Topic: Return to Kuhawaea by Marion Pountney Baird

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A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry by Marion Pountney Baird

 Archived verion here.


Tawhiuau is the mountain

Rangitikei is the river

Ngati Manawa are the people


Our farm was at the end of the school bus route on Kopuriki road, on the other side of the Rangitikei, and over the ‘rabbit bridge,’ so called as it once had gates on it to stop rabbits crossing into pastures. Kopuriki was the last road to be sealed in Galatea and summer dust caked the grassy banks beside the road. We were out on a limb in a district that was already miles from anywhere.

If Galatea was isolated in the Fifties and Sixties, the conditions were pioneering when my father and his brother came to Galatea in 1946: ‘bone-shattering’ metal road access and less than basic conditions - no electricity, a simple hut, a camp oven over open fire for cooking, and barely broken-in land.

Stories of these conditions and the local characters of the time were familiar, told with amusement by my father, grandmother and uncle.

There was also a history before my father and uncle took over this land – the history of early settlement, and as I was to discover, local Maori history, of which I was largely ignorant.

Kuhawaea was the name given by local Maori to the flat plain at the foot of the Ika Whenua ranges. It translates as ‘weary thighs,’ so-named because the area was a thoroughfare for travellers from far afield, including the ranges.

The ‘people of the land’ are the Ngatimanawa tribe, some of whom are affiliated with Tuhoe, the tribe of the Ureweras, through close proximity and intermarriage.

Maori Affairs had grazing blocks along Kopuriki road and nearer Murupara there were clusters of Maori residents. The Merrimans were the only Maori family who farmed as ‘rehabs’ in the Galatea valley and who attended Galatea school. We had little contact with Maori living in Kopuriki, and there were often mutterings about ‘under-developed’ Maori land.

Jimmy Nuku was employed as the farm ‘rabbiter,’ and known to be a character. He attached every skin of his kills to the fence line to prove his worth. I recall Kopuriki Maori seeking permission to go eeling, and finding sacks of rotting corn in running streams. My father had no problem with this arrangement.

I had heard of the Galatea Station and names such as Troutbeck who bought and developed much of the 21,694 acres into early pastoral land in the 1800s, and recollections of life where the horse and bullock wagons were the only means of transport and working the land, and travel to Rotorua was a major expedition for mail, and all other services. Station life attracted many visitors, those seeking work, travellers and swaggers.

James Grant and the Grant Homestead were well-known names in our family, as my father and his brother had bought the farmland off him. They had not been part of the post-war ballot system, whereby the government granted land to hundreds of ex-serviceman, some of whom had never farmed before, to start a new life with their young brides.

They shared the huge initial challenges of isolation, severe droughts, frosts, floods and soil deficiencies; and built up a close and successful pastoral community and lifelong friendships.

James Grant, initially a farm employee, became a manager of the Galatea station. In 1914 he left for Te Houhi, now Kopuriki, where he had bought 3500 acres off a Mr Thomas, who had taught at the Maori School near ‘Fort Galatea.’ Mr Thomas had bought the land off the government (who had acquired it from Maori.) It was 1300 acres of this land that he sold to my father and uncle in 1946.

Although Fort Galatea was just up the road from where we lived we knew little about it, and I don’t recall enquiring. I do remember visiting the remains of Fort Galatea with my sister, before the building was restored, and then burnt to the ground on the eve of its Centennial celebrations in 1969. That made a lasting impression:


The surrounds of the derelict building were overgrown and the sweet smell of young green bracken fern, gorse and blackberry was in the air. Various implements lay scattered on the ground, grass weaving its way through rusty holes. The abandoned building had an eerie presence; its small rooms with remnants of the past – kitchen sink, a rusty wood stove, and open fire grate; but what made the most impression were the walls. Every one was lined with layer upon layer of newsprint, each piece telling a story of the colonial age far away from this empty rural outpost… I imagined how these readings were savoured by the inhabitants.


The Kuhawaea plain was first leased to Napier landowner Hutton Troutbeck in 1869. His brief marriage to a daughter of Ngati Manawa chief Peraniko Tahawai probably paved the way for this to occur. The plain was mainly tussock and ti-tree and under his management he employed local Maori in the clearing and growing of crops.

In 1884 Maori sold Kuhawaea Block No.1 (21,694 acres) to Troutbeck. The station passed to his son Ewan Troutbeck in 1893, until it was sold to the government in 1931 during the hardships of the Depression years.

