PAPAWAI - the centre of the Maori Parliament
In the last years of the nineteenth century,
and the first years of the twentieth, Papawai marae, near
Greytown, became the focus of Kotahitanga, the Maori Parliament
movement, and hosted many important meetings to discuss
issues of importance to Maori. The genesis of Papawai lay
in the Government purchase of the large Tauherenikau block
in the early 1850s. An area of land from the sale was specifically
set aside for the creation of a church village in the bush
just south of the Waiohine River, and to the east of the
Kuratawhiti clearing. The land set aside adjoined the land
granted to the Small Farm Association for their settlement
of Greytown, and the two townships developed together from
Three main groups came to live at Papawai
at that time, groups led by Te Manihera Te Rangitakaiwaho,
Ngatuere Tawhao and Wi Kingi Tu-te-pakihi-rangi. Times
were difficult, however, with tensions between the various
groups, and before long the latter two chiefs had lead
their people away from Papawai again.
The Government had promised local Maori
that they would build a flour mill for their use, and the
mill was constructed at Papawai but it too became a cause
of conflict with Manihera maintaining that the mill was
his alone and refusing to allow others to grind their wheat.
The Church of England constructed a school at Papawai,
drawing on monies from lands donated by local Maori at
Papawai and Kaikokirikiri near Masterton. The school, called
St Thomas' was opened in December 1860, but niggardly support
from the Government meant the school never thrived, and
it closed in the mid-1860's after local Maori refused to
send their children to the school.
The town itself, sometimes called Manihera
Town, was also struggling at that time. The missionary
William Ronaldson described it as a "small place,
not a mile square, surrounded by dense bush, and scarcely
fit even for pasture" and said the two-mile road from
Greytown often took an hour to travel.
Papawai was in a long decline during the
1860s and 1870s, but by the 1880's it was starting to assume
a more dominant role in Maori society, perhaps reflecting
a shift in power among the chiefs.
Manihera had been the main chief of the
township during its establishment years. His date of birth
is not known but he was a young married man when the Wairarapa
Maori returned home from Nukutaurua in the early 1840's.
He was the son of Rangitakaiwaho, and, although descended
from both Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu, was primarily
thought of as of the Ngati Moe hapu.
He was a keen supporter of leasing land
to sheep owners, and is recorded on many of the first leases.
His enthusiasm for leasing was not always appreciated,
and he was inclined to ignore the rights of other owners,
leading to a number of arguments. On one occasion he was
forced to flee into the Tararuas to avoid his own relatives,
who were said to be so upset they were talking of killing
him. Over the years he became one of the most frequent
witnesses at the Maori Land Court, arguing for the land
rights of his people. As he aged he looked for a successor
to take over the leadership at Papawai, and to develop
his vision of the township assuming leadership for Wairarapa
He chose Tamahau Mahupuku to deal with
issues relating to the people, and selected the scribe
Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury to take care of land matters and
negotiations with the Government.
Tamahau Mahupuku was of Ngati Moe and
Ngati Hikawera descent, and is said to have been born about
1840. He was regarded as a handsome but rather wild young
man. He married three times, but it was his second marriage,
to the widow of the chief Matini Te Ore , that secured
his place at Papawai. His appointment by Manihera, and
the wealth generated by the hapu's extensive land holdings,
led to his mana increasing, and when Manihera died in June
1885 Mahupuku was his natural successor.
Under Tamahau's leadership an extensive
building programme was undertaken at Papawai. The house
Hikurangi was opened in 1888, and three others quickly
followed - Waipounamu, named for the people of the South
Island; Aotea, for the Taranaki people, and Potaka, after
a famed Wairarapa marae.
In 1897 the programme was extended further,
with new buildings to accommodate the meetings of the Maori
Parliament. The Maori newspaper Te Puke ki Hikurangi was
also first published at Papawai in 1897. Although originally
intended to publicise the work of the Kotahitanga movement
it was also used to deliver a wide range of news, including
the publication of tribal history. It was published until
The Maori Parliament was hosted at Papawai
in two separate sessions during 1897. These meetings resolved
to support Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui's petition to the Queen
that all remaining Maori land should be reserved absolutely
for Maori, and submissions were made to Government on the
In 1898 Prime Minister Richard Seddon
drew up a bill for the administration of Maori land that
caused a storm of protest in Maori circles, as it was thought
of as being very paternalistic. Tamahau held large hui
at Papawai to discuss the issue, which had split the Kotahitanga
movement. He found himself at odds with many members over
his support of Seddon and the Government. He also supported
Seddon's 1900 Maori Lands Adminstration Act and the Maori
Councils Act, both of which seemed to deliver a degree
of self-government to Maori.
Tamahau Mahupuku is said to have spent
more than £40,000 on various projects and hui between
1894 and 1904, and Papawai hosted most of the leaders
of the country, Maori and pakeha. He supported a brass
that played to the thousands that visited Papawai, and
was noted as a generous host. Under his guidance many
special meetings were held to record the history, whakapapa
customs of the Maori. These meetings were the source
of much of our knowledge about Maori life and beliefs.
Tamahau died in 1904. One of his last
projects had been the palisading of the marae at Papawai.
A number of large totara logs were also gathered, and after
his death these were carved into eighteen large tekoteko,
carved figures, representing important ancestors. Uniquely,
the tekoteko face into the marae to represent peace, rather
than facing outwards to confront enemies. The Government
financed a large marble monument that was erected at Papawai,
commemorating his role in bring the two races together.
Tamahau's death lead to the role of Papawai becoming diminished.
No-one could afford the lavish hospitality of the past,
and although other leaders arose, none had his financial
The elements played their part in the
diminution of Papawai too. The hurricane force winds of
October 1934 destroyed the Aotea-Waipounamu complex and
the 1942 earthquake destroyed the marble monument to Tamahau.
Even the tekoteko suffered from dry rot.
Papawai has undergone a restoration. Tamahau's
monument has been re-erected and a project was initiated
in the early 1990s to preserve the few tekoteko that remained.
Today there are still Wairarapa ancestors standing watch
over Papawai, the seat of the Maori Parliament.