Matangi Āwhio - Auckland Point


Matangi Āwhio or Auckland Point has a long history of occupation dating back to 1450, when the tupuna (ancestor) Pohea established it as a pā (fortified settlement) and, according to some iwi stories, named it after the swirling sea breezes that blow in from Te Tai o Aorere (Tasman Bay).

Matangi Āwhio continued to be a pā, kāinga (seasonal camping site) and tauranga waka (a place for safely landing waka) over the following seven centuries. Henry Thompson, representative of the Government-appointed Trustees of Native Reserves, recognised the importance of the site to Māori when he selected five one-acre sections at Matangi Āwhio (Sections 62-66) as his first five choices of 100 Tenths Reserves in Nelson Town in April 1842. The site is now vested in Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Tama manawhenua ki te Tau Ihu, Ngāti Rarua, Te Atiawa o te Waka-a-Maui and Te Pataka a Ngāti Koata following Treaty Settlements.

Auckland Point, Nelson c 1846. Watercolour. Artist unknown. The Nelson ProvinciaAuckland Point, Nelson c 1846. Watercolour. Artist unknown. The Nelson Provincial Museum, Art Collection, 838
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Bishop Selwyn, one of the Trustees, visited Nelson in August-September 1842, and ordered a hostelry to be built on one of the Matangi Āwhio sections for Māori visiting for trade; there would be a house for each group of regular visitors to Nelson, with a chapel on the hill above.

"In front of the buildings there will be a low wall with a flat top, for the exposure of goods for sale, viz. potatoes, Indian corn, leeks, kumera (sweet potatoes), fire-wood, and pork; for all which articles the English are almost entirely dependent upon the native supplies."1

An early settler describes Matangi Āwhio after completion of the wall:

"Auckland Point with its convenient smooth dry “flat” was the camping ground of curiously interested Maori visitors, men, women and children with their poakas (pigs) tethered awaiting Pakeha’s purchases, their piles of kits or flax leaved baskets of potatoes maize or mussels a new and attractive source of income in bright “Hereni” and “Ihipene”, their bright red and well appointed canoes frequently by dozens moored by the tideway, near to the newly made wall embankment of big boulder stones, was a scene of interest to both races meeting for the first time with conversation essayed under blank difficulties in gesture and pantomime with much amusement and interest."2

Maori digging with ko. The Nelson Provincial Museum, Copy Collection, C2149Maori digging with ko. The Nelson Provincial Museum, Copy Collection, C2149
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A wide range of crops is documented as cultivated for sale by Māori throughout Te Tau Ihu: barley, cabbages, Indian corn or maize, leeks, kumera or sweet potatoes, melons, oats, onions, peaches, pumpkins, taro, turnips and Swedish turnips, water melons, wheat and yams, all of which were probably for sale at Matangi Āwhio. The quantities must have been prodigious at times. In September 1843 at Moturoa (Rabbit Island) ‘Two canoes one large and deeply laden passed down the channel today on their way to Nelson’,3 and in April 1844 Samuel Stephens fell in with a ‘… fleet of canoes sixteen in number from Massacre Bay, on a trading excursion to Nelson with pigs, potatoes, fish, etc’.4

The houses planned for groups from Rangitoto (D'Urville), Motueka, Wakapuaka, Te Tai Tapu (Golden Bay) and Hoiere (Pelorus) were built progressively, but there do not appear to have ever been more than three; the chapel never eventuated through lack of income from the Reserves.

Auckland Point October 1, 1843. J.W. Barnicoat, The Nelson Provincial Museum, BeAuckland Point October 1, 1843. J.W. Barnicoat, The Nelson Provincial Museum, Bett Collection, 286
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Māori continued to use Matangi Āwhio as their base in Nelson for many years – for trade, for attendance at official hearings (the Spain Commission 1844, Magistrate’s Court, Native Land Court), to meet with Government officials, to seek assistance for health problems, and later to obtain employment. Because of poor Māori access to hospital services ‘the Maori houses’ eventually became de facto hospitals, with appalling conditions caused by overcrowding, lack of care, and no control of infectious diseases.

The Māori houses were closed by the Health Department in 1949. Today Matangi Āwhio is the location of Auckland Point School.

Te Rongo o Matangi Āwhio
Te Rongo, which is on  permanent display at the Nelson Provincial Museum, was discovered at Matangi Āwhio in the 1920s by local residents of Te Paruparu (Nelson Haven).

Rongo is a small boulder of granodiorite crafted into the form of Rongo Mā Tāne, the atua (god) of cultivation and peace. The role of a rongo was to protect crops such as kūmara. The body has been roughly shaped to resemble a human figure using a technique called hammer dressing, where another stone is used to hammer and shape the edges.


Updated April 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Selwyn, G.A. (1842, September 10) Letter to Mother. Selwyn Letters, Vol.2. MS 340. [held Alexander Turnbull Library]
  2. Stanton,W. Aborigines. Stanton Papers ATL Micro MS 792:209 [NPM]
  3. Barnicoat, J.W. (1841-1902) Journal, 28.2.1842; 26.9.1843. PapersBett Collection, qms. [held Nelson Provincial Museum]
  4. Stephens, Samuel (1844, April 23) Journal Bett Collection. qMS Stephens [NPM]

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  • I'd like to learn more about how Matangi Aawhio went from a Māori base in Nelson to becoming a government run school. Can anybody help me with this search? I live in the area and my kids go to the kindy, and we're interested in the significance of this waahi tapu.

    Posted by Paul McGregor, 24/05/2022 12:36pm (2 years ago)

  • Ok, thank's a lot, that's exactly what i was looking for !

    Posted by Sylvain, ()

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