Ngāti Pūkenga - Pakikaikutu

The northern most Ngāti Pūkenga settlement is Pakikaikutu in the Whangarei Harbour area. This gift of land was made by many of the chiefs of Whangarei including the great Tirarau of Te Parawhau. This gift was in recognition of a major breach where a man from Ngāti Pūkenga was killed by a local for no reason.

At the time, a section of Ngāti Pūkenga led by the venerated Pūkenga chief Moeroa Parertaura, were on a mission to buy firearms and munitions from the European and American arms traders based in and around Russell. These early entrepreuneurs were more than happy to sell arms, liquor and anything else they could to the warring tribes, at the same time growing rich from these transactions. Russell was considered the ‘Hell Hole’ of the Pacific for good reason, as the flotsam and jetsom of the other side of the world had converged in numbers on this majestic bay and lived a lawless existence.

Ngāti Pūkenga by this time were in occupation of many different settlements. Those who were living in Manaia traded regularly their produce in Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and the Bay of Islands. The increased use of firearms to solve inter-tribal disputes was decimating large numbers of people. Ngati Pukenga as previously mentioned had planned and effected a daring raid on the munitions dump of Governor Grey on Kawau Island many years prior, as they knew the time was fast approaching when they too would require Pakeha weapons to defend themselves and their lands.

Moeroa with a picked band of warriors set forth with their cargo for Pewhairangi (Bay of Islands) with one thing in mind: to procure enough armaments to protect what was dear to them. On their journey, as they passed the entrance to Whangarei harhour, one of the warriors on board expressed a desire to visit his sister, Te Rore, who was the wife of the  powerful Whangarei chief, Wharepoaka. Disembarking he made his way towards her kainga. Unbeknown to him he was being tracked by a despicable character with homocidal designs. Reaching a small river the young warrior stooped to partake of the crystal clear waters, to quench his thirst and soothe his parched throat. His assailant crept close and with a mighty rush killed our hapless traveller where he bent. Taking the poor wretch to a suitable place, he proceeded to gut and dissect his victim while his hangi fire burnt to hot embers, heating the stones perfectly for the evening meal. Rear quarter, back steaks and firm breast steamed well in the earth oven, and three short hours later the perpetrator of this crime greedily consumed his meal, washed down with water from the very stream that led to our young warrior’s demise.

Back in the Bay of Islands, word reached Moeroa and his army that their comrade had met a terrible fate. Well armed and primed for battle the canoes sallied forth from the Bay of Islands and at double pace their paddles sliced the peaceful waters of Pewhairangi, flashing in the sunlight as they lifted in unison from the water, to bite once more.

The chiefs of Whangarei also heard news of this treacherous act and that Ngāti Pūkenga were on the warpath and none of them were safe. As it was one of their own who was the perpetrator, they considered what the best course of action might be. Some advocated war preparations, while others cautioned as Ngāti Pūkenga’s reputation proceeded them. They were a ‘warrior race’ dedicated at birth to the God of War. In fact this tribe had been called on previously by Te Parawhau to assist them in their battles, in which they were victorious. They were not to be trifled with.

Te Tirarau and other chiefs decided that because the ‘take’ or reason for Pūkenga’s advance was in fact just, they must respond as rangatira and so they decided that they would meet the war party at Parua Bay en masse. Making quick time the majority of Whangarei chiefs made their way to await the Ngāti Pūkenga.

Meanwhile on the waka, Moeroa issued his commands to his warriors that today was the day of Tu, the God of War! Their duty was to restore the balance by avenging their comrade’s death. Whoever stood in their way would be sent to Hades, to Hinenuitepo, ancestress of the dead! As they came into the harbour and closed on Parua Bay, Moeroa made out the group on shore. Good, he thought, they would not have much further to travel with their paddles and could instead fill their hands with the newly aquired muskets and put them to good use. As they paddled into the shallows a cry rang out, and a single warrior issued forth from the ranks of these chiefs on shore. Moeroa knew them to be so by their noble bearing and the manner in which they were clothed. The lone warrior moved well. He utilised the many forms of martial movements, the diving comorrant, the fantails’ dance, the hammer head shark form. Impressive. The waka flotilla grounded and Moeroa instructed his eager warriors to hold their line and not to attack until he was sure of the strangers’ purpose. He saw Te Tirarau in their ranks, a man whom he respected. They had fought side by side against common foes once upon a time. Pūkenga had assisted their tribe in their battles, so he  waited and gave them the benefit of a doubt. Finally the young Whangarei warrior threw his taki dart at Moeroa’s feet and signalled him to retrieve it.  Looking to his right he motioned with an eyebrow for his best warrior to take up the challenge. He knew what was expected of him. Picking it up and holding it to his chest, the young challenger wheeled about, slapped one of his his well tattooed legs and launched into a sprint. Moeroa’s man sprung forth at the same time speeding to catch him, a great honour in this ritual of encounter. The assembled Whangarei chiefs and tribesmen watched with bated breath, knowing that mana was on the line. The two men raced towards the Whangarei ranks. At the last moment the Pūkenga warrior with the young warrior easily in his grasp suddenly stopped, turned and returned to his own ranks, not even panting or breaking a sweat. This was good. Moeroa proved his mana and the mana of the Whangarei chiefs was also intact. Maybe not for much longer though he thought to himself. Utu was still required by tribal custom. The challenge issued to them though did show him that the Whangarei chiefs acknowledged the mana of Ngāti Pūkenga.

The Pūkenga warriors moved to the shore line and kneeled on one knee, weapons readied while their chief Moeroa reclined on the sand. Te Tirarau arose to speak and quickly made it obvious that their intentions were honourable. He spoke of the killing and that it was a kohuru, a treacherous deed that must be paid for. As the perpetrator was not to be found, they suggested a solution. The assembly arose and asked the Pūkenga to follow them to  the place where their kinsman had been killed and eaten. Arriving at the spot, the Pūkenga warriors shed tears and lamented their loss. The spot where he fell was marked with a small depression. Moeroa spoke and talked of war. How could this stain upon his tribe be washed away? The tribal way was blood retribution. Te Tirarau concurred with him but said that more bloodshed would only lead to tit for tat retribution. His solution was simple and appropriate. For the killing of their kinsman, the local tribes would gift Ngāti Pūkenga the place where their man was felled. More than that, the area would be much larger so that they could remain on the land and become tangata whenua along with the other tribes of Whangarei. Moeroa quietly contemplated this offer. Would this be enough to remove the blood stain? He thought of the wars his Ngāti Pūkenga tribe were already involved in across the country and whether another war in the North was called for. Finally, he arose and said that he would accept the whenua as compensation, that this action would wipe the slate clean, and that from that time on Ngāti Pūkenga would be equal in mana with the other tribes.

Moeroa and his people then settled the land known as Pakikaikutu. Ngāti Pūkenga were there en masse although many returned to Tauranga Moana, Manaia and Maketu in the South. Moeroa, now very advanced in years though, decided that his days of war were finished and as the war parties made their way home south, he determined to stay on. His twilight years were lived out at Pakikaikutu and his mana as promised, was respected. He died in his 90’s and is buried at Pakikaikutu, a constant reminder of Maori chivalry and the mana of yesteryear.