Ko Kario te Maunga  (Kario is the mountain)

Ko Mimiti te Awa (Mitmiti is the creek)

Ko Patau te Tapu (Patau is the cemetery)

Te Wahapu ko Waimahana (Waimahana is the entrance to the bay from the ocean)

Ko Mangatowai Te Marae


Enei nga Hitoria o Mangatowai

 (The History of Mangatowai)

 Mo nga korero o raroiho nei.

Koia enei nga Tuhinga Hitoria I mahara I mou I taku tuakana me hau Rawiri na reira ka mihi ki nga matua tupuna moe eni taonga waihonga mai.

This history are the words remembered by my elder cousin Romano (Keti) and myself (Rawiri) and now we thank our ancestors for sharing these treasures.

Nestled into the rolling hills of Akatarere, Northland, the new development for the Mangatowai Marae is on land steeped in the history of the Henare family, reaching back to the 1920's when Raureti Henare purchased about 220 acres of the Whakapaku block from the Crown.

Tamati Henare ("Raureti") who originally purchased the Akatarere Block in the 1920's.

 "To buy land in those days was a major financial commitment," Kaumatua David Henare says, thinking back to his study of the family history.  "Uncle Raureti had to go gum digging to help find the money.  He built a Kauta1, and attached to it a whare Nikau2.  He slept in the whare Nikau and cleaned his gum in the Kauta.

"His nephew Kete Oliver helped with the cleaning of the gum and he told me that the whare Nikau never leaked, no matter how hard it rained.  Kete said it was warm and comfortable inside."

Raureti Henare, known as Tom when he joined the New Zealand Army, also worked at the Totara North mill with his four brothers - Jerry, Wiroa, Rikihana and Mihipo Heremia Henare.

As time went by, David's granddad and grandmother shifted out to Akatarere from Waimahana Bay and their sons built their parents a whare Nikau about 40 feet (12.5 meters) away from the Kauta.  Kete told David that the grandparents also helped with the cleaning of the gum while their grandmother did the cleaning, cooking and making Rewana bread.  They also 'suggested' to their sons that they should build a wharekai3   and a wharehui4.


Grandfather Manuka Mihipo Henare with his favourite pipe and hat -

Ona hapu Ngati Aukiwa. Ngati Rehia, Ngati Kahu

 David can remember his father telling him that Lane's Mill in Totara North used to take 5 shillings (50 cents) a week out of their wages for the timber used to build the wharekai and wharehui.

How did they get the timber from the Totara North mill back to Akatarere?

Remember that this was at a time when the roads were not sealed and it was 13.25 miles (19.6km) between the two locations.  By car it still takes nearly 30 minutes but these men were traveling by pushbike each balancing a length of rough sawn timber on their shoulder - and by looking at the remains of the wharehui these could have been anything from 100mm x 50mm (4" x 2") rough sawn heart rimu through to 200mm x 25mm (8" x 1") rough sawn totara weatherboards up to 3 meters in length.

Not only would it take a long time but it would have been difficult tracking through gravel and still keeping your balance - and without the benefit of mountain bikes with multiple gears.

A traditional wharenikau like the one built by Manuka's sons for their parents Mere and Manuka - click here for a larger image. To view the construction of a wharenikau at the Mangatowai site in October 2006 click here.

The wharekai was the first building to be built - the whare Nikau attached to the Kauta was pulled down and the wharekai was added to the Kauta.

Compared to present prices timber might seem to have been cheap in those days but the cost has to be equated against the wages on offer.  Lane's sawmill checked their old records and came up with the following prices for the timber used in the construction of the wharehui and wharekai -

Subfloor - Rimu, 4" x 2" rough sawn 5.7p per foot - Total cost 5.15.3

Flooring - Rimu tongue & grove, 7.9p per foot - Total cost 13.18.3

Wall, framing - 3" x 2" rimu, 6.06p per foot - Total cost ₤9.17.3

Wall, lining - Taraire, 5.64p per foot - Total cost ₤16.17.6

Wall, weatherboard - Totara 8" x 1"  65.6p per foot - Total cost ₤29.8.6

Roof, purlins - 3" x 2" rimu rough sawn 6.12p per foot - Total cost ₤3.4.9

Roof, framing - 4" x 2" rimu at 6.12p per foot - Total cost ₤3.4.9

Roof, sarking - 6" x 1" rimu tongue and grove, 8.04p per foot - Total cost ₤17.10.3

 Total cost of construction of the wharehui ₤99.13.6 ($199.69)

The wharekai cost half this amount.

(₤Sterling was the official New Zealand currency until it was replaced by the $NZ in 1967. In those days twenty shillings made up one pound and twelve pence made a shilling - at the time of conversion one dollar was equal to ten shillings. The linear measurements were in feet and inches and on decimal conversion one inch was equal to 2.5 centimeters.)

