April 13, 2022, 4 p.m.
The true heart of Moringai, a beautiful pōhutukawa tree that has stood tall for over 150 years. The site where the very first Māori Land Court in Aotearoa once stood and some suggest was the original site of Korou Kore Marae before a tsunami destroyed it in 1910. The pōhutukawa that still stands here today, was carelessly chopped in half. Leaving whānau split over what to do next.
Rueben Taipari, local hapū and occupation leader, was the first on-site and remains strong in being the last person to occupy this whenua. Despite denying any knowledge of the fact, Rueben believes this was an injustice by the local GP and landowner, Dr Cecil Williams and is adamant about seeing justice brought to his hapū and tūpuna.
“It's a symbol for our presence here on this whenua. He was trying to cut the entire tree down, he admitted it, but he still wants his money. So that's why my comment was; I don’t feel he understands the hurt he created and that all he wants is to collect his money.”
Surrounded by his whānau, from local kuia to vibrant rangatahi running about in their own backyard, Rueben has seen the long term benefits in occupying, and in time, regaining this whenua with a ripple effect on his nephews, nieces and children.
“I bring my knowledge of being a ‘hunter, gatherer’ to Moringai, to the whenua. I teach our next generation; fishing, diving, pig hunting, how to put food on our whānau table and to bring food back to our whenua” said local kaitiaki, Harley Pene.
After six months, hapū and whānau have no intention of moving off the land.