With over 45% of Gisborne’s population identifying as Māori there are numerous marae in the area, but visiting Rongowhakaata’s Te Ohako Marae at Manutuke was particularly significant for us given that they are the current iwi in residence at Te Papa.  The marae is beautifully decorated with carvings and paintings referencing the area’s geography and memories of the earliest waka.  We were given a courteous welcome and our carefully-rehearsed waiata went so well that we were later asked for an informal encore, with our hosts joining in over the sumptuous morning tea.  As well as lively reminiscences from the boyhood of local historian Stan Pardoe, we heard the perspective of the iwi on historical events before, during and after the first encounter with Captain Cook’s expedition and how shifting alliances and enmities between local iwi complicate the question of who is to be compensated and for what under Treaty processes.  In modern times the marae, like others in the region, has benefited from the Provincial Growth Fund and we met a few of the younger members who have completed training courses and secured employment on local farms as a result.

Nicola Kirkup

Feature image: Friends Gisborne Tour Group outside Te Ohako Marae by C & E Kay