...... previous day next day ......
Bay of Islands Cape Reinga

9th December 2011

Birth of a Colony, the Country's Oldest Stone Building and a Memorial to Rainbow Warrior

Two Waka, Ngatoki Matawhaorua on the Right
    Waitangi, a short stroll up from Paihai, was my first port of call today, and quite an important call at that. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, overlooking the Bay of Islands, is New Zealand's pre-eminent historic site, being the location where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6th, 1840. However, it is also the place where the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand was signed five years prior, on October 28th, 1835. This document was ratified by the British Crown the following year (1836).
     Up until that point, New Zealand was in a state of turmoil. Settlers were piling into the country, and there was no controlling authority to police what they did. One of the many outfits that tried to stamp its authority was the New Zealand Company, who were planning to build up their own settlements and create their own laws to govern them. French expansion in the Pacific was also threatening to exert its own authority on the land.
    At that point, England didn't really want another colony, but the Crown felt a moral obligation to protect the Maori from unscrupulous land-grabbers. Naval captain William Hobson was instructed to negotiate the transfer of sovereignty over New Zealand to Queen Victoria, and guarantee the Maori full possession and use of their lands. The Treaty of Waitangi began on February 5th, 1840 when a public meeting was held on the grounds in front of James Busby's residence. Lieutenant Governor Hobson read a proposed document to the 300 or so European and Maori who were in attendance and then provided the Maori chiefs an opportunity to speak. Initially, a large number of chiefs spoke against accepting the Crown's proposition to rule over Aotearoa. However, later in the proceedings a few chiefs began to entertain this idea. The proceedings were ended and were to recommence on February 7th; however, a number of chiefs pressed to sign earlier. The Treaty of Waitangi was initially signed on February 6th, 1840 in a marquee erected in the grounds of James Busby's house at Waitangi, by representatives of the British Crown, the chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand, and other Maori tribal leaders, and subsequently by other Maori chiefs at other places in New Zealand. Not all of the chiefs chose to sign this document, with a number of chiefs either delaying or refusing to put pen to paper.
    However, all was not well. Two treaties had been drawn up; the English Treaty giving Queen Victoria "governship", and a Maori "translation" which translated as "giving the Maori unqualified exercise of their chieftainship" over their lands. The debate carries on to this day as to whether the British and Maori signed the same deal.
Details of Ngatoki Matawhaorua
Waitangi Flagstaff
    The introduction of the Treaty effectively revoked the Declaration of Independence; making New Zealand a British colony, and the Treaty is generally considered the founding document of New Zealand as a nation. Waitangi Day, February 6th, is the annual celebration of the signing, and is New Zealand's national holiday.
The Treaty House
    I was drawn into the visitor complex of Waitangi National Reserve by the beautiful, haunting sound of Maori piped music. Here an audio-visual presentation gave an account of the events leading up to the signing of the Treaty and its significance. Then, being a glutton for punishment, I opted for the Embrace Waitangi guided tour. I had arrived quite early, and I was the only one on it. A young woman guided me around the Treaty Grounds. She did not embrace me! We started off by casting our eyes over two replicas of the signed Treaties, both the English and Maori versions. I couldn't read the English text never mind the Maori, so how they must have coped back then is anybody's guess. I already knew of the possibility of a stich up by the British, and since she appeared to have Maori blood in her, I asked her how she felt about it. She did indeed have one set of Scottish grandparents and the rest of her ancestry were Maori, so her judged response was that she had no hard feelings because the British did do some good deeds as well as the bad.
Te Whare Runanga - the Meeting House, with Explorer Kupe at the Apex
    She proudly pointed out her great, great ....... grandfather's signature, Kawiti, on the Maori version of the Treaty. He had been a chief who led the British a merry dance at one time, but she assured me he was one of the chiefs who sided with the British as far as the Treaty was concerned. We then proceeded down a walkway, passing the giant ferns that I had seen umpteen times. I took the opportunity of asking her what they were called. "They are Tree Ferns," she replied. Why didn't I think of that? She then gave me the Maori name, which went right over my head, but it roughly translated as "black fern", since the base of the long branches were like the ace of spades.
    The walkway took us down to Hobson's Beach where the waka house shelters the world's largest war canoe (waka). The 35m-long Ngatoki Matawhaorua, was named after the vessel navigated by Kupe when he discovered Aotearoa, and built from two huge kauri. It is traditionally launched each Waitangi Day, propelled by eighty warriors. The woman explained that you need at least eighty just to get the craft moving in safety. It had intricate carvings down its side, with shells inlaid for eyes. These were to represent the ancestors of the warriors. My mind boggled at how the craft had been shaped using simple stone adzes, taking into account the timber was the extremely dense and hard kauri.
Te Whare Runanga Carvings Representing Different Tribes and Tukutuku
