Telling Kihikihi’s history

New heritage signs are to be installed in Kihikihi that will make knowledge of the town’s history and the life of Rewi Maniapoto more accessible.

“Unless you’re an avid researcher, you’ll never get to that stuff. I want to bring some of that information into the general knowledge base,” said Harold Maniapoto of Ngāti Maniapoto.

Harold Maniapoto is on the cusp of completing a heritage project which he started 32 years ago. Photo: Benjamin Wilson

In August, the council granted the Rewi Maniapoto Memorial Committee Trust and Maniapoto ki Te Raki $6924 for the printing and lamination of six signs, to be installed on the Rewi Maniapoto Reserve.

Harold, 79, guided the creation of the reserve’s carvings in 1990.

He says the new signs will explore his ancestor’s life and his connection to Kihikihi, Kihikihi’s development, and the significance of the reserve itself.

Rewi was a chieftain of Ngāti Maniapoto, a leader of the Kīngitanga movement, and “was the leader of the defenders of Ōrākau… which was the last resistance of the invasion of the Waikato area in 1864,” said Harold.

“When Sir George Grey’s government went to Waitara to talk peace terms with Rewi, they actually became close friends.”

Harold said after Rewi’s death in 1894, Grey commissioned a monument in respect of their friendship, and in recognition of Rewi’s efforts.

The monument was installed on the site of Rewi’s old home in Kihikihi, which Harold said “was quite a central hub for the politics of the day.” It stands in the reserve today.

Kihikihi’s Rewi Maniapoto Reserve. Photo: Benjamin Wilson

Harold said the information will be segmented so that it is more easily digestible for students.

“The way we have written it is so that schools can come look at parts (of the history) without having to know the whole lot.

“I am intending to make it a destination point for our kura and marae…it will help them to get a chronology of the timeline for their community,” said Harold.

The heritage signs will be part of the Te Ara Wai Journeys project, and could feature QR codes that will lead to further audio-visual information online.

Last year Harold was diagnosed with bowl cancer. He said he only agreed to a surgical treatment because he was guaranteed enough time  to  complete  his  30-year heritage project.

“My concern was this, I have about two years of work left that I haven’t finished, and I have got to finish it. “I said to them ‘if you can guarantee me two years of life, I’ll accept your procedure.’ They said you’ll probably get more, but we can guarantee you at least two years. I said to them, that is all I need to know.”


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