi at Te Kaka pa in Karekare.

Those that survived abandoned the now sacred Karekare site and retreated to the Waikato. Though Te Kawerau iwi eventually returned to Whatipu for fishing and spiritual replenishment, they never re-settled there permanently.

Today, Whatipu is covered with waahi tapu [sacred sites]. Of the five remaining pa sites, Pararaha Point Pa is the largest and best-preserved pa in the Waitakere Ranges.

Four kilometres north of Whatipu, the Ohaka Head Pit Platform Terrace offers spectacular views of the coastline, while the Whatipu Terraces and Midden provide a prime example of an undefended site.

While visitors are welcome to explore these sites, they are not all easily accessible and may require some bush-wrangling to uncover.

Though the number of Te Kawerau a Maki has greatly declined over past centuries, the iwi has started to grow again as new generations of Maori reaffirm bonds with their ancestral lands.

Te Kawerau recently erected an 11m high pou and an interpretive display near Whatipu Lodge, at the end of Whatipu Road, to acknowledge this connection and their role as kaitiaki [custodian].

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Content updated: 19/09/2019 00:27

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