A Malaysian, a Korean and an Indonesian meet two New Zealanders at 4pm on a Monday in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, but was in fact a Guiness World Record holding location.
It was of course, the famous sign denoting Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu – or the longest place name in the world. In English, it means “The hilltop where Tamatea with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his koauau to his beloved. Simon & I pulled up there as, (I’m ashamed to admit), even though I grew up in Kahungungu, I’d never been there. While there, we met the aforementioned tourists, who are working and travelling through New Zealand for a few months. We chatted for a bit, and passed on some places they should check out on their way through to Wellington.
Driving five minutes back down the road, we crossed the bridge into Porangahau. The sun was shining and the village had a relaxed vibe that told you there was something special about this place.
Finding our way to Marina Sciascia’s house (it wasn’t hard, everyone in this village knows everyone!), we were warmly welcomed in with a fresh feed of kina! It was my first time trying this delicacy, and I’ll definitely be back for more. Dinner was beautifully prepared by Marina in her home, and several other locals were also able join us. Paul and Sue, Doc, Ana, Jim, Marina, myself and Simon settled in for an evening of kaimoana and korero as we talked about our families, our work and what Porangahau is hoping to achieve through tourism.
Paul and Sue kindly took me down to Te Paerahi beach after dinner – even though the sun had set, the moon was out and the beach looked stunning. I couldn’t wait to get back the next day and see it in all its glory! Meanwhile Simon was back at Doc and Raina’s whare, drinking many cups of tea and hearing about their tourism and education venture, Kurawaka Retreat Centre, which specialises in both Kaikāranga and Kaikōrero Wānanga. Doc and Raina make a great team and, according to Doc, “Kurawaka’s success is partly due to tonnes of hard work, but also faith in the Te Puni Kōkiri’s MBFS”.
Arriving back at Marina’s after my night time beach tour, I met with Kim, Marina’s daughter who is one of the most ‘go and get them’ people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. The adage ‘if you want to get something done, ask the busiest person you know’ is apt. The Te Manawaru Porangahau Community Garden and the Porangahau War Memorial Hall restoration are just two of the projects that Kim has helped to get off the ground. The community garden is a place where locals and tourists can come together to plant, nourish, eat and learn about sustainability, along with the uses of traditional Māori plants and vegetables.
Back at Marina’s homestay, cosy in bed listening to the rain pit-pattering on to the roof, there wouldn’t have been many places I’d rather be – especially with the promise of homemade jam for my breakfast the following morning!
The next morning, Marina spoke about the Sciascia Whanau Porangahau Homestay business, and the people that have stayed with her from all over the world. They’ve found their way to Porangahau and experienced the incredible maanakitanga that the locals take pride in delivering. It’s so ingrained in them that they don’t even have to think about it – and that’s what makes it so special.
Jim Hutcheson and Marina took Simon and I to what locals call the most beautiful marae in New Zealand. It wasn’t an exaggeration. Rongomaraeroa Marae recently celebrated its centenary, and as part of the celebrations it underwent a makeover to make sure it was looking its best. And it is. Jim and Marina told us the history of the marae, about the founding Māori families in Porangahau and those who are still in the area now.
Jim humbly showed us the carvings from the waka that was carved at Porangahau for the 1990 Commemoration celebrations that adore the Marae now. Jim was one of the builders and carver for the waka Tamateaarikinui o te waka Takitimu – and it is stunning. Learning about what the different carvings mean and the myths and stories they referenced personally gave us a greater understanding of Ngati Kere and the hapu of Porangahau. Then it was back to Jim’s house where he outlined his plans to turn it into a backpackers and tours accommodation.
Jim and Marina then took us up to view Porangahau from up the surrounding hilltops. The local landmarks of significance to both Māori and Pakeha were pointed out to us – from the lighthouse at Blackhead Point, to the mythology behind how the point was created. Driving up there, stories were told about their life in Porangahau growing up, as well as those of the families of houses we passed. A quick stop in to the Porangahau Country Club to look at the activities they have on offer (golf, netball, tennis, arts, bowls and a function centre to name a few), but we were on a strict timetable, so Jim dropped us at Don’s place at Te Paerahi beach.
Now, Don Hutana would tell you that his place has the best view in the whole of Porangahau, and it would be hard to disagree with him. Don has hosted conferences at his house up on the hill (although how much work you’d achieve while having that view to stare it all day remains to be seen!), and his property is available as accommodation. A late morning tea of freshly caught paua (if you ask Don nicely, he might share his prized fishing spots with you), and it was off back to the Kura Waka where Paul and Doc were just getting ready to head out on the boat to the river waha to collect cockles for lunch.
Heading out on the boat down the river gave us a different view of Porangahau as we helped launch the boat and head off down the river. Paul and Doc pointed out places of note to us on the short ride downstream, before we put down anchor and jumped out to begin filling our buckets with cockles. Having never done this before, I soon got into the swing of it! Knowing that we’d be cooking them up and eating them within the next couple of hours – well, you always appreciate your kai that much more when you’ve put the effort into catching it!
A quick wash down at Doc’s house and it was straight to Te Ahurangi Services hosted by Kim for a community meeting that had been organised for those interested in tourism opportunities in Porangahau, and a chance for Simon and I to talk about what NZ Māori Tourism does and how we can assist Māori tourism operators. Having worked in Wellington for the past decade, it was certainly different attending a meeting in jean shorts and a singlet with the remains of sea/sand/mud spluttered on them – but I think we were forgiven after they saw our cockle haul for everyone for lunch! It was a family affair with Marina’s daughter Keri Ropiha attending from Central Hawke’s Bay Promotions, as the Manager she gave us a good understanding of the work that they are doing with the local tourism community. One of her first projects is getting the signage updated – as we all know, it’s hard to find your way somewhere if there are no signs!
We had a great hui and we sincerely thank Marina and Kim for organising it – the aroha, energy and enthusiasm you have for Porangahau is inspiring and definitely contagious!
A huge thank you to everyone involved in our visit.
Director of Regions, Simon Phillips, and Communications Manager Amy Hodgkinson were in Porangahau, Central Hawke’s Bay recently to meet with Māori tourism operators. New Zealand Māori Tourism pays for all our accommodation and experiences.
To contact the people/businesses above:
Sciascia Whanau Porangahau Homestays
Half day tours available.
Marina Sciascia, email@example.com or 027 500 8968
Ana Reita Sciascia, firstname.lastname@example.org or 06 855 5530
Paul & Sue Sciascia, email@example.com or 027 354 0858
Kurawaka Retreat Centre
Homestays for larger groups (up to 20). Hunting, fishing, diving, exploring the land.
Raina & Doc Ferris, www.kurawaka.org or http://www.kurawaka.com or firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com or 06 855 5301 or 027 701 7349
Tours and Backpackers Accommodation
Jim Hutcheson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 240 7898
Te Paerahi’s Million Dollar View, Fishing & Diving
Don Hutana, email@example.com or 027 608 8805
Chairperson Anthony Tipene-Matua, firstname.lastname@example.org, 021502976 or Marae Committee 06 8555332.
Te Manawaru Porangahau community garden or Te Ahurangi Services and Info Centre
Kim Steffert, email@example.com or 06 855 5112
Closest Passenger Airport: Palmerston North Airport, 2 hours/130km or Hawke’s Bay Airport (Napier), 2 hours/114km
Driving distance from Napier: 2 hours/114km
Driving distance from Palmerston North: 2 hours/114 km
Driving distance from Wellington: 4 hours/262km
Closest town: Waipukurau (1 hour/55km)