The Resting Place of Mataatua
Takou Bay lies on the eastern coast of the Far North district between the Bay of Islands and Whangaroa Harbour. This wide north-east facing bay contains a 2km long beach bisected by the broad and shallow Takou River. Rocky shores at each end of the beach help to provide an ideal habitat for sea-life, making the bay a favoured spot for both bathers and fishermen alike. Enhancing its appeal as a pristine, unspoiled spot, Takou Bay is often described as being “off the beaten track”.
The location might be remote but its significance to iwi Maori is huge. Both Ngapuhi and Bay of Plenty tribes agree that the great waka (canoe) Mataatua rests at Takou Bay and in 1986 a reunion was held by both groups in the Bay of Islands to celebrate its travels.
In Maori tradition, Mataatua was one of the great voyaging canoes by which Polynesians migrated to New Zealand. Maori traditions say that Mataatua was initially sent from the ancestral homeland of Hawaiki some 1000 years ago to bring supplies of kumara (sweet potato) to Maori settlements in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Moves are afoot to recognise the resting place of the Mataatua waka at Takou Bay as a wahi tapu (sacred place). The site is around the Takou Bay river, about 30km north of Kerikeri.
The double-hulled waka was capable of carrying a large number of people and was captained by the chief Toroa, who was accompanied by his brother Puhi, sister Muriwai and daughter Wairaka and others. Descendants of these ancestors are the iwi Ngapuhi of Northland, and the eastern tribes of Te Whanau Apanui, Te Whakatohea, Ngati Awa, Ngai Tuhoe and Ngaiterangi.
After arriving safely in Aotearoa at Whakatane, in the eastern Bay of Plenty, a conflict developed between chief Toroa and his brother, Puhi, who headed north on the Mataatua with some of the crew. It's believed Mataatua made landfall in the North at Whangape in the North Hokianga and that it made various trips around the North Island before it was finally laid to rest in the Takou River.
One version of its history is that the waka was carried overland from the Hokianga. While traveling overland, tiheru (the bailer) was lost in the forest, Te Puke Tiheru o te Mataatua. This forest is now known as Puketi.
Another version tells of the Mataatua bailer being lost at Motukokako (Cape Brett) where it turned into a rock, known as Tiheru o Mataatua, outside Cape Brett. In the far north there are several references to the lost tiheru (bailer) – Te Tii Waitangi and Te Tii Mangonui are named to commemorate it.
Finally Puhi settled at Takou, planting kumara, taro and gourds. Iwi who descend from the Mataatua waka acknowledge that the Takou River is the waka's final resting place. A monument, erected by the descendants of the Mataatua in 1986, stands on the southern banks of the river, on private land, about 2.5km from the river mouth.
Te Huranga Hohaia of Te Tii, recently presenting evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal for the Ngapuhi claims, reflected on a story passed down to him of how the waka tried to enter the Takou River but the sea was too rough. On board was a woman named Tawhiu Rau who was arguing with her husband. The tohunga (priest) of the waka ordered that she and her children be thrown overboard to appease the gods and restore calmness to the sea. As a result, Tawhiu Rau and her children were thrown overboard where they were turned to stone and can still be seen today at the entrance of the river mouth. The rock, Kohakoha, marks the river mouth and the entrance to the river.
Ngati Rehia kaumatua Reuben HeiHei says Tawhi Rau is recognised as the kaitiaki taniwha (sacred guardian) of Takou. There are several recorded archaeological sites along the river and several pa (fortified villages) in the immediate vicinity.
The wahi tapu registration report was written by Takou Bay resident and Historic Places Trust Maori heritage adviser Atareiria HeiHei. Much of the oral history was provided by Ngati Rehia kaumatua Reuben HeiHei and Meeke Puru.
Public access to the beach was closed in October 2011, to allow local shellfish stocks to replenish after a group of 4 scuba divers were apprehended with more than 17 times their legal limit of paua (abalone). Tragically, all of their illegally-taken shellfish were undersized. It is not known when the road will re-open to this out-of-the-way but much-revered stretch of Northland's coast.
(Excerpts taken from Bay Chronicle editor, Keri Molloy's 12/05/2011 newspaper article and from author Rawiri Taonui's account on the website 'Ko Tenei te Wahi/This is the Place').
Accommodation near Takou Bay
Takou River Cottages
Set on the banks of the peaceful and beautiful Takou River and surrounded by 150 acres of certified organic pasture, native bush and 5 acres of sub-tropical gardens, the 4 Cottages and Lodge provide boutique self-catering accommodation that is eco-friendly yet still indulgent. http://www.takouriver.com
This 5-star luxury lodge is one of the most awarded luxury boutique golf & spa resort hotels in New Zealand and is set on 6500 acres between Takou Bay and Matauri Bay. Its landscaped farmland enjoys stunning views of the spectacular coastline and features a par 72 PGA Championship golf course. http://www.kauricliffs.com