Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 6, October 1966
The following are extracts from a school project prepared in 1959 by the pupils of Waihi Beach School under the guidance of their teacher, Miss C. Jefferson, who now lives at Whangamata.
Waihi Beach is a village (now a town) in the Ohinemuri County in the Province of Auckland, New Zealand. Its latitude is 37½° South, its longitude 176° East of Greenwich and it lies seven miles east from the mining town of Waihi. Immediately west is a range of low hills and it is bounded on the north by the Mine Hill terminating in Okori Point. This point is connected by a sharp ridge with the height which is the ancient site of Oeopu pa and with the stronger and higher pa, Whitikareo, the home of some of the hapus of the Ngatimaru people.
Between the hills to the west and the pa ridge rises the small stream, the legend concerning which, gave to it, the name "Waihi". In the sun-filled basin between the heights and along the banks of the little stream the Maori grew his crops.
At the southern end of the beach, five miles away is the Bowentown Headland, on the slopes of which was the old pa Kurouamia sheltering the hapus of the Ngaiterangi, whose middens stretching for miles along the sands bear witness to crowded pas that occupied every prominent knoll, pas with high sounding names -— Koutanui, Maneanui, Timata and Harakoko. A remnant of the people still live at Otawhiwhi.
The stories of these people, their folk lore, their struggles, their hopes and fears, their triumphs and defeats form the first part of our work.
Long ago the people of these parts came sailing from Hawikii in the canoe Matatua landing at Whakatane. Some settled in this bay between Kurauamaia and Okori Point, their strong places being Kurauamaia and Whitikareo. The story of Otawhiwhi tells how the Ngaiterangi finally overcame the earlier people, the Ngatimaru. Food was plentiful and for the most part they devoted their time to the making of tools and weapons. From the Harakoko pa in the sandhills came the notable Gilbert Mair collection. From Timata, the carving pa in the swamp, many beautiful artefacts have been found; the school children amongst others having conducted operations there.
A pa in the village is the burial place of Tupeka. Above Keating's, lie the bones of Mimiha and Ngatikohe.
Mr. Kapa Ainsley remembers some sixty houses on the flat where Seaview and Pacific Roads are. One kitchen prepared the food for the one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty people who lived there.
Mr. Sam Middlebrook tells of riding through this way from Tauranga to Thames. The Waihi Beach was the highway. At the present post office the way turned up a track that is now Seaview Road and on to the ridge above the tennis court. He remembers some five or six whares just above the pohutukawas where the tennis courts are with many peach trees behind them smothered with grape vines, which also climbed the pohutukawa trees. There were peacocks and peafowls strutting around and the whole flat to the west of the camping area was under cultivation, maize and kumaras being the main crops.
The last Maoris to live there were Tataurangi, Te Kepa, Raharui, Renata, Parati, and Marakai. Their burial grounds are in the sand dunes. They were men of the Ngatitokanui.
The Name of the Pa
At the Southern end of Waihi Beach on a narrow isthmus connecting the mainland with Bowentown Head is the pa, Otawhiwhi from which come the eight Maori children who attend this school. On one side is the estuary on the other, the ocean. The name, Otawhiwhi has its origin in the culminating, gruesome details of the following tragic story.
In the ancient times, a woman of Matakana island, Pareaute, was married to Rangitoro, a young chief of Paeroa of the Ngatimuru people and went to live there with his hapu. Her brother Kahaute came to visit her and after some time announced his intention of returning to Matakana. With friendly cries of farewell they sped him on his Journey. Pareaute's husband followed him and by a shorter route overtook and passed him and hiding in ambush waited for him to come. The scents of brown bracken, starry manuka, the little russet heath rose from the warm earth filling the air with their sweetness, as all unsuspecting, Kahu trotted along on large, bare, well-formed feet, his piupiu swinging free, when without warning, the long sharply pointed spear, koe-koe, of the treacherous brother-in-law thrust him to the ground.
To prove his prowess, Rangitoro cut off the arm and returned to Paeroa hiding it beneath the mat which made the pillow for him and his wife. Somehow he was unable to sleep and in the middle of the night repenting he woke Pareaute and told her of his terrible deed. At first she refused to believe him and to convince her he produced the arm of her dead brother from beneath the mat. In great grief she took the arm and without a word of farewell left her husband and as morning broke was at the crossing of Mangakite.
By nightfall she was in hiding waiting to cross the channel to her home at Matakana. According to the Ngaiterangi the bar the entrance to the Tauranga estuary is the worst in New Zealand. An old saying goes that it is possible for a man to withstand the dense smoke of a fire on land, but if he falls into the race when the spray and spume are flying high above the bar he will never come again to land. Likewise the current leading to the bar is one that most mortals would shun; but Pareaute was wise in the ways of her people. Casting a branch into the stream she waited and watched, in the darkness listening intently until it showed her that the tide had ceased to flow, and thrusting the arm wrapped in flax coverings into a cave beneath a rock and tying her clothes into a bundle, she plunged into the dead water and swimming the mile and more that separated her from her home made her way along the shores of the island. In the early light of morning the people living on the northern most end of the island, the Ngatitautiti, saw her and running caught her. When she told her terrible tale they took her along the beach to her own people. Great was their anger and manning three canoes with chosen warriors they set out bent on vengeance.
Coming to the cave they found that the arm had been gnawed by rats. "Kati Kati" they exclaimed. "The rats have eaten it" and the rock can be seen to this day.
Quickly they debated. Should they continue on their way to Paeroa? No! The steersman lifted his eyes and pointed. There on the heights of Kuramia were the relations of the Paeroa people all unprepared, and storming the hillside they were soon engaged in mortal combat. The tide of battle ebbed and flowed. Their only spring was at a little cove on the estuary now known as the Shelly Beach, and to that spring the Kuramia fell back fighting for their lives. Terrible was the vengeance of the Ngaiterangi that day. Autororo was killed, Nikorima was slain and Tawhiti and many others, but killing was not enough for these blood-thirsty savages.
Their honour had been touched. The wrong done to their family still burned hot within then. They saw still the hand eaten by rats.
Even as Hutororo fell they dismembered his body and without waiting for the umus to be kindled ate his warm, still moving flesh. One last insult they heaped upon him, one last shame. His entrails! The entrails of the chief of a hundred battles they flung upon a great flat upstanding rock for all to see, Entrails! Whiwhi! And so that the place should be forever known, they added "Ota".
The rock still stands a flat upstanding rock and the home of our children is at Otawhiwhi; the home of Bertha and Joe whose real name is Tangiteruru; of Isaac written 'Isiac' in the Maori way; of Kuti, a little flea; of Josephine, of whom the children say, "She is a dear little thing"; of Gilbert, dear shy Gilbert, who holds his coat up to cover his face as he so softly says his recitation; of Eliza and Kararaina, surnamed Hone Heke. They all live at Otawhiwhi.
The Name Waihi
A man came having walked all the way from Paikea, the old name for Coromandel and reached the creek which, rising on the slopes of Oeopu, runs through the village. A storm had silted up its bed but he was very thirsty. Scratching a small hole with his fingers some muddy water collected. Seizing a dry whauwhau stick, the pith of which had decayed leaving a clean hole, he stuck it into the shallow depression and drinking through it as the pakeha now drinks through a straw called the place "Waihi", (rising water).