Volume 68 1959 > Volume 68, No. 1 > Maringa Te Kakara village, by C. G. Hunt, p 1-7
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  • a: sliding wood doors 4 x 2 ft.
  • b: sliding wood ports 18 ins. square
  • c: wood facings 12 x 2 ins.
  • d: centre upright 6 ft. circumference
  • d1: small uprights 18 ins. circum.
  • e: L-shaped corner pieces
  • f: foot boards 12 x 2 ins.
  • g: porches open on one side
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THE ATTENTION OF the Archaeological Group of the Waikato Historical Society having been drawn to a curious cruciform building in a village located in the King Country it was decided that a small party should investigate. This party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. F. Butler, Mr. and Mrs. N. Holden, Mr. G. Roche, Mr. C. G. Hunt and Master Keith Thompson who visited the locality on October 18th, 1958.


Maringa te Kakara 1 is situated some 12 miles east of Mangapehi, a short distance south of the main highway leading to Mangakino. Collier's Timber Mill (now closed) is quite close and was once a considerable settlement. A few of the mill settlement houses are still occupied by Maoris and the mill building has been converted to a wool-shed by Mr. Pai Tutaki who is farming about 200 acres in the vicinity.

Apart from this solitary farm no other land in the vicinity is being worked though there is a small Maori settlement with a meeting house south of the main highway not far from the turn-off to Collier's Mill.

Maringa te Kakara cannot be seen from the main highway as it is screened by a low scrub-covered ridge. To reach it transport has to be left near Mr. Pai Tutaki's house before crossing the bridge over the Waimiha stream. On the south side of this bridge will be found the small Te Tiroa school (now closed). Turning westward at the school the old tram track is followed for about two miles until the second patch of native bush on the left is passed.

At this point a rough track travelling south will be found leading over the low scrub-covered ridge beyond which Maringa te Kakara comes into view.

Village and Surroundings

The village is situated in a shallow saucer in the hills and now consists of half a dozen buildings round a flat open space which would originally have been the marae. This marae and the land surrounding the buildings was covered with long grass when the party visited the area and it was not possible in the short time available to locate the foundations or remains of any other buildings which must have existed at one time. The low hills surrounding the saucer-shaped depression in which the village is situated are covered with light scrub and tussock.

On the north side of the marae there are at present no buildings visible and the first structure encountered was a wooden tank stand in - 4 the north-east corner. There is a spring of water in a shallow gully close to this stand and a rusty tank lying on its side in the gully below. Close to the tank stand is a shed built of ponga uprights set in the ground and roofed with galvanised iron. One end of this shed is open and the other partitioned off with sawn timber. Inside the partitioned portion are some rough bunks and, from writings on the walls, it was occupied as recently as 1952. The next building along the eastern side of the marae is another shed also built of upright ponga sunk into the ground and roofed with galvanised iron. It is empty. Continuing along the eastern side of the marae the next building is a food store raised on posts about two feet above the ground. The building is of sawn timber with a galvanised iron roof, sawn timber floor and a hinged door but no window. The last building encountered on the eastern side is a large dining hall built to a hexagon design with a cookhouse in the rear and a porch opening onto the marae. All are built of ponga set upright in the ground and the roofing is of galvanised iron. The dining hall proper is lined with sawn timber and similar material covers the floor. There is a single pole supporting the roof and the windows are of the sliding sash type with glass in the frames. There are several long wooden benches in the dining hall and again writing on the walls indicates that it was in use as recently as 1952.

The only building on the south side of the marae is a large cruciform structure which is obviously the oldest and most interesting building to be seen: this will be fully described later. To the north of this building three large poles have been erected. There are two more outside the eastern portal, two outside the western portal and one outside the southern portal. Some fifty yards due south of the cruciform building is a well, now about fourteen feet deep and containing only a little seepage. Further away to the south-east is a grave with a wooden fence round it.

The only building on the western side of the marae is a sawn timber structure with a galvanised iron roof. It has an open porch in front which is floored with sawn timber as is the rest of the building. A room leads off this porch and there is an inner room leading off that. The windows are the sliding sash type with glass in the frames.

The Cruciform Building

This building is 54 ft. in length along the north-south and east-west axes. Each wing is 17 ft. wide and the height to the ridge poles is 11 ft. 6 in. Each wing has a small open sided porch and entrance to each is gained through a sliding door hewn from one piece of timber 4 ft. high, 2 ft. wide and 2 ins. thick. There is a recessed hand grip in each to facilitate sliding and one of the doors has some lettering incised into it. Each portal is fitted with two ports to admit light and these are closed by solid wooden slabs about 18 ins. square and 2 ins. thick, which are slid into position. These window and door slabs appear to have been pit-sawn and then dressed with an axe or an adze.

The walls of the cruciform building are constructed of unsawn uprights set in the ground in double rows and packed with totara bark. - 5 They are about six feet high. The rafters are of unsawn timbers and the roofing is of totara bark. Each portal is faced with slabs of 12 ins. by 2 ins. timber which appear to have been pit sawn and then dressed with an axe or an adze. There is no carving on them.

