The official pānui had notified that the pou ceremony would happen at 5am, but due to a full moon and king tides the hapū decided that the kaupapa for the pou had to happen earlier or they risked not being able to walk around to Te Kohanga Bay (the bay at the base of Rangitapu) due to the unusually high tide, some suggesting the pou was already giving a tohu or a sign of its impending rāhui.
So whānau, kaumātua, tamariki, members of the local community, representatives from the Department of Conservation and Whangārei District Council made their way to the site of the pou just after 4am, wading through waters already above their knees, but this was not going to deter those who have been passionate about this kaupapa for a long time.
A Karakia was held at the site, with all those in attendance calling the name of the pou three times when summoned – “Rangitapu, Rangitapu, Rangaitapu!!” Te Whānau a Rangiwhakāhu hapū Chairman, Aperahama Edwards says, “It\’s been a long time coming but we have finally erected our pou rāhui.” “The poupou are guardians of the Mermaid Pools.” “The pou is called Rangitapu and it’s also the name of the area in which it stands. We\’ve personified our kaitiaki taniwha within the pou, Tuatini and Mauri.”
As those who gathered made their way back to the bay prior, the water was now well up to and above their waists. Children were hoist above parent’s heads, camera and lighting gear held aloft to avoid being lost in the water, with only one report of a cellphone lost to the sea.
Back at the main beach a gathering had amassed who had expected the proceedings to begin at 5am. Rangatira Aperahama Edwards explained to all those that had gathered why the hapū had made the decision to go earlier due to the tide, but included everyone who gathered by completing the kaupapa for the pou Rangitapu from there.
After the ceremony, all those in attendance were welcomed back onto the marae for some shared kōrero about the pou and the significance of the sites and why they had to be closed.
Matapouri local and member of Kapakaitiaki, Dorothy Waetford says, \”Places like Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and things like that – it would be really great if they came on board and sent our messages out. People are still welcome to come it\’s just that – Te Wai o Te Taniwha or Mermaid Pools needs time to rest, to recover.”
Many years ago, access to the pools was around the base of the headland Rangitapu, never over the top. In those times you would have to shimmy along ledges and go through a hole in a rock to get there. But possibly as a tohu, the hole through the rock collapsed closing the access way (by foot) to the pools.
But as the pools even by this stage had already become popular, some visitors decided to make a new track over the headland Rangitapu. As the name would suggest, this headland is a very sacred and culturally significant site to the whānau and hapū of Matapouri, and over the years local kaumātua and whānau have never been happy about the creation of this track.
Over time and as a consequence of its now global profile, Rangitapu and Te Wai O Taniwha have taken a pummeling. At its peak during summer, local whānau monitoring their taonga counted approximately 500 people visiting the pools in one day.
With no toilets or rubbish bins, Rangitapu and Te Wai O Taniwha have been desecrated with rubbish, human excrement, sanitary items and nappies.
The impact of people taking a mimi in the pools and wearing sunscreen has seen the rocks below the surface of the pools once coloured pink are now tinged brown.
There is long green algae floating, crusty brown sludge on rock surfaces below the water and transparent slick on the water surface in some places. The pools and the surrounding areas of recent times have been known to smell of urine.
At the completion of all the kaupapa a breakfast hakari was held at the marae, and everyone enjoyed a hearty cooked meal put on by whānau. After such an early start, everyone was ready for the kai that was eagerly devoured by all.
Aperahama Edwards says, “I mihi to our iwi, kaumātua, hapū & whanāu who came to tautoko this special kaupapa. We acknowledge our community who are here with us today who have supported us right through and continue to support.”
“I want to make a special acknowledgement to the Tai Tokerau Maori Artisits Collective and Kapakaitiaki who raised the profile of the plight of Te Wai O Taniwha. “
“E kore hoki e mutu ngā mihi ki a Rua Paul kua awhi mai I ana huanga o Te Whānau a Rangiwhakaahu otira a Ngātiwai nui tonu mai rano I roto I enei tumomo mahi. He pera ano te mihi ki to tatou tohunga a Te Warihi Hetaraka.”
Aperahama advises that the rāhui will remain until the hapū are confident the mauri of the Rangitapu and Te Wai O Taniwha has returned and that they are shown to be in a healthy state.