If you were to stroll through our Pikirangi Village at Te Puia recently, you might have seen the new wharepuni being crafted by Dion Maurirere of the Ngāti Porou tribe. Dion began the work in May and has been working solo on the project, which involves many hours of labour – cutting and collecting tī kōuka (cabbage tree) from the Ngongotaha Stream, harvesting dead harakeke (flax) and cutting mānuka frames within our valley. He has also used raupō (bulrush) and muka (flax fibre).
Dion hails from Mangakino village, but was brought up in the bush – pig hunting with his father. “We would build small wharepuni to sleep in and stay there for days at a time. Made right, they’re dry and warm.” Now residing in Rotorua, Dion spends his weekdays in Pikirangi and his weekends with his six-year-old daughter, Eden. He says he is thriving in the environment at Te Puia and treasures the whānau atmosphere.
Dion says the roof’s overhang is purposeful in that it keeps the walls dry – something that would have been of utmost importance in the past. The entrance door is kept small to help with heat and protection. “At the back of the whare, there’s a secret exit covered by harakeke (flax) for a quick escape – our tīpuna (ancestors) sometimes dug tunnels from inside the whare to the outside of the palisades and would often fool intruders.”
It is hoped that Dion will eventually turn all of the whareponga into traditional wharepuni, bringing authenticity to Pikirangi Village for our manuhiri (visitors).