Ōtakou Marae - history and community

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 19 March 2017
The Wharenui, Tamatea at Otakou Marae.

The Wharenui, Tamatea at Otakou Marae. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Ōtakou Marae sits on a site steeped in history - it was where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 13 June, 1840.

Rachel Wesley takes Te Ahi Kaa on a tour of the marae, which overlooks the Otago (Ōtakou) Peninsula.

This programme was originally broadcast as part of the series Nga Marae o te Motu (Marae of New Zealand).

There are sweeping panoramic views from the veranda outside Hakuiao - the dining hall at the Ōtakou Marae.

The ancestral maunga Te Atua o Taiehu, Pukekura or Taiaroa heads across the harbour, which was once a fortified pa.

The Ōtakou Peninsula also serves as a pataka kai (food source) for the local hapū.

The influenza epidemic of 1835 swept through Ōtakou, claiming the lives of hundreds in the area - made evident by unmarked graves in the marae urupa.

Ōtakou chiefs Korako and Karetai signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Ōtakou Marae on 13 June, 1840.

The Wharekai (Dining Hall) at Otakou Marae, Hakuiao.

The Wharekai (Dining Hall) at Otakou Marae, Hakuiao. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

The local iwi and hapū include Kaitepahi, Kati Moki, Kati Tāoka Waitaha, Rapuwai and Kai Tahu.

In 2013, the dining hall (Hakuiao) underwent a makeover and doubled in size. It can now cater for up to 180 people.

The Wharenui Tamatea opened in 1946, replacing the previous meeting house, Te Mahi Tamariki. The interior design features a stage and the carvings are fashioned from plaster.

There are stained glass windows with images of a soldier, and next to the windows a role of honour pays tribute to  men who fought in the Boer War, World War I and World War II.

The adjacent church was opened in 1941 and the pulpit was carved by a German missionary. To the rear of the church is a whare tāonga (hapū repository area) where whanau can safe-keep their possessions.

Today, Ōtakou is home to a just a few hundred people, but that swells to much more during the holiday season.

Every three years the marae hosts the Treaty of Waitangi Festival.