Maketu Magic: an historic resting place


Maketu, that magical, mystical name – the final resting place of the canoe Te Arawa. I’ve been wanting to turn right and drive over the railway line for such a long time now and on a hot Bay of Plenty summer’s day, that’s what I do.

It’s years ago a friend spoke with passion and determination. She was determined, to find a way to retain the ownership of “family land” at Maketu for her young children. To her it was more important to retain the land to which they were affiliated than the even then expensive Auckland real estate. It must be the same feeling multi-generational farming-Pakeha have about the land to which they belong.   It’s that and just the general feeling that like a visit to Stonehenge or the Pyramids, I should stand at Maketu.

I didn’t realize that the historic settlement is not just off the State Highway; you drive across more of the plains land, through established farms of dairy and kiwifruit and then you encounter the coast.

Like many historic, almost mythical sites, Maketu doesn’t look outstandingly spectacular as you drive in. The roads are wide and tarsealed – as if they are expecting large and regularly occurring crowds. There’s a big dairy-general store and huge car parks and a camping ground. It’s the weeks before Christmas and some of the variously sized Pohutukawa trees are conserving their blooms for that event. Others are flashing their red feathers now.

There’s a very New Zealand little Church – the equivalent of a cottage.   Simple wooden whiteness with a little picket fence. There’s an invitation posted at the fence.

It’s only when I’m leaving I see the ridge line with what looks like another imposing Church. Or wharenui?  I don’t go back, I leave it for another visit.

I haven’t come to see the post-colonial architecture, I’ve come to see why a group of significant ocean-going, seamen and navigators would finally stop here. Here is the mouth of the Kaituna River, like the protective arm of a mother, giving obvious shelter and even covered in scrub, forest or bush it’s clear there are expanses of land before distant hills.

Nothing much seems to be happening; it’s just another hot Bay of Plenty afternoon. In the distance there are people fishing. A cluster of young people on foot and on bike meander slowly up the street trying to minimize the day. I park in the Pohutukawa-shade and catch images of the basic stone cairn and an old cannon. The creamy sand of the beach is covered with the natural litter of the sea – small sticks of driftwood, pumice and shell fragments. Maybe that’s why the canoe stayed here – tossed on the sand by the sea.There’s a sign exhorting consideration for the Dotterels – did I see any?   There’s an ongoing conversation about arrival times in our extensive coast-lined environment. Like Pakeha for years chose to overlook the prior arrival of Maori, we all overlook the prior arrival and occupation of animals and bird-life and need constantly reminding that we have stepped into their world.

When I go left, I drive past a well-kept marae. There are huge macrocarpa trees – the really old, rural landscape giants. Pakeha icons who like elderly residents, can suddenly topple as their lives end. So ironic they’re guarding the marae.  

I drive out the way I drove in.   It’s just too hot to get lost exploring the countryside and alternative routes to Te Puke.   With the windows down I tell myself I should come back and see what is on that ridgeline above the beach.

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

You can find more about Maketu, the voyage of the Te Arawa canoe online.  Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand has some interesting, easily readable information and images.

Te Arawa monument, Maketū

Te Arawa monument, Maketū

This monument at Ōngātoro, Maketū, was built for New Zealand’s 1940 centennial celebrations of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It marks the landing point of the Te Arawa canoe after its journey of over 3,000 km from Hawaiki. The Kaituna River flows into the sea behind the monument and the land on the horizon in the middle of the picture, which appears to be an island, is Mt Maunganui. Paul Tapsell, ‘Te Arawa – Settlement and migration’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

You may also enjoy another of Rosemary’s articles on summer in the Bay of Plenty:

Going Down to the Sea: Pilot Bay on a Summer’s Day


ARTbop promotes

   (or we think you should check this out!)


The next Affordable Art & Artisan Fair will be on the last Sunday of February 2019.  The Fairs are held within the Black Sheep Cafe & Restaurant complex on the last Sunday of every month (earlier in December) 11am to 3pm.  There is heaps of parking, clean toilets and wonderful food and coffee.  There’s live music. There’s an event prize you can win.   If you would like to join them as an exhibitor/retailer of your original creativity or artisan products you can contact them at

 The Fair is sign posted along SH2 with signage to the turnoff of SH2 and Plummer’s Point Road.  You won’t be able to miss it!  Indoors over winter months and outside in the Summer. AND OPENING LATER THIS MONTH THE ATRIUM GALLERY AT THE BLACK SHEEP!    Check out the facebook page and instagram

Travelling down SH2 towards Tauranga check out the thriving arts scene in Kati Kati.


You’ll also want to check out The Historic Village at 17th Avenue with its increasing boutique shops, galleries and The Incubator Creative Hub

Check out what’s inside the People’s Gallery

Toymakers to the nation: The Men’s Shed



         the Bay of Plenty’s creative arts magazine!

                       read us online anywhere, anytime!


About Author

Leave A Reply