Topic: Carving push crowns Gate Pa battle site

Topic type:

On Sunday, 29 April 2007, a carved tomokanga (a welcome to all people onto a sacred place) was added to the Gate Pā site marking the 143rd anniversary of the battle. The article below, written by Carly Udy and dated 30 April 2007, is reproduced here with the permission of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Gateway welcomes and reaffirms

It had been left "understated" for 130 years but after a 40-hour marathon at the weekend, the Battle of Gate Pa has been immortalised.

Under perfect autumn skies yesterday, a tomokanga - a welcome to all people onto the sacred site - was lifted into place.

Carved tomokanga at the site of the Battle of Gate Pa

Installation of the carved entraceway coincided with the anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Gate Pa - one of the most significant events in the history of Tauranga Moana.

The war saw outnumbered Maori forces inflict an embarrassing defeat on the British.

The beautiful carved panels were started at 4pm last Friday and were finished just in time for their unveiling yesterday morning, in front of the public, local iwi and members of St George's Church.

As the face of the carving, covered by a British flag, was pulled away by the former priest of Gate Pa and now Archbishop of New Zealand Dioceses, David Moxon, cheers went up from the small crowd gathered.

Chief carver in the tomokanga's design and master carver for Tauranga Moana, James Tapiata, told the Bay of Plenty Times the structure was not a gateway as such - a waharoa to keep people out - but a tomokanga, a welcome to all on the sacred site.

"This is a real auspicious occassion for Maori... the first Maori symbolism going onto the site," he said.

Mr Tapiata, who has been carving for 30 years and teaching the art at Tauranga Boys' College since 1991, learned to carve as an eight-year-old when he was involved in the construction of his tipuna whare, Hangarau, at Bethlehem. He trained under revered master carver Paki Harrison and has since passed his knowledge on to a new generation of carvers including his 11-year-old grandson Ngairo Tapiata-Smith, who was the youngest of a group of volunteer carvers who helped Mr Tapiata in the weekend carving marathon.

Mr Tapiata said the carving for the battle site had taken more than a year to design, in consultation with Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui and Ngati Pukenga iwi.

He said the amo (vertical figures) depicted Tu the God of War and Rongo, the God of Peace.

The maihi (barge boards) symbolise the hokioi (now an extinct bird). Peri Kohu, of Runanga O Ngai Tamarawaho (people of Huria marae), said the memorial would never do justice to those who died in the area but a plan to lift the site's profile would reflect the history of what went on there.

"Everyone who died here is related to me and the tangata whenua in Tauranga," Mr Kohu said.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the site had been "understated" for 130 years and the carving's blessing was the start of a new wave of information and understanding of what happened on the site and how it defined Tauranga. The council has management plans under way to recognise similar historic pa sites in Levers Rd and Pyes Pa, Mr Crosby said.

Speaking to those who gathered for yesterday's ceremony, Bishop of Waiapu, John Bluck, recalled how on April 29, 1864, more than 300 Maori defended themselves in two adjacent hilltop fortresses, surrounded by 1500 British troops. Mr Bluck said the new physical structure only made clear what had always been there spiritually.

Local Maori have been determined to see the old battle area have some physical recognition of the defeat and loss there.

Until yesterday, a small memorial at the top of the hill, close to St George's Church on Cameron Rd, was all that marked the reserve as the site of a battle.



Udy, C. (2007, April 30). Carving push crowns Gate Pā battle site. The Bay of Plenty Times, p. 4.

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Carving push crowns Gate Pa battle site