Regional | Ngāti Maniapoto

Ngāti Maniapoto commemorate 'momentous occasion' in NZ railway history

Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library 

The last iwi to allow the main trunk rail line to pass through their tribal lands is commemorating the occasion at a ceremony in King Country today - 138 years to the day that the first soil was turned over.

After the battles of Rangiaowhia and Ōrākau during the NZ Wars in 1864, Ngāti Maniapoto established the Aukati, a boundary around its territory restricting any foreign entry. This was done to preserve the rangatiratanga and mana whakahaere over their remaining lands.

However, in 1885 Ngāti Maniapoto agreed to the construction of the railway line through its lands - after a series of assurances from the Crown known as Te Ohākī Tapu - and on 15 April that year, a turning of the sod ceremony was held.

“Maniapoto was the final rohe that permitted railway construction in our (respective) lands, enabling the main trunk line to be completed throughout the North Island," Te Nehenehenui chair Bella Takiari-Brame said Friday.

"This ceremony is a reminder that our tūpuna held fast to their beliefs during challenging times, and we must carry that through to today and into the future."

On 15 April 1885, a turning of the sod ceremony was held on the southern side of the Pūniu River, where Reihana Wahanui Te Huatare proposed Tūrongo as the name for the railway line. Tūrongo was an important ancestor who was given land there, on the iwi’s northern boundary.

Wahanui Huatare seated on the verandah of his house in Alexandra, 1885. He holds a staff in one hand. Taken by the Burton Brothers.  Source / NZ History 

The term Te Ara o Tūrongo was adopted in 2019 and today's ceremony at Te Māwhai marks the event.

MOTAT and KiwiRail are supporting the occasion.

“It’s important to tell both the positive and the negative impact of rail on the iwi. It is also fitting to acknowledge what impact the past has had on the iwi and how that leads to its present and future at this ceremony,” MOTAT director Michael Frawley said.

Watch a livestream of the event.  Source / Facebook

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy described today's event which gets underway at 12.30pm as "momentous".

"KiwiRail is committed to an enduring relationship with Ngāti Maniapoto and we look forward to taking part in this momentous occasion which recognises our shared history and celebrates our future.”

“Titiro whakamuri, kōkiri whakamua. We look back and reflect, so that we can move forward.”

Ngāti Maniapoto post-settlement entity, Te Nehenehenui, expressed their gratitude to those who helped bring the event together.

"Te Nehenehenui would like to thank all those involved in the planning of this event, including Ōtorohanga Museum and the Pope family, who have released the original wheelbarrow for view on the day, Jim Kirkham who has allowed access to his farm to hold the ceremony, and Ngāti Paea, Ngāti Paretekawa and Ngāti Unu who will welcome manuhiri and lead ceremony formalities."

More than 1000 people are expected to attend the event, including Crown officials who will arrive by steam train.