Fort Galatea was part of the Crown campaign to capture Te Kooti, prophet of the Hauhau movement. It was so named as the HMS Galatea was making a royal visit to New Zealand in May 1869, bringing the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred - son of Queen Victoria. In procuring Kuhawaea, Troutbeck had changed the name to Galatea.

Captain Gilbert Mair, who was in charge of this military base, was a close associate of Troutbeck and he later became a land purchase officer. Ngati Manawa were under a combination of pressures to support the Crown and joined forces with Captain Mair. There were major expeditions in an attempt to capture Te Kooti who finally escaped to safety in the King Country in 1872. 

The tribe was presented with a flag as a gesture of gratitude from Queen Victoria, and the late chief Peraniko Tahawai was honoured for services during the Te Kooti wars. This ceremony and the hand-over of money for the Kiangaroa plains took place at Fort Galatea. It is suggested that the sale was influenced by the tribes’ misguided loyalty to Mair, the commanding officer.

During the Te Kooti wars the government was donated 300 acres around Fort Galatea, and in 1879 120,000 acres of the Kiangaroa Plains were sold to the Government. Settlement reports state that ‘by 1927 Ngati Manawa was virtually landless’ and reserves fell short of expectations.

Maori people who had settlements, sourced food, cultivated crops and traded for their livelihood on this land had been largely disenfranchised and inadequately compensated. They experienced a severe loss to their traditional livelihood and intrinsic connection with the land and rivers, in ways they had never foreseen.

It is clear from Waitangi Tribunal Submissions and reports, that government policies of both the 19th and 20th centuries brought suffering to Maori in this area, through military conflict, early land sales as part of the Native Land Acts and Native Land Court processes. Access to traditional food sources was reduced through inhumane court hearings, loss of land; breached agreements, changed land ownership rights and later hydro developments.

Through the redress made available through the Waitangi Tribunal processes, local Ngati Manawa iwi have been able to put right some of these historic wrongs. Gifts of pounamu from the Crown as a gesture of apology have been given. Proceedings to bring closure have been lengthy and complex, with settlements signed as late as December 2009.

Researching this area and the land I felt so emotionally connected to gave me a perspective larger than my own and an understanding of the significance of ‘place’ and identity. I realised how little I knew and how much I have gained. When I think of the commanding frame of mountains, the Rangitikei river that touched so many aspects of  farm life, and the myriad of  memories gathered in this place, I also think of ‘the people of the land’ and the sacredness of their beliefs.


As in a dream I saw myself standing on the tarmac outside our farm gates. A Maori male stood with me, his feather cloak over one shoulder, and around his neck he wore a precious greenstone pendant. His dark archetypal face was etched with lines, his bare feet stained and weathered, his eyes so deep; there was no mistaking his status.

This land where we stand is forever yours by right of birth.

By right of mana, by right of wairua.

I cannot claim tribal ancestry on this land I can only say I was once here and I am a descendant of those who came, if in ignorance and a different world view, in good faith and who also loved this place, its river, its mountains and its community. The spirit of the land and its people cannot be stolen; it is part of what is sacred and beyond capital value. In this we are connected.


[1] Te Ika Whenua Rivers Report, pp.3 & 4

[1] Ngati Manawa Deed of Settlement Summary, p3



Stafford, D.M; Te Arawa A History of the Arawa People. (Wellington: A.H. & a. W Reed, 1967), pp 424-460 



Chapman, M. T. Impact of Forestry and Forest Industries on Kaingaroa – Galatea. (Unpublished Geography Masters Thesis: Auckland University, 1960), pp 25 – 39, 179 – 183



Coates, A.A: Galatea Monograph Number 5

(Whakatane & District Historical Society. Inc, 1980) pp 1 – 62



Anniversary of First R.S.A Settlers. Rotorua, 1970

Galatea Settlers Reunion Committee, Galatea: Where on Earth is it? Murupara, 1970

Galatea Centennial Committee, Galatea faces the future. Murupara, 1990



New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, E. Earle Vaile, Pioneering the Pumice. pp 41-43

(Whitcombe & Tombs, 1939) LiveUpdater Article, Ngati Manawa Deed of Settlement Summaries

(Accessed 10 February 2009) , Deed of Settlement Ngati – Manawa Booklet.PDF, 2009

Accessed 12 February 2010

www.waitangitribunal.govt.nzTeIka Whenua Rivers Report. Chapter  3 & 4

(Accessed 10 February 2010)


Family Memoir:

Farming in Galatea 1946 – 1967, Don Pountney, 1992

Photographs by author’s sister Janet during Galatea Centennial


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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