David can remember the material his uncle used to build the Kauta.  The four main posts were manuka about 200mm in diameter while the framing was constructed from manuka sticks covered with corrugated iron and, originally, that was where the cooking was done.  The new wharekai was built by David's dad and his brothers; the wharehui was built by his two uncles, Nahi Solomon and John Taniora.  These two buildings were built at their granddad's wishes for the use of his family, his brothers and sisters and the rest of the whanau around the rohe5.

When World War II broke out David's Uncle Jerry and his young brother Uncle Raureti joined the Army. All the Northland Maori enlistments went to Papakura Military Camp for their initial training before they both went overseas with the 28th Maori Battalion.  Uncle Jerry came back from the war in 1945 but his younger brother didn't make the return trip, he was killed in action.

Grandmother  Mere Matiu with her sons Rikihana Henare (left), Wiora Henare (centre) and Mihipo Heremia Henare, not shown is her daughter Maria Henare - Ona hapu Ngati Kahu, Ngati Aukiwa, Ngati Kuri, Matakairiri for a larger photo click here.

Their grandmother gave the land to her four children and David's father Mihipo Henare farmed the front 50 acres until he left Mangatowai in 1959 to go to Rotorua, his son Jerry taking over the farm.

The land was in private ownership in 1960 when Jerry also left the farm.  Negotiations for its return to the whanau began in 1995.  One year later agreement was reached with the current owner Stewart Leslie for the return of the front block as the first step in recovering the whenua of Mangatowai.

 The old marae site was closed off in 1990 by Father Tony Brown of Waitaruke and Waihora More with over 80 people attended the hui - for a larger photo click here.

On Saturday 24 May 2003 the land was formally gifted back by the Leslie family.

 The original wharehui at Mangatowai as it stands today - for a larger photo click here.

On Saturday, 29 October 2005 the Mangatowai community concept was formally launched at a hui that held special significance to the whanau because it opened the door to a historical future not just for Mangatowai but also for New Zealand.

Everyday Life at Mangatowai

The whanau were self-sufficient in most ways only needing flour, sugar and tea from the nearest shop - which in those days was at Mangonui, Totara North or Kaeo and transport to the shops was usually by horseback.

In time horses gave way to motor vehicles and David's father was the proud owner of an old Pontiac and a maroon truck.  Taxis were also available from Totara North and Mangonui to take the whanau shopping or to tangihanga6.

The whanau at Mangatowai lived off the land.  They grew their own vegetables and meat, produced their own butter and milk and went fishing at Tupou, Waimahana and Taemaro.

It is intended that these early examples of self-sustainability will be replicated at the new marae to open a window into the past and encourage the present generations to make better use of their land - no matter how small that parcel is.

Shanara Hemi and Tania Hemi, great great granddaughters of Mere Matiu, trying out the old way of doing the washing in the Awa Mimiti stream at Mangatowai

The Bounty of the Sea

There were abundant fish in the costal waters around Waimahana and Tupou as well as octopus, paua, kina, pupus, crayfish, karengo (seaweed), teromoana (sea anemone), huamutu (little paua) and tua tua.

Sometimes the fishermen would make a fish trap by digging a trench in the sand to the lagoon; they would then go diving for kina (sea eggs), crayfish and paua and on their return they would find fish trapped in the trench by the receding tide.

Shark were dried and salted.  The bodies were hung over fences until they dried and could be stored for later use.

The fish then available in reasonably large amounts were - snapper, trevally, tarakihi, kingfish, John Dory, cod, leatherjacket, maomao, sting ray, parore, flounder, porai, hapuka, groper, mullet, kahawai, whitebait and eels.

Many of these fish are now hard to catch as they have gained 'commercial' popularity both in New Zealand and overseas.

The Ultimate Garden

In the past gardening was an essential part of the life of every whanau.  The land produced abundant crops with a little bit of work and the food was both healthy and nutritious.

Mangatowai gardens produced peas, taro, beans, lettuce, cabbage, silverbeet, sugar cane, kumara, cauliflower, apple cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes, kamo kamo, beetroot, rhubarb, tomatoes, radish, turnip, parsnips, carrots, Swedes, peanuts and corn.  The corn was often milled for flour to make bread.  In the early autumn mushrooms were picked from the surrounding fields.

A large orchard provided summer fruit to be eaten in season and preserved for the winter months.  The range included apples, pears, figs, plums, lemonades, lemons, loquats, peaches, grapes, banana passion fruit, cape gooseberries, watermelons, oranges and grapefruit.

Hens had open access to the garden providing both eggs and meat for the whanau.

There were honey bee hives near the gate at the bottom of the marae.  David's grandfather never needed any protection when he took the combs full of honey from the hives and put them into calico bags to be consumed later as a wonderful treat.  When a whare Nikau built at Mangatowai earlier was dismantled it was found that the walls were full of honey stored by earlier generations of industrious bees.

