The History of Pelorus Sound
Just over 100 years ago Havelock was a boom town. It lay about midway between the goldfields of the Wakamarina and Cullen Creek and at one time boasted twenty three hotels catering to hundreds of thirsty miners. When the gold fever cooled, Havelock gradually reverted to being a sleepy little fishing village.
Now, however, it is waking from that slumber and beginning to boom again.
Once again people are leaving Havelock richer. Nowadays they're not rich with gold, but with holiday experiences. Havelock is the gateway to Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds, an area steeped in Maori and European history. Maori canoes first breasted these waters 1000 years ago. In 1642 Abel Tasman sailed past d'Urville Island; French and Russian explorers followed; and in the 1770s Captain James Cook arrived.Within a century the area was being settled by farmers, fishermen, whalers, miners and sawmillers. Today visitors can still find traces of many of these early activities.
Te Iwi o Ngati Kuia - A living people
Ngati Kuia is the oldest of Te Tau Ihu’s (Top of the South) many hapu. Our occupation of this area has been remembered in the landscape and the natural environment, making us Tangata whenua. Through our tupuna, who retained the traditions and whakapapa that link us to Te Tau Ihu’s earliest people. Although we take our name from Kuia, we have running through our veins the blood of many others-Maui, Kupe, Tumatakokiri, Wairangi, Kopia, Mamoe, Hapairangi, and Apa.
Fundamental to our Ngati Kuiatanga is Te Hoiere (to be known much later as the Pelorus Sound). Our connection to this place is strengthened through our relationship to the taniwha Kaikaiawaro (Kaikaiawaro came in the form of a dolphin and in later times was associated as Pelorus Jack). We are told that it was Kaikaiawaro who guided Matua Hautere (Ngati Kuia earliest descendant of Kupe) to this place, in his waka Te Hoiere. We are told that Kaikaiawaro came to the aid of Hinepoupou, and Koangaumu during their time of need. One could say Te Hoiere is to Ngati Kuia what Aoraki is to Ngai Tahu or the Wairau is to Ngati Huataki.
Unlike others our history begins in Te Tau Ihu — in Te Hoiere — the home of Kaikaiawaro. Indeed without Te Hoiere we do not exist. During the 1820s and 1830s we were invaded from the north by hapu armed with Pakeha muskets. Some of our ancestors married these recent arrivals, others retreated to more remote areas such as the upper reaches of Te Hoiere which gave us shelter and protection so that we could continue to maintain the fires of ancestors.
During the 1840s and 1850s the crown began to negotiate deeds of sale with hapu who had only been in Te Tau Ihu for twenty years. These lands included areas that Ngati Kuia had occupied for generations. Not content to sit and watch others sell land that many had never lived on, gathered food from, or cultivated, our ancestors began a programme of ‘civil disobedience’. In May 1851 Ngati Kuia interrupted the construction of a road connecting Whakatu (Nelson) with the Wairau. As a result of such protests the crown was forced into negotiations with Ngati Kuia. This was the first opportunity our people had had to engage with the crown. On 16 February 1856 seventy three Ngati Kuia signed the Ngati Kuia Deed of Sale.
In return for giving up our claims to lands in the South Island, including those at Kaituna and Te Hoiere we received £100 and the guarantee of reserves and the continued use of our cultivations. Also, having seen the benefits of European settlement our ancestors were keen to have Pakeha come and live amongst them. They in turn gave up Motuweka Pa now the town of Havelock for this very purpose.
As we are well aware the crown was to renege on its promises made to Ngati Kuia. As a result a claim was lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal which was heard in 2003. The question must then be asked, why we are celebrating a document that was never honoured. The answer is a simple one. While the crown placed little value on it, for us the 1856 ‘compact’ was an expression of our mana, and of our resilience. Indeed 140 years later we are still here, still calling ourselves Ngati Kuia.
Written by Peter Meihana for the 1856 Ngati Kuia Deed celebrations.