When the new Ngai Tai E Rua Marae whare moe in Tuakau was formally dedicated in April this year it was as if the Carr Street site, on which it is built, had come full circle.
Nearly 88 years earlier a stone was laid there for the original building, instigated by the late Tai Porotu Matete Kukutai, and in time, other buildings were added. But last year, with the demolition of one of the last remaining older buildings, building began on a new whare moe (sleeping house).
However, the history behind the site is little known to new residents but back in 1992, when the book, Tuakau and Districts Golden Memories was published to mark the 50th jubilee reunion of the Tuakau & Districts Old Settlers’Association, local resident, the late Kupi Clarke wrote a letter explaining some of its background.
In it, she said the Carr Street land occupied by the Pa [Marae] was bought between 1926 and 1928 by Tai Porotu Matete Kukutai, better known as Poru Matete. “He lived on George Street opposite where the council office is now. His dream – as we call it – was to build a Pa in Tuakau for the local people.”
Because Porotu and his wife hosted many visitors, who would stay overnight, Kupi said Porotu decided to build a hostel with three bedrooms, a fireplace and place for a bed where people could nap. However, when the hostel became a refuge for tuberculosis patients, TB huts were placed on the land and several smaller houses built.
“People came from Port Waikato, Waikaretu, Mercer, Kaiaua, Pukekawa and other surrounding districts to visit the doctor. As people continued to call, Porotu and others decided to extend the hostel’s sleeping quarters.
“Everyone help raise funds. Pensioners dug into their pocket and raffles were run to buy timber and nails from Mr Bill Graham or Mr Percy Graham, [whose descendents still live locally]. Butter, sugar, tea and sometimes milk were donated [as well as] home-baked bread and food from home gardens to help the cause.”
Kupi wrote that on September 28, 1929, Sir Apii Ngata visited Princess Te Puea in Tuakau and a feast was prepared [to mark the opening of the completed house].
“Many people arrived for the occasion which included church services and the baptism of children. The new house, called Nga Tai E Rua, was officially opened and it marked a joining of people from the east and west coasts,” Kupi said.
“Later another house was built which became the ‘big dining room’ named Reitu by the Anglican minister Rev Mutu Kapa. Reitu and her sister Reipac were from the Waikato but they moved north, Reitu to Ahipara near Kaitaia where she married and started a family. The Rev Kapa was one of her descendants.”
In 2005 the Reitu Whare Kai described by Kupi was replaced by a large, steel-framed building which is still there today. However, from 1992, fundraising was ongoing to build a new whare moe and which came to fruition this year.
Today, as in the past, the Marae remains a busy gathering place hosting both Maori and Pakeha. It is used for weddings, birthdays, tangi and the annual Poukai [an annual circuit of visits by the Maori king which includes feasting and cultural performances].
And, as Kupi wrote: “All was made possible because of the actions one gentleman, Poru Matete whose dream came true for future generations.”