A whare nikau rises from the past.

In the early days our ancestors made the most of  everything they could find in the bush.

 Tane provided them with the materials with which to survive by creating shelter and warmth but there were other ancestral gods who joined with Tane to provide a secure environment in which to live in peace with nature.

Tangaro ensured the rivers and lakes were filled with fish while Rongo-Ma-Tane provided plants that could be cultivated to supply foods that could be stored for the long cold winters or for times of drought.

 But are the ancestors of Tu forgetting the ways of the past?

 Maybe some of these skills are being lost but Mangatowai is determined that those that are slipping into legend are returned to life for the benefit of the current and future generations of all races in our wonderful country.

 The first step into the future by going back to the past is clearly visible on the Mangatowai site - a whare nikau built according to the ways of our ancestors.

 In the old days the Maori used nikau leaves as thatching for the roof and walls of the whare with a frame built from manuka. A whare built like this is as strong and watertight as if made of iron or timber.

 The nikau is the only native palm of New Zealand and can grow up to 15m high. It is found in coastal and warmer inland forests of the North Island. It is also abundant on the north-west coast of the South Island as well as on Banks Peninsula and the Chatham Island, so it was a readily available source of building materials.


 But it's value in the past was not restricted to just being a resource for building. The leaves were woven into baskets and kete. Nikau leaves are still used by trampers and hunters as good thatching for bush shelters (see above picture of a nikau thatching panel) and the padding in a camp mattress.

 The nikau also provided a source of medicine. It was used as a laxative and because it relaxes pelvic muscles it was used in childbirth to make labour easier, but it was also useful in cases of diarrhea.


                                               Nikau flower and fruit

 The fruit of the palm takes about one year to ripen and the native pigeon and other birds feast on the ripening berries and disperse the seed through the bush to ensure survival of this graceful and moist useful plant.

A gallery of the work in progress


Kaumata David Henare welcomes visitors and his construction team, explaining the programme for the day. 

Construction begins, sorting out the manuka poles that will form the framework. 


Slowly the skeleton rises from the grass - note the bracing that is necessary to hold the frame steady in the initial stages.  


 The ladies start work weaving the nikau palm fronds that will form the first layer of the thatching.


The skeleton takes shape. 


 The frame is held together with string - in the old days this was made from the heart of the nikau palm.  Fonzo Heihei (right picture) is lashing a cross beam to the main frame.


The frame stands proud and firm while David Henare (right) lays the first of the woven nikau panels over the roof.

Visitors Marion Parkin and Jan Jones (Taupo Bay)  watch on while David Henare shows the lashing system to Sue Turner (principle Oruaiti School)


Weaving can be hard work - from left Queenie (Murupara), Mihi Hohepa (Rotorua), Annie Martin and  Cheryl Farland in action weaving the base panels for the roof.


David Henare adds more panels to the roof.

More nikau fronds are layered over the woven panels then external ridge poles are lashed over the top to hold them in place - doing this work are (from left) J R Crum, Mihi Hohepa, David Henare, Mario Grzinic and Sam Crum


Two views of the completed wharenikau.

The first occupants giving the wharenikau a test drive.


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