    We left the beach area and climbed a hill to a level plain. On the way she attempted to describe to me how the Polynesians had reached Aotearoa using celestial navigation. She added that apparently, some experts had declared in the past that it would be impossible for them to navigate such a great distance successfully. One year, a group of souls decided to prove that it was possible, and succeeded sailing a double-hulled canoe from New Zealand to Hawaii and back using just the stars and knowledge of wind and tides. The exercise is repeated annually now.
    At the level plain, a naval flagstaff indicated the approximate position of where the Treaty was signed. The New Zealand flag fluttered at the top in the steady breeze. At the yardarm, two flags flew, one the Union Jack, the other was a flag designed by Busby in the pre-Treaty days, and often called the New Zealand flag. It was issued then to recognised ships that did trade in those waters.
    A short walk from the flagstaff across manicured lawns took us to the major focus of the reserve, the Treaty House, a beautifully restored Georgian colonial style building, built between 1833-34, and once the home of James Busby. Most of the Residency was pre-cut in Sydney of Australian hardwood, then shipped to the Bay of Islands and assembled on site. Busby had sailed to Australia when he was 22 years old, and was then posted to New Zealand seven years later with the job of sorting out the lawlessness in the land; not an enviable task I'm sure. Incidentally, he had successfully cultivated grapes in Australia, and he spearheaded vineyards in New Zealand.
Interior of Te Whare Runanga
    Just fifty metres from the Treaty House lay Te Whare Runanga, a Maori meeting-house erected in 1940 for the centenary celebrations. The woman indicated it was fitting that the Maori should have a representation on the grounds too, since it symbolises Maori involvement in the signing of the Treaty and in the life of the nation. The building was unique in that it was all planned to be shared by all Maori tribes. Inside richly carved panels depicted all the Maori tribes, including that from which the young woman descended. Tukutuku (read panels) stood on the walls between the carvings, all signifying different tales, and Kowhaiwhai (painted roof patterns) graced the roof. The girl escorted me with glee to a corner of the room where, cordoned off, a carved chair stood, given by the tribe that was based in the area on the south island that became popular with Scottish immigrants.
    My tour had come to an end now, so I thanked her, we made our farewells, and I moved on to my next appointment, the Maori Cultural Performance. Here a Maori woman in full costume greeted me, a German couple who had recently immigrated, and an English family. She sounded almost cockney the way she called us all lovelies. We were led into a small theatre, where two Maori men and a couple of Maori women performed a series of distinctive song and dance routines of northern Maori tribes. They incorporated a guitar which rather spoilt it for me; it didn't seem authentic with that instrument. And then, as usual, I was dragged down to the stage, but fortunately so were the other men, and we were given rudimentary instructions on how to perform the haka. Then we proceeded with the two Maori guys to go right through the haka, knocking lumps out of ourselves and trying to look ugly and frightening, not difficult in my case. It had all been good fun, and some of the Maori songs were quite moving, even though I had no clue about what was being sung.
Maori Performers
    Having being cultured up to the eyeballs, I decided to hit the road and head up north to Kerikeri. The undulating hills gave way to groves of citrus, grape and kiwifruit which thrived in the subtropical environment, separated by windbreaks. It was this district where ploughs in New Zealand first started tilling the soil in 1820, and the settlement received its name, keri, meaning "dig". Nowadays, the orchards were besieged by a seasonal workforce from January to July. The town simply oozed agricultural and horticultural excellence. Most gardens resembled miniature orchards, and colourful street stalls displayed a range of plump, fresh fruit.
    The Kerikeri River wound its way up to the tidal limit at Kerikeri Basin, an area rich in historical importance. Here the country's oldest surviving wooden building was established in 1822, the two-storey Mission House. The Reverend John Butler had it built on land traded by the local Maori chief, Hongi Hika, for a batch of axes. It became the residence of lay missionary and blacksmith, James Kemp, in 1832. The Kemp family vacated the building in 1974, after which some restoration work was carried out on the property.
Kerikeri Basin
    Nearby stood the nation's oldest stone building, the Stone Store, completed in 1836 for the Church Missionary Society. The warehouse, also known as Kemp's Folly, had had a chequered history. In the 1840s it served as a library for the first Anglican bishop, George Selwyn. Later it became a munitions dump during conflicts with the Ngapuhi chief, Hone Heke, and then assumed its intended purpose as a general mission store. Believe it or not, the couple I had been talking to yesterday appeared out of the building as I arrived. We joked that we may meet up at Cape Reinga in the morning. I also met another English couple from the same boat trip; it is becoming a habit. Inside the Stone Store now resided an arts and crafts shop, but I was intrigued by a collection of old boxes and barrels selling an assortment of "Yankee cut" nails. Why?
Kemp's House
    A riverside track led me to the remains of Kororipo Pa, a hill fort from which chief Hongi Hika launched attacks on other tribes. He became a bit of a celebrity, and was the first Maori to visit England in 1820. There he helped Cambridge professors compile A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Language of New Zealand. He was in turn laden with many gifts, most of which he sold, but he kept the suit of armour presented to him by George IV. He returned home with the intention of becoming the King of New Zealand, and with the proceeds of his sales, bought muskets. He went on to wage war with rival tribes, protected by his coat of armour. He and his warriors are reputed to have eaten many of their victims, but got on well with the missionaries. What kind chaps they were.
