The house with something special

We pass this house quite often and Hubby told me that it is a 'house within a house'. So, of course, I had to do some digging.

Fortunately (or not), there was a rather recent article in the local paper about it.

The future of a 170-year-old raupo (reed) whare (house) that has been sheltered inside a larger villa for 104 years has divided a South Taranaki whanau.

The wharepuni, or sleeping house, which has its celling and walls lined with reeds, is in the centre of the five-bedroom, two-story villa at Pihama that is set to be demolished by the family trust that administers the land it sits upon.

It was built as a place where whanau travelling from Whanganui and South Taranaki to attend monthly events at Parihaka could rest overnight, Ngāruahine kaumātua John Hooker said.

That whare is 150 – to 170 years old, it was built well before the homestead, the homestead was built about 103 years ago, it's just the shell around it.”

Nowadays, the room is used for whanau gatherings including weddings and tangi, and for meetings by the iwi kaumatua. At present there’s no natural light in the whare because the windows have been boarded up with plywood instead of being replaced.

The house around it is in desperate need of a new roof and other repairs, but has good bones, he said. The Te Hana Taua Trust decided to demolish the large five-bedroom, two-story villa after a property report in 2015 classed the building as a health and safety risk.

The dispute between the two groups from the same whanau has been underway for several years. The trust wants Elaine Warren, who has lived there all her life, to leave, so the building can be removed, but Warren, who has the role of kaitiaki of the house and the whare, is refusing to agree.

She is backed by kaumātua (tribal elder) from Ngāruahine iwi, who want the home repaired to ensure the wharepuni is preserved. They have had offers of help and funding from people who wanted to see the house restored, but no work can be done without the approval of the trustees, Hooker said.

We don't want it demolished, we want it mended, we want it protected for future generations.”

Warren, who is a Maōri warden, said the house was built by her grandfather, Pohe Tito, and she grew up there with her parents and 11 siblings. Tito is buried in the family urupa near the homestead. As kaitiaki, her role was to care for and protect the house and its special room.

The house is part of a larger farm which the trust administers on behalf of beneficiaries.

Hooker said the kaumātua (elders) are hoping the trustees will agree to setting up a separate, small reservation trust to look after just the house and whare and a small urupa (burial ground) beside it.

The ownership lists of all the current beneficiaries would remain the same, but the smaller trust could then attract its own funding to restore the property. This would absolve the trust of health and safety concerns and responsibilities, he said.

They have placed a rāhui (restriction) on the property to protect it, and a delegation of 15 turned up at a tenancy tribunal hearing in the Hāwera Court on Monday to voice their opposition to the demolition plan.

Warren did not attend, because she was unwell, adjudicator Rex Woodhouse said. Lawyer Susan Hughes QC, representing the Te Hana Taua Trust, asked Woodhouse for a possession order, so that arrangements could be made to have Warren evicted.

There is no doubt the trust is the legal owner of the land,” she said. She said a decision from the Māori Land Court in August 2020 and mediation between the parties had reached agreement that Warren would leave, but this had not happened.

Mrs Warren does not have proper legal authority to be in the building,” she said. Parts of the building that can be saved will be preserved,” she said. It has dealt with this matter as generously as it can, but needs to progress the matter and the demolition of the homestead.”

She said the trustees’ desire to see the building brought down was “not capricious”. They are feeling acutely the divisions within the whānau (extended family) that this brings.”

Woodhouse said he would provide a decision in writing “within the week”. Ngāruahine Iwi Authority chairman Hori Manuirirangi said the issue was not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Although the trust had a duty because of the health and safety issues, the elders also had a vested interest in the house because of the whare inside it, he said. This is an issue of tikanga Māori and tikanga Pakeha. As a marae trustee, under the law in the Māori land court we are viewed as owners, but we are not the owners, it is the people.”

There is a taonga (treasure) in that house built by the old people... we don't want to see that building trampled on.”

1 comment:

Susan Heather said...

How unusual. What a shame there is this infighting.