Ruru watches over pā site near Kohupatiki

A pou, which looks over Kohupatiki Marae and Ngaruroro Mokotuararo ki Rangatira River, has been erected to mark the spot where the pre-European fortified pā Otanenuiarangi stood. The pou is on the cycle way in Whakatu. The pou is a ruru, hand-crafted from galvanised steel atop a column of weathering steel. It stands on the cycleway in Whakatu.

Arconnehi Paipper says historical landmarks must not be forgotten. “The pou honours the history of where we came from which is inseparable from who we are today.”

In the early 1800s the pa was a stronghold, protected from invaders by a palisade of kahikatea (white pine), one of the favoured habitat of the ruru.

The design of the pou reflects the relationship between the river and the people; the pebbles (the substrate), the flow of the river, the bird life and endemic fish species that were plentiful, and the waka used for travel both inland and out to the bay.

“The entire pou reminds us of the protection the kahikatea provided through its interlocking root system that was never breached,” says Paipper.

“We were a very rich people in that our food supply that came from the river and the land was abundant. Kohupatiki was famous for the food we fed our visitors from the awa, along with crops grown right here.

The awa was a waka highway; we connected with marae all along it. When the European came we used the river to trade with the whalers and sealers.”

The making of the pou was a collaboration between Kohupatiki, artists, HB Wool Scourers, and both the Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.”

The project did face many challenges.

A totara of the size and quality needed could not be found. Local artist and friend William Jamieson suggested that steel would be a medium of a weight that would honour the korero. He drew the design but then passed away before the work could be completed.

“At his tangi, held at Kohupatiki Marae, his friends, artists I did not know but who were connected to each other, said they would complete the pou. Jacob Scott, Rick Terstappen and my nephew Mitch Matheson stepped forward, and my niece Ani McGuire, a graphic artist completed the team. Their input is reflected in what we have today.

Their friendship was what the undertaking needed for the vision to be completed.”