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Maori Celebration of Takapuneke opening with a good crowd at the official opening

Takapūneke Reserve Opening – Enormous Historical Significance on the First Matariki Maori Celebration

Takapūneke is as important as Waitangi – the South Island’s preeminent historic site. Significantly on this very first public holiday Maori celebration of Matariki, Takapūneke Reserve was officially opened with the Pou tu te Raki o Te Maiharanui unveiled.

Takapuneke Pou Unveiling
Takapūneke Pou Unveiling at Dawn on Matariki 2022 Photo: Carmel Sepuloni & RNZ

Read the RNZ article: ‘Pou unveiled to mark significance of Takapūneke near Akaroa

Or watch the beautiful Onuku video of the opening ceremony in this Stuff article ‘New pou start of healing for nationally significant Banks Peninsula site’.

Historic site

Relatively unknown until recently, Takapūneke is an extremely significant historic site, where the ’Brig Elizabeth Incident’ occurred in 1830, when the site was abandoned and the settlement of Ōnuku was established. The story wasn’t told and many people thought that this event played out at Ōnawe Pa.

When Banks Peninsula District Council voted to subdivide the Takapūneke Reserve and sell sections for holiday homes Ōnuku Rūnanga stood up to tell the story and protect the site. That was 20 years ago.

So now 192 years after the Elizabeth incident, on the very first Indigenous Public Holiday in any colonised country in the world, Matariki, Takapūneke Reserve was officially opened, with the pou (monument) Raki o Te Maiharanui unveiled.

Maori Celebration Matariki Takapuneke Pou and Onuku Chair
Maori Celebration of Matariki at Takapuneke with Pou and Onuku Chair Rik Tainui
Maori Celebration Matariki Takapuneke official opening
Maori Celebration of Takapuneke opening with a good crowd at the official opening

Unveiling on Matariki

Matariki is the rising of the Pleiades at dawn in the middle of winter in New Zealand, it signifies the beginning of the new year and the new planting season. For Māori, the appearance of Matariki heralds a time of remembrance, joy and peace. While it is a new public holiday in New Zealand it is quickly being embraced by non-Maori as a uniquely New Zealand event, and celebration in the depths of winter that heralds a new spring and summer to come, looking forward with hope.

Maori Celebration Matariki Takapuneke Reserve Opening
Takapuneke Reserve Opening

Tuhiraki (Mt Bossu) that sits behind the pou is one of the most important cultural sites in the South Island, Rakaihautu’s ko or digging stick which was used to dig and name the great lakes of the South Island by the first Polynesian explorer, was thrust into the head of the Akaroa Harbour where he named it Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū the foodstore or food basket of Rakaihautu, as a signal of the abundance of natural food sources.

Maori Celebration Matariki Takapuneke and Tuhiraki
Maori Celebration of Matariki and the official Takapuneke opening with Tuhiraki (Mt Bossu) in the background.

Christchurch City Council Mayor Lianne Dalziel gave a public address at the public opening ceremony. Shortly afterwards the public treeplanting ceremony helped the people of Onuku and the public of Akaroa make a lasting connection to the Takapuneke healing process.

Maori Celebration Matariki CCC Mayor
Maori Celebration Matariki CCC Mayor

As a school student at the Akaroa Area School, I remember planting native trees at the Britomart Monument just beside the Takapuneke Reserve, especially the tī kōuka, cabbage trees, that now host the kereru fattening on berries in Autumn. It was lovely now to plant a totara with the next generation, knowing it will be here long after us, far into the future and will be a place we can continuously come back to and care for.

After the tree planting ceremony a native New Zealand falcon kārearea flew up the newly grassed slope and swooped overhead into a nearby tree, in what felt like a real blessing to the opening day, and our personal connection to this historic site.

Maori Celebration Matariki
Maori Celebration Matariki Planting Day Marie Haley planting a totara tree

TVNZ Te Karere video of the Takapuneke Reserve opening
Read more about the nationally significant history that played out in Akaroa.
Learn more about your specialist Akaroa history .guide

Marie Haley

I am your guide, Marie Haley, I was born and raised on Banks Peninsula. The seventh generation direct decedent of Akaroa’s very first French settler. I grew up on the family farm following in the footsteps of my Grandfather, and his Grandfather before.