Spirits Bay is a remote and tranquil place at the Northern most tip of New Zealand. In summer the bays glisten with tones of blue and green and Manuka trees dot the landscape with flecks of white and pink. Not only is the scenery here spectacular, it is also a deeply sacred place for Māori who believe the Wairua (spirits) of our ancestors, rest at Spirits Bay before leaving on their journey to the afterlife.
The Manuka in this region has a distinctive pink flower as if even the plants know they are growing somewhere special.
KAPOWAIRUA – “catch the spirit”
The Māori name for Spirits Bay is Kapowairua - meaning to "catch the spirit". This comes from the words of a famous Māori Chief - Tōhē, of the Ngāti Kahu people.
He lived at Maunga Piko in Kapowairua Bay, far from his only daughter Rāninikura. When Tōhē was very old he announced his intention to journey south to see his daughter one last time. His people, concerned about his health, asked him not to go. Tōhē replied:
“Whakarua i te hau, e taea te karo.
Whakarua i taku tamāhine, e kore e taea te karo.
Taea Hokianga, ā hea, ā hea.
Ko tā koutou mahi e kapo ake ai, ko taku wairua.
I can shelter from the wind.
But I cannot shelter from the longing for my daughter.
I shall venture as far as Hokianga, and beyond.
Your task (should I die) shall be to grasp my spirit.”
The Māori name for Spirits Bay, Kapowairua, comes from this saying. Tōhē made his way south, naming over 100 places along the western coast, but he died before reaching his daughter’s home. The place names still stand today as memorial of Tōhē sad journey.
Rāwiri Taonui. 'Tapa whenua – naming places - Exploration and naming', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 16-Nov-12
KAITIAKI TAONGA: Protecting our Heritage
In Māori culture, people are seen as deeply connected to the land and to the natural world. In fact, Māori often call themselves "tāngata whenua" (people of the land) and believe that they are not superior to nature but a part of it. Kaitiakitanga means guardianship, protection, preservation or sheltering. It is a way of managing the environment, based on the traditional Māori worldview.
Spirits Bay is one of the many special areas we are dedicated to protecting. Over the years, we have been honoured to work with a remarkable lady from this area - Saana Murray, Ngāti Kuri, Wai 262, (1925 – 2011) and her family. Saana was dedicated to the protection and preservation of indigenous flora and fauna. She believed passionately in the rights of Māori to control and guard the treasures of their land.
IN LOVING MEMORY: SAANA MURRAY
“Manuka is a nurture [nurturing part] of the food chain [provided] for the survival of our tribe.”
My name is Saana Waitai Murray and I am the claimant for Ngāti Kuri of the intellectual property rights and knowledge of our Māori people. The claim is solely for the Tangata Whenua (people of Aotearoa – New Zealand) and refers to the second article of the Treaty of Waitangi. We had no right to let what our ancestors had naturally inherited to any foreign government to control.
Our ancestors are the inheritors of all Taonga (treasure) above and below the ocean, the forest and fisheries. In article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi, it’s there proclaiming the right of the Māori people throughout New Zealand.
The claim is for all our forest. The Manuka is one of our Taonga used by our Tūpuna (ancestors) and is the mountain stabiliser of our lands.
This resource is used for food throughout the world with no returns for our people in the past. With the recent arrival of the Manuka honey industry our people of Northland have been buzzing with excitement and joy as they have been given the chance to acquire a return from the natural untouched Manuka forest, which we as the descendants have inherited from our ancestors.”