Regional | King Tuheitia

Mourners flock to first in-person koroneihana in three years

Tears were shed today at the house of Mahinarangi at Tūrangawaewae Marae during the 16th commemoration of the coronation of King Tuheitia.

Bereaved families from the tribes of Tainui came to remember their loved ones and to find healing in their time of great sadness.

Kīngitanga spokesman Brad Totorewa said he was “overwhelmed” to see the people’s marae once again packed today after three years of not being able to have an in-person event, thanks to Covid-19.

“Despite the wet weather Tainui tribes from around the area have arrived and have filled out the entire marae,” Totorewa said.

This morning in heavy rain more than 300 bereaved families from the 68 marae of Tainui paid tribute to their loved ones who had died during the last year, aiming to remember and heal.

The first in-person Koroneihana in two years begins.

Bringing their kawe mate

They were ushered in by the wailing of karanga, haka pōwhiri and in the presence of King Tuheitia.

“I am bringing my wife back here for the kawe mate,” Mills Hetaraka from Ngāti Kahu said. ”I’ve never been here before, we lost her In March. She was the most loving person you would come across and she could sing like a bird.”

Hekenga Rakatau from Ngāti Kauwhata was supported by her whānau today as she brought her brother's kawe mate onto Tūrangawaewae.

“My brother passed away during Christmas. The pain remains. However, it is awesome to see the masses from the tribe here today and I am thankful for a Māori kaupapa like this to help me heal” she said.


For the past few years the week-long event has had to be live-streamed due to the pandemic

And there were still some restrictions – there were no sports, for example.

Long queues lined up to be tested before entry. Some were over 50 metres long, with people waiting in the rain; this did not stop them from finally being able to attend and celebrate the event with their king.

In 2020 and 2021 there was no physical kawe mate and bereaved families were unable to bring photos of loved ones and share their grief on Turangawaewae.

Instead, whanau pani (bereaved families) were asked to send digital pictures, which were played over the internet on the Kīngitanga page, capturing captured more than 100,000 viewers per day.

Healing their loss

“But now to share in each other’s grief and healing together after three years and here on Tūrangawaewae by our awa Waikato and maunga Taupiri and in front of our king, it is special,” Totorewa said.

The coronation is celebrated by followers of the Kingitanga movement, which was established upon the crowning of the first Māori king, Waikato chief Pōtatau Te Wherowhero in 1858.

Today the king's festive week today is about his Tainui people and healing them of their loss.

“For me today is about settling my soul, my pain and not just for me but for all of us here at this year’s coronation,” Rakatau said.

Hetaraka also hopes to also get some kind of healing out of it for her and her whānau.

“It’s all for her, my wife. She wanted to come home and she is here, here at her Tūrangawaewae,” Rakatau said.