Matatina Marae was officially opened on August 18th 1988; however like most marae there is a significant behind-the-scenes story to be told.
The name Matatina is derived from the ‘wai keri’ or work place of Tūohu, a prominent Te Roroa chief of the 19th Century. Tūohu was a warrior but also a renowned gardener often referred to by his peopleas ‘he tangata ariki whenua!’ and “ Ko te toa o te whenua “by his cousin Taoho in his Oriori for Raeroa the teina of Tiopira Kinaki. The name is an abbreviation of Matatina Whero and Matatina Mangū, which are the names of the flat area of land directly to the north of where the marae is located. Tūohu’s gardens were located on this section of land – hence “Ko Matatina te Marae, Ko Tūoho Te Tūpuna whare” – Matatina is the Marae, Tūoho is the ancestral house’
In 1952 WJ Phillipps in Dominion Museum Monograph No.8 ‘Maori Houses and Food Stores’ mentions visiting Waipoua and seeing a “Tōtara whata over 20 ft. long and relatively wide” he was informed by “Mrs Patuoa Nathan that it was well over 100 years old and belonged to a great chief named Tuahu.”[sic] This was in fact the last known storehouse of Tuohu on Matatina and the correct name should be Urikore Sophie Netana Patuawa.
Matatina is located on a 5-acre papakāinga reserve. The building itself was formerly St Peter’s Catholic Church located at Te Kōpuru originally erected by French missionaries in 1900. Desiring to establish a marae on his ancestral lands Eruera (Ned) Nathan purchased the deconsecrated church in 1981.Then began the mammoth task of first relocating the building to Waipoua and then converting it into the beautiful whare it is today.
The church was dismantled, the building was cut in half with a chainsaw, the walls and roof sections laid flat on the back of two trucks and transported to Waipoua.
Sanctified items such as the stained glass windows and the altar were removed and shipped, along with the pews, across the Hokianga Harbour to Panguru where the community was refurbishing the local Catholic Church.
To reconstruct a building of this scale in Waipoua was no mean feat due to its isolation and the lack of electricity and running water. Members of the extended whānau who shared the vision dedicated themselves to the project, some taking leave from their jobs to contribute their time and expertise. Carol and Eddie Edwards, Uri and Jack Matthews and their whānau, Errol Hutchins and Alex Nathan were the mainstays at this time working alongside their matua Ned Nathan. Ben Te Wake contributed his carpentry skills for a time. Other members of the whānau gave financial support to the project. A small generator supplied the power for the tools and water from the river was carted up to the site in a 300-litre stainless steel tank by tractor and trailer.
The wood for the whakairo was received through good fortune and was taken as a sign and a blessing from our tūpuna. The wood used to carve the maihi and amo came from a kauri log that washed up on the beach. This log was literally swum up the Waipoua River to the landing just below the marae before being shipped off to the mill. Errol Hutchins then stumbled upon a number of huge pieces of tōtara amongst some blackberry bushes. It was later confirmed that these logs were the bolsters from the old bridge across the river. The final provision of wood was gifted by a local farmer.
Manos Nathan was the carver of the whare and was mentored at the beginning by the carver Ben Te Wake who trained under Ngāti Tarāwhai tohunga whakairo Eramiha Te Kapua. Manos began the work in 1982 at Maungarongo with some assistance from his brother Alex. The work was carried out over several years and in multiple locations including Maungarongo in Te Kōpuru, at Mano’s home in Dargaville, the former Masonic Lodge Hall at Aratapu and in Waipoua. During this time Manos was supervising a scheme for young carvers and rewarded his tauira, namely John Pumipi, Rima Tohu, Charlie Pirini, Wayne Lewis, Lance Tau, Mana Garland and Jimmy Downey with the opportunity to work on the whare. They carved the whakawae for the door and windows and assisted Uncle Dave Paniora and his whānau who in the final stages of the project helped with the installation of the carvings bringing the project to completion.
Matatina Marae and the Tūpuna whare, Tūoho was officially opened at dawn on August 18th 1988. Rev.Māori Marsden and Rev.Piri Kīngi Iraia performed the opening ceremony using water from Te Waimana a Toa spring. Aunty Keti Nathan (nee Te Rore) the Ruahine of Te Roroa was the first to step into the poho of Tuoho to remove the Tapu.
Matatina Marae is an enduring and symbolic testament to all who conceived and supported the vision for its establishment.