Ko Maiki te Maunga
As part of our kaupapa, Te Au Mārie are working to share some of our regions untold stories so that we all better understand our shared histories.
Maiki (Flagstaff) Hill is a major landmark, not just for Russell but for the whole of New Zealand.
According to TripAdvisor, it’s #3 of the things to do in Russell, predominantly because of its commanding views over the Bay, but visitors gain little idea of its historic significance nationally. The pou kara (flagstaff) there represents the challenge to maintain the spirit of Tiriti and partnership – both for all in Tai Tokerau and the whole of New Zealand. However, the true story of the pou kara and what it symbolises has not be widely known or understood.
The story is widely told of Hone Heke’s part in successfully felling the flagstaff four times on Maiki Hill at Kororāreka Russell between July 1844 and March 1845. His final effort marked the start of the first war between the British and Māori, which ended in 1846 at Ruapekapeka. What is less widely known is that the flagstaff was gifted by Hone Heke six years before the signing of the Treaty to fly the flag of the Confederated Tribes of New Zealand.
Between 1846 and 1857 in the wake of the Northern War, Northern rangatira (leaders) proposed erecting a new flagstaff (pou kara) at Maiki Hill as a symbol of lasting peace, reconciliation and unity. These were the same people who challenged the British in the North. However, Crown officials were lukewarm (at best) to the idea as they feared that the flagstaff might again become a source of trouble and unrest.
Despite little to no Crown support, iwi from across Northland carried on with their plans and in January 1858 the 95-foot pou kara, named Whakakotahitanga-o-ngā-iwi-e-rua (unity between two peoples), was erected on Maiki Hill under the direction of Maihi Kawiti. Five hundred men carried it up the hill and into place.
Governor Gore Browne had been at a hui in Kororāreka Russell the week before and was invited to attend the re-erection of the pou. However Browne’s officials advised him against attending the ceremony as it was still feared the flagstaff represented trouble and unrest and were not confident of the intentions of Northern Māori. Instead he sent an ivory seal, Queen Victoria’s hand holding the Treaty, which Maihi used throughout his life.
In April 1932 a plaque was unveiled by the Kawiti and Heke descendants at the foot of the pou kara. Government officials, including the Prime Minister, were invited to the event but did not attend. For more than a century the pou suffered neglect, damage and abuse.
In 1991 the pou was in seriously bad condition (an initial assessment thought it was beyond repair). It was removed for repairs in 1992. After a year of intensive work Whakakotahitanga-o-ngā-iwi-e-rua was re-erected on 20 March 1993. Prior to the ceremony itself, the kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the pou was vested in local Kororāreka Māori. Today they share the management of the pou and hillside with the Department of Conservation.
Despite the lack of official recognition as a taonga (treasure) of national significance, for many years without fail, representatives of the Kororāreka Marae alongside local hapū and Kororāreka Russell residents have ceremonially raised the kara (flag) to mark significant anniversaries throughout the year.
In partnership with Kororāreka Marae, a commemoration event for the 160th anniversary of the re-erection of the pou kara at Maiki Hill was held on 29 January 2018. Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy attended to acknowledge the significance of the flagstaff.
If you would like to know about the history of Maiki Hill and the pou kara Whakakotahitanga-o-ngā-iwi-e-rua, a free digital story that explores more of the story of the flagstaff can be downloaded at http://hikoitahiwalks.co.nz/
What else are we doing?
As well as helping to shine a light on the true significance of the pou kara at Maiki Hill, we are working to better maintain the site The views from its summit and the events that happened on and around it are a key part of our history. However, in the past there have been issues with how the growth of vegetation on and around Te Maiki which has impacted the ability to tell these stories. The Te Au Mārie Trust supported by the Department of Conservation, the Russell planning group and the Bay of Islands – Whangaroa Community Board have embarked on a landscape plan to better manage this key site into the future. The landscape plan aims to enhance the visitor experience of this significant site in Aotearoa’s history.
Landscape architect Paul Quinlan has completed the landscape plan which is now waiting for community feedback. The plan is to carefully clear specific areas to create a view to other sites of significance. It will also make the archaeology of the site more visible. Specially chosen plantings are proposed to add protection to the archaeology above and below the ground. The plan also recommends that some plantings not in keeping with the site should be removed and replaced to provide a more natural landscape. Some potential future problems are identified, such as pine that needs to be removed.
The first phase was to trim back the existing vegetation to re-open the view out to the Bay. This was completed on 1 & 2nd November 2017, thanks to DOC and the local REP team from Rawhiti. Check out the before and after photos below.