The farm

The farm provided beef, pork, mutton and lamb as well as milk.  These were supplemented by catching wild goats and rabbits from the surrounding bush, already a pest well established in the area.

Bush Food

Not only were there vegetables in the garden but there were many resources to be gathered from the surrounding bush.

Nikau titi could be eaten raw or cooked but there were many others both medicinal and edible. Among these were - karamu (medicine), kawa kawa (medicine), bula bula (blue berry), totara, karaka, taraire and miro berries, thistle, puha, toe taka (dandelion) and water cress.

As well as the vegetable foods there were also abundant birds to be caught for food - kiwi, kukupa, ducks, pheasants and quail.  Many of these are so endangered now that the harvesting of them is either totally banned or very restricted.

Home Health

As with so many local isolated communities, most minor injuries were treated at home; only the more serious accidents taken to Whangaroa, the nearest medical facility.  Many of the treatments used are well known around the world and these included Rawleighs ointment, Mercurochrome, chamomile lotion (used for rashes and itches).

Children who felt unwell were sometimes dosed with malt, castor oil and cod liver oil so staying healthy was the preferred option because the cure was often worse than the complaint.

Babies were born initially at Whangaroa Hospital but then the maternity service was moved to Kaeo when the new facility was built on the hill overlooking the town in 1948.

Wedding: Harry Brown and Maria Henare at Mangatowai, (7. 1. 59) - for a larger photo click here.


Mangatowai marae hosted five weddings that are recorded -

  • Robbie Erihe m Ngahiraka Peterson c 1940

  • Pere Taipari m Joan Toe Toe 8 May 1954

  • Maria Henare m Harry Brown 7 January 1959

  • Jerry Henare m Mary Newton 23 April 1960

  • Adrian van Dictrost m Ripeka Henare 28 April 1962

It is intended that the new Mangatowai community marae will continue this page in our history.


Te Whare Karakia at Waimahana around 1920. The wairua and remnants remain onsite - for a larger photo click here.

Resting before Burial

Over the years many whanau rested at Mangatowai before beginning their final journey to the Patau cemetery at Waimahana. 

  • Wiremu Henare (28/9/1906 - 3/3/1933)

  • Ngahuia Mihipo (1828 - 1935)

  • Ihimaera Mihipo (10/9/1863 - 24/10/1943)

  • Pouro Henare (10/10/1913 - 18/6/1947)

  • Mere Heremia Mihipo (16/3/1876 - 22/9/1949)

  • Hariata Mihipo (10/6/1867 - 19/12/1955) 

  • Maria Henare (25/12/1908 - 26/11/1958)

  • Manuka Mihipo (10/9/1873 - 16/3/1967)

  • Ripeka Henare (? - 16/8/1969)

  • Ruahine Henare (23/11/1907 12/10/1971)

  • Edith Tatai (23/3/1936 7/1/1975)

  • Bernadine Raewyn Taipari (? - 1975)

The coffins were carried to Waimahana, staring at 8 am, arriving at the final resting place at 2 pm before returning to Mangatowai arriving around 5 pm.  There were 8 pall bearers of similar height to carry each coffin as they followed the track from Mangatowai to Waimahana.  For this final journey the coffin was placed on a kau hoa (carrying frame) made from manuka.

It is intended to again offer this courtesy to the deceased when the new marae is operational.

An introduction to the early days of Ngatikahu ki Whangaroa te iwi

 Ko mararu te Waka (Mamaru is the canoe)

Ko Parata te Tangata (Parata was the man)

Ko Kahukuraariki te Wahine (Kahukuraariki was the woman)

Ko Ngatikahu ki Whangaroa te iwi (Ngatikahu was the iwi)

The Mamaru waka landed at Taipa.  Te Parata and Kahukuraariki and the crew of the waka7 settled at Taemaro Bay and started Ngati Kahu ki Whangaroa.  They expanded in to Waimahana and further afield protecting our rohe through continuous occupation.

In 1874 the crown passed the Waimahana and Taemaro Grant Act and the magistrate William White gave back to the people of Taemaro and Waimahana the land they had originally settled.  Taemaro was granted back 99 acres and Waimahana was given back 680 acres.  The Waimahana land was divided into 10 blocks and these were vested into the care of 10 elders of the whanau as trustees.


Notes -  1   Kauta - cooking shed or kitchen

              2   whare Nikau - building made using Nikau palms

              3   wharekai - dining hall/cook house

              4   wharehui - meeting house

              5   rohe - district, region

              6   tangihanga - funeral

              7  waka - canoe


Latest sections of historical interest on our web site:

Gallery of historical photographs from Mangatowai's past

Building a wharenikau at Mangatowai

Hikoi down Whangaroa Harbour by the waka Te Aurere

History of the Poupou for Mangatowai

The Place of Whales in Maori History



This page was last reviewed on 05/11/2012.

To access an alphabetical listing of the site content click here.