The return of tūpuna land was celebrated on 8 August 2022 at Pukearuhe marae by over hundred people from Ngāti Tama and Waka Kotahi. The 120-hectare coastal property at Gilbert Road, at the end of Pukearuhe Road is part of agreements with Waka Kotahi for Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass.
This taonga, with wahi tapu, pa sites and wai tapu, is where Poutama Whiria, the adze of Tokomaru Waka that carried the early ancestors of Ngāti Tama, Te Ati Āwa, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Maru across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa to north Taranaki, was re-discovered in 1923. The property was exchanged for 20 hectares of Treaty Settlement land needed for the bypass. Te Manawaroa o Ngāti Tama Charitable Trust Chair Jamie Tuuta said most of Ngāti Tama’s land was confiscated.
‘’So there was a catch cry: I riri whenua atu, me hoki whenua mai. As land was taken, so land should be given back,’’ he says.
Waka Kotahi board member Cassandra Crowley presented the land title deed to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Tama board Chair Conrad O’Carroll.
The event began with a deeply moving ceremony for Ngāti Tama members who helped bring on Poutama Whiria – the toki brought to the marae from Puke Ariki Museum, to be part of the day.
Manuhiri were also taken on a visit to Ngarautika, the newly renamed Gilbert Road property, given by Hurimoana Haami of Ngāti Tama’s Kaunihera Kaumatua and Rōpu Tiaki. Ngarautika is the name of a
Ngāti Tama pā site.
This was followed by a presentation at the marae from TRoNT trustee Frances White, on the significance of the land returning to iwi. It featured history about how the whenua was confiscated and had images of tupuna who were alive at that time.
Other benefits from the agreements with Waka Kotahi include a $7.7 million compensation payment recently received by Te Manawaroa o Ngāti Tama Charitable Trust, that trustee Dion Tuuta spoke on, iwi employment training and business opportunities for the project, onsite cultural monitoring and oversight of pest management mahi.