Māori Archaeology of Takapuna

Tēnā Koutou Katoa. On 31st July 2018, the Channel View Lounge at the Mary Thomas Centre, in Takapuna was overflowing with more than 100 people interested in learning about archaeology and pre-colonial Māori history on the Devonport – Takapuna peninsula.

Nau mai, Haere mai… welcome one and all! This event was open to the public with people coming from across Te Raki Paewhenua, North Shore and as far afield as Papakura and Manurewa. The hui was hosted by Auckland North Community and Development (ANCAD) with support from the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board through their community funded programme. The event opened with mihi and karakia by Otene Reweti from Te Waka Anga Mua ki Uta (Auckland Council’s Māori Strategy and Relations Department). Otene also closed the hui with a karakia.

Zella Morrison the previous strategic broker of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board provided an overview of the programme. The hui was arranged as part of her previous role which was to support local community organisations improve their understanding of Māori knowledge.

She explained the meaning of some Māori names such as:

Kia Orato be well, Manato have prestige and respect, Whenuathe earth, land, mountains oceans and rivers, Mana Whenua – relates to being born of the land that holds tribal status.
Taka — puna is a name that originated in Hawaiki. “Taka” meaning knoll and “puna” is a spring where it is believed fresh water flowed from North Head (Maungauika) to Takapuna.

Zella also explained the meaning of Tāmaki Makaurau — aptly described as ‘desired by many’ because of its plentiful resources, food, coastal access and maunga which were occupied by Māori. The Devonport- Takapuna Local Board area consists of twelve mana whenua groupings and 19 iwi across the wider Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland region.

Zella’s presentation also included learning a little waiata. Following this introduction we stopped for kai, which was preceded by karakia given by Otene Reweti.

The second part of the day was a presentation given by historian and archaeologist, Dave Veart of Devonport. Dave’s own family has been in Aotearoa for seven generations, he lives in the same house that his grand-parents lived in. Dave feels a deep and strong bond with the Devonport community because everywhere he goes he can see something which has a family connection. “The house I live in now is the house my father grew up in and in the Friendly Societies Hall my grandfather is recorded as the treasurer of the Ancient Order of Foresters. I still have photographs of him in full regalia.” 1

Dave’s presentation focussed on the archaeological sites of the Devonport – Takapuna peninsula, of which there are hundreds. When Pākeha began to settle in the Devonport area, settlers lived side by side with local hapu who had stone walled gardens expanding up and down the entire peninsula. The volcanic soil was ideal for growing many crops including kumara and peach trees!

Ferdinand von Hochstetter was a European geologist, who in the 1850s traversed the peninsula and recorded the scope of Māori settlement; including the crops grown, kai moana (sea food), and the overall landscape. ‘On passing along the beach we came upon a scaffold about 39 feet long…A long row of fish, sharks and other kinds were supended from it to dry…Fat pigs and lean dogs were running about; and farther on there were some Maori huts. The two old folks sitting at the door hailed us with their cordial “Tenakoe,” while black eyed, half-naked children were staring at us… The plantings about the huts, consisting of potatoes, cabbage and other ordinary vegetables, were in a tolerably good state of cultivation, and surrounded by a wall of lava-blocks…about four feet high up which lianas…were climbing.’ - Ferdinand von Hochstetter, 1859.

Dave also talked of what the flora and fauna would have been like 1000 years ago. Could we imagine walking outside of the Mary Thomas Centre and spotting three types of moa wandering around, and huge podocarp trees running the length of the peninsula?

The day concluded with parting karakia from Kuia Rangi Davis (a member of the ANCAD board). Rangi is of Ngāti te Ara Ngāti Kopaki and Ngāti Hine hapu of Moerewa, Northland. Rangi has been part of the staff/whānau of Hato Petera College – based in Northcote for many years. Parting gifts were presented by Yvonne Powley, ANCAD CEO.


For the team at ANCAD reflections on the day included:

‘I don’t recall anything like this ever being presented in the Takapuna area. It was great to see the huge interest in this topic! There was a lot of respect from the speakers for all iwi in this area. The workshop was a very positive introduction to the history.  We are keen to host further events like this, given the amount of interest.’ – Yvonne Powley, ANCAD CEO.

‘What a great success. I’m sure people learnt a lot from the two presentations, and the shared korero between hosts and audience. As a historian myself, I found the day was full of great wairua and mana. My imagination went wild when I heard Dave’s presentation – trying to imagine what this area was like at the time of the arrival of the first waka. Then also trying to imagine what the area looked like with Māori and Pākeha living side by side and peach trees going everywhere along with many cultivated gardens. I live in one of the oldest houses in Devonport (from 1860) so for me I now feel quite connected after today’s event to an incredible story about this peninsula.’ – Ruth Greenaway.

‘I found Dave’s presentation really informative and stimulating – so much so, that I went home to read more about the early settlement of New Zealand!’ - Geoff Andrews.

‘The event was made really special by having such a wide range of people attending, who all (I am sure) got something different out of the event. For me personally, learning about the history not just of the place but also of the people who have settled in this area at different points in its history, made me feel much more connected to the land. I have lived on the North Shore (Te Rake Paewhenua) for over 20 years but this is the first time I have really learnt anything about its history. I often hear people describe themselves as Tangata Whenua but have always felt that this does not describe my relationship to Te Rake Paewhenua and was really interested to learn that I can refer to myself instead as Mataawaka, which feels so much more comfortable for me.’ – Susan Moyle

‘It was a really special occasion. We had fascinating kōrero about kaupapa Māori for Takapuna and Dave’s presentation on the history of local Māori settlement was phenomenal. I hope this is the first of a series of such hui. The interest and enthusiasm from the 100 people who came along would suggest there’s definitely appetite for more.’ – Steve McLuckie.

© Article compiled and written by Ruth Greenaway, Communications Coordinator for Auckland North Community and Development Inc. August 2018


1. Excerpt taken from ‘My Story, Your Story — Together builds community’, Published by ANCAD, 2015