Stone Store
    On the other side of the river stood Rewa's Village, built in 1969 by community effort. It is a reconstructed kainga such as the Maori would have occupied when the missionaries first came to this area. In most districts there would be a number of such kainga, usually sited beside a fresh water supply and adjacent to fishing or shell-fishing grounds, cultivations or hunting areas. Kainga would usually be in the vicinity of a fortified pa on a headland, hilltop or ridge, such as Koroipo Pa across the water, which would be a refuge when enemy raiding parties approached. Because it is a small unfortified kainga, Rewa's Village had no elaborate carved gateway or buildings.
Rewa's Village Chief's House
    Having done Kerikeri to death, I drove further north up the SH10, and took a detour along the scenic route to Matauri Bay. Here, sheltered white sand beaches and crystal clear waters were sublimely surrounded by Northfolk pine. Nestling in the bay were the Cavalli Islands. The isolation made a refreshing change from the commercialised glitzy Bay of Islands. It was here, in 1814, where missionary Samuel Marsden first set foot in Aotearoa.
    The bay is also known for being the final resting place of the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior. During the 1960s, the French government had ignored the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, outlawing atmospheric testing of nuclear devices, and continued to conduct tests on Pacific atolls. Despite their reassurances that no radioactive fallout would reach inhabited islands, radiation was detected as far away as New Zealand. Rainbow Warrior was nominated in 1985, to lead a Greenpeace protest flotilla from Auckland to the French nuclear test grounds. On 10th July 1985, French secret service agents bombed Rainbow Warrior to prevent the protest, resulting in a Greenpeace photographer being killed. The French government were eventually forced to admit to international state-backed terrorism, but managed to negotiate for the two agents to serve their ten year sentences on a French Pacific island. There they served less than two years before being honoured and returned to France. The bay's local Maori tribe offered the ship its final resting place in these waters, the same graveyard where their ancestral waka, Matoatua, lies. It has become a living reef, attracting marine life and recreational divers. It seemed a fitting end for a ship that had spent its time protecting the marine environment.
Rainbow Warrior Memorial
    I made my way to the little garage and cafe that stood near the base of the headland to the north of the bay to visit a memorial commemorating the Rainbow Warrior. I entered the cafe to ask where the path to the summit started from. I heard a voice chattering away as I entered, and when I located and put a body to the voice, there was nobody else in the room. The lady, who had been intently poring over a very large ledger, kindly told me where I could park, advising me to make sure I locked my car, and gave me instructions as to where I could pick up the path. I climbed the hill, and on reaching the summit, admired the memorial and spent a while gazing across the silent depths. This small bay with its beauty and remoteness, together with the secrets it held, was quite moving.
    I dismounted the hill, and returned to the cafe to grab a coffee before my final leg of today's journey. Inside were two voices appearing out of the depths, both intently poring over two ledgers, trying to get the two tomes in sync with each other by the looks of it. There was a lot of rubbing out and pencilling going on. While they were engrossed in the current quick fix, I noted from the row of certificates above the counter that these were Mrs Grimwood and Mrs McKinley. When they had time to come up to breathe, I asked if I could buy a coffee. The usual response came, "What type of coffee?" "Hot, wet and white," I replied. Then she rattled off all the designer coffees that you get across the globe now. "When I was young, coffee was coffee," I said. "You want flat white," was the response to that, and she went off to make it. Meanwhile Mrs Grimwood carried on with the books, talking very loudly to herself. "You talking to me?" I asked, hoping she would take it as a joke. "I always talk to myself when I do the books. It is the only way I can concentrate." "You know, if you did all this using a spreadsheet on your laptop, it would be a lot simpler," I declared. "No it wouldn't, I like to see everything on a big page in front of me, I can read it better," was her considered response. "But if you ....," she cut me off there. "I don't like laptops," she snapped, and resumed talking to herself and rubbing out columns. Mrs McKinley returned with my coffee, and instantly launched into a heated debate with Mrs Grimwood, who had just erased a complete column of important information. Hmmm ... I thought, there is no undo button on your written ledger. I thanked them for the coffee, and left them to rewrite the books.
Doubtless Bay from Hihi Campsite      (please use scroll bar)

    The skies were becoming very grey, so I left the bay and made my way across to Hihi near Mangonui, where a found an almost deserted campsite located right on Doubtless Bay, what a perfect place to rest up for the night. Tonight I would fall asleep to waves on the shore as opposed to a waterfall. Indeed there was only one other couple staying on the site. I chatted to the taciturn manager of the site about the weather change approaching. It looked like tomorrow would be an opportune moment to make a dash for Cape Reinga; bad weather was forecast for the day after.

...... previous day next day ......
Bay of Islands Cape Reinga

Uploaded from Hihi Camp, Hihi on 10th December at 07:47

Last updated 10.12.2011