Inside the building will be seen five uprights which have been set in the ground to support the ridge poles. All have been dressed with an axe or an adze and the centre pole is 6 ft. in circumference while the other four are 18 ins. in circumference. At the inner corners of the cruciform structure are some L-shaper corner pieces 2 ins. thick and bearing some incised lettering. The present corner pieces are machine sawn but the old ones which are pit sawn and axed or adzed were found outside the building partly rotten and lacking the incised lettering. About six feet in from each wall are footboards about 12 ins. wide and 1½ ins. thick set on edge. They appear to have been axed or adzed into shape. The floor is of earth. The large centre pole and those in the north and south wings respectively have incised lettering on them.

Outside the cruciform building poles have been set upright in the ground. These are of varying height and diameter and some have incised lettering on them. A curious feature of the cruciform building is that it has been lashed together with flax and supplejack and there was no sign of any nails, screws, brackets, hinges, catches, joinery or hardware of European origin.

The totara bark roofing is partly rotted now and stock have been camping in the building.

This appears to be the only building remaining of the original village built as a headquarters for a new religious cult somewhere about 1887. The sheds, tank-stand, storehouse, dining hall and King's house were erected in 1928-29 when an attempt was made to revive the cult.

The cruciform building has been described as a temple by some and as a meeting house by others but there is ample evidence that it was used as a dormitory. Some people have estimated that 400 people could be accommodated in it but that number could certainly have not found room to sleep in the building.

Inscriptions on Various Parts of the Cruciform, Building

On northern support pole (d1 north)—

  • TUKUA TUKUA AE AE inscribed horizontally.

On southern support pole (d1 south)—

  • NGARE O KAHA horizontally and 1887 vertically.

On centre support pole (d)—

  • NGATE 12 MINITAHINE horizontally and a maltese cross.
  • KOTEROPU KOTIRO horizontally.
  • KOTERATA horizontally and a maltese cross.
  • NGATE 12 TAPUWAHINE horizontally.
  • KO TE TAWAKE O TE ORANGA horizontally.
  • TURAKINA TE ATUA AE vertically.

On north-west inner corner (e, north-west)—

  • NGATE 12 WINITANE and a maltese cross.
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On north-east inner corner (e, north-east)—

  • NGATE 12 MAURITANE and a star.

On south-west inner corner (e, south-west)—

  • NGATE 12 WINIWAHINE and a star.

On south-east inner corner (e, south-east)—

  • NGATE 12 MAURIWAHINE and a maltese cross.

The southern sliding door has an inscription on it which is now weatherworn and difficult to decipher but those who saw it in years gone by say that the Maori words could be translated to read THE MEETING OF THE WORDS OF THE YEAR. There are also some inscriptions on the taller niu poles but, as the party did not have a ladder, these could not be read.

A striking feature of the village is that the only carved symbols to be found are of European origin.

History of the Settlement

This settlement at Te Tiroa was founded by two priests of the Pao-miere religion, an off-shoot of Pai-marire. Their names were Ranga-whenua and Karepe.

It is said that the founders of the sect believed from the first that the new religion was doomed to failure because of an evil omen. One of the tohunga who founded the religion is alleged to have ordered a man to take his gun at dawn and shoot the first living thing he met. The first living thing encountered by this adherent to the faith was another man and, as his life was spared, this was considered an evil omen.

The country in the vicinity of Maringa te Kakara village was in more recent years exploited by Europeans who were granted timber-milling rights in the area. From these it has been ascertained that an attempt was made to revive the cult of Pao-miere in 1928 or 1928 and the large cruciform building mentioned earlier was repaired.

There must have been other buildings in the area which had fallen into decay and, in the years mentioned above, these were replaced by a large dining hall, a house for the Maori King and other buildings which are to be seen today.

But the evil omen still persisted and the revival did not last long.

Apparently the last tohunga of the cult was a man named Te Ra who died at Taringamutu in 1949 at the age of over eighty so that he must have been a young man when the cult was founded. He was buried to the south-east of Maringa te Kakara and expressed a wish that his grave should be left unfenced so that his spirit would be able to depart. Owing to the presence of stock this wish was ignored and a wooden fence is to be found round the grave.

A woman living in the district is said to have exercised some influence in the cult in its dying stages. She is reputed to have walked and talked at the age of one year and to have been able to quote - 7 passages from the Bible at the age of two. Like so many other child prodigies she lost these powers as she grew older and now there is no longer a leader for the cult and the headquarters village has been abandoned.

On Preservation

The question arises whether Maringa to Kakara village is worth restoring and preserving as an historic place. This would be desirable but it is so tapu that the buildings would probably be mysteriously destroyed by fire if Pakehas attempted to restore and preserve them. Striking evidence of the power of the tapu is to be found in the village. The sheds and dining hall are liberally bespattered with names, addresses and obscene scribblings of the type to be found on the walls of public conveniences. The cruciform building and the King's house are entirely devoid of any such vandalism.

  • PHILLIPPS, W. J., 1955. Carved Maori Houses of Western and Northern Areas of New Zealand. Wellington, Dominion Museum, Monograph No. 9.
1   The name is given by Phillipps 1955:146-147 as Wirianga te Kahara. Phillipps publishes notes on and a photograph of the building here described.