A simple broadsheet poster written in te reo started a search for information in the Auckland Museum library. What was the mystery event at Waihi Marae, Taupo on 18 April 1959?
It seems the poster refers to the official opening of the whare whakairo (carved meeting house), Tapeka, at Waihi Village on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. Unfortunately there is no information attached to the broadsheet, so it is not known where it came from, if it is related to newspaper articles or from a news-stand advertising board.
Ngāti Tūwharetoa paramount chief, Mr Hepi Hoani Te Heuheu Tukino, presided at the opening of Tapeka. Guests that day included Hon Eruera Tihema Tirikatene and the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Walter Nash.
Later that same year, Nash would support the New Zealand Rugby Union's compliance with South Africa’s Apartheid policies, ignoring public outrage. Māori were excluded from selection for the 1960 All Blacks team to tour South Africa.
According to Pei Te Hurunui Jones, the whare whakairo was re-built in 1959 to replace the previous meeting house (also called Tapeka), which had been located on the same site. It had reportedly been unstable during earthquakes. That building faced east towards the rising sun and was described in 1939 as 'a large, much used dwelling.' It had itself replaced the ancestral house Tūwharetoa i Te Aupouri and re-used the amo of that house.
The carvings from the old Tapeka meeting house were presented by Hepi Te Heuheu to St Peter's College, Northcote for their recreation hall in 1955. All the carvings in Tapeka (1959) are new.
Princess Te Puea had welcomed the carving project to Turangawaewae Marae under the supervision of Tamatai Wanakore Herangi, her nephew. Unfortunately, due to his ill-health, the project was transferred to the Rotorua School of Māori Arts and Crafts, and continued by Tuhaka Kapua and Hone Taiapa. Hone Taiapa eventually took the project home to Waihi, Lake Taupo.
In 1957 the government magazine Te Ao Hou, reported:
The carvings for the new Tapeka meeting-house being erected at the ancestral home of the Tūwharetoa tribe at Waihi are nearly completed. The chief carver, John Taepa, hopes to have the work finished by Easter."
The Ngāti Turumakina hapu committee toiled for eight years to complete the building project. It involved fundraising, volunteer labour, tradesmen, gala days, functions and a government subsidy. In accordance with building practices of the time the present Tapeka faces the roadway.
Pei Te Hurinui Jones authored the commemoration booklet produced which contains information regarding the meeting house, tribal knowledge and whakapapa.
Auckland Museum Pictorial collections hold images taken by Bill Beattie for the New Zealand Herald at the opening of Tapeka. Only Mr Te Heuheu Tukino is identified. The Museum's New Zealand Herald collection has deposits from its proprietors, Wilson and Horton, and collections purchased from Herald photographers.
Cite this article
Front-page news: A mystery hui. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 20 June 2017. Updated: 9 March 2021.
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