te Runanganui o Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o te Ika a
The Story of
“AROHANUI KI TE TANGATA”
THE MEETING-HOUSE OF
“GOODWILL TO ALL MEN”
WAIWHETU, LOWER HUTT CITY.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND.
WAYS OF LIFE BECOME ONE
A young man lay on his back in the fields of Taranaki one day in 1904 and
gazed upon the pure white mantle of Mount Egmont. He closed his eyes.
The clouds rolled back, the heavens glowed with a strange light and His
voice spoke to the young man:
"Ko ia e aroha ana ki a au naku tena". (He that loves me is mine).
The dream continued. This 18-year-old youth, taken from Waiwhetu to
Taranaki to learn the ancient customs and traditions of his tribe in the
sacred chambers of the elders, saw many things. He saw the importance of
keeping alive the cultural riches of the past. He saw a vision of a great
meeting-house at the head of the fish of Maori mythology (the North Island),
a meeting-house not for one tribe alone but for all the people, Maori and
pakeha, a meeting place of Goodwill to All Men.
This was the vision of Ihaia Porutu Puketapu, a leader of Te
Ati-Awa-No-Runga-I-Te-Rangi tribe of Waiwhetu, a little Maori settlement in
the Hutt Valley, near Wellington - the head of the fish.
He took up the challenge. Today - 56 years later - the dream has come true.
Through all the years the dream never left him.
In the face of the chill stares of the sceptics, he remained true to his
They laughed at him. To many it seemed fantastic, preposterous, this idea of
an old style carved Maori meeting-house in the heart of the capital in the
middle of the 20th century.
He had no money but he had faith and a mission from God.
So began the years of planning, organising, working, always with the vision
of the meeting-house at the head of the fish driving him on.
It was more than a dream of a meeting-house. It was the dream of a way of
life for Maori and pakeha, of "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men".
For Ihaia Puketapu was brought up in the shadow of the grisly wars in which
his own Taranaki kinsfolk suffered cruelly. But more important he was
steeped in the traditions, prophecies and teachings of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai
and Tohu Kakahi, the Taranaki prophets who fought war with peace, hate with
It was under Te Whiti that the Maori people adopted means of peaceful
resistance in the war in Taranaki over 80 years ago, culminating in the
famous cannon incident at remote Parihaka Pa.
Feelings were running high in Taranaki. Incidents were mounting. Elsewhere
there had been war and rumours of war. Against this tense atmosphere a
party of soldiery advanced on the Maoris at Parihaka to arrest Te Whiti and
Tohu. The Maori people gathered round Te Whiti, quietly, mindful that the
cannon aimed at their pa was to be fired if they did not surrender. They met
the challenge with peace and faith. They remained unmoved. The cannon
remained silent. Wars throughout the land came quickly to an end.
This was the way of Te Whiti, "Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to All Men". It
is the way too of Ihaia Puketapu.
That is why the new meeting-house is called "Arohanui ki te Tangata"
(Goodwill to All Men).
That is why the exterior is modern pakeha, the interior ancient Maori -
merged symbol of racial goodwill, symbol of our being one people.
But what does it mean, this being one people?
At the "head of the fish" now stand two buildings symbolic of our racial
destiny - the House of Parliament, a European building where
Maori and pakeha meet to frame the laws for all the people and a great Maori
meeting-house where Maori and pakeha will mingle in friendship in a Maori
Ihaia saw that the dream confirmed a sacred trust which Te Whiti had given
to Ihaia Porutu, grand uncle of Ihaia Puketapu, before the latter was born.
The words of Te Whiti were: "Noho ake te tangata manaaki tangata, tena koe
te tangata whakaaro rangatira. Tenei waiho nga ngutu 0 te Upoko o Te Ika-a-Maui
kia wahangu kei te haere mai te wa, mau hei whakakowhetewhete."
("Allow the lips of the head of the fish to be sealed until such time as you
will allow it to speak.")
Like Te Whiti this house talks peace. This house talks friendship. Here at
the "head of the fish" it says that two ways of life have become one.
Together Maori and pakeha shared the privations of war. Here we share the
fruits of peace. Our separate heritages merge.
Both have contributed much that is precious - skills, labour, money, and the
riches of our separate arts. Both have gained much that is precious - proud
arts shared, a common meeting place, fellowship, and understanding - gifts
no money could buy.
This is what it means, this being one people.
Mr Ihaia Puketapu, OBE, whose dream the meeting-house was,
examines the centre post in the meeting-house entrance. Mr Puketapu was
Maori chief and leader of the Waiwhetu people. He provided the driving force
to have the house built.