Poukai, a calendar of itinerant gatherings throughout the country where food and fellowship is shared, is the travelling court of the Maori King Tuheitia. A legacy of warfare and welfare, the first poukai was held as solace for Waikato Maori during a period of land confiscations. Now, as Tainui celebrate 150 years of the Kingitanga movement, the poukai tradition unites Maori again: to feast together, grieve together, disseminate news and bring people’s concerns to the attention of the King. And nowhere does this have more significance than in the King Country where it all began.
An English convict exiled to Australia who went on to pioneer New Zealand’s shore-whaling industry, John Guard was friend to Te Rauparaha and the instigator of an armed sortie against Taranaki Maori to facilitate the rescue of his family members: a saga of kidnapping, cannibalism and slaughter.
While the sun didn’t set on the British Empire until after WWII, there were places within it where it hardly rose in the first place. In New Zealand, for a period of some 20 years from the early 1860s, Maori barred European settlers from about 20 per cent of the central North Island, making the region a de facto state within a state. When Pakeha did eventually move in, somewhat hesitantly, they joined Auckland and Wellington by rail, milled the forests, introduced farming to a reluctant land, and co-founded one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Maori call this place Te Rohe Potae —“Under the Brim of the Hat”. Pakeha call it the King Country.
In rural New Zealand, every family has a collection of gumboots. When one boot gets a split, you keep the other in the hope that next time the opposite boot will fail so you’ll be able to reconstitute a pair. As every parent ruefully knows, kids’ feet grow fast, so as autumn beds in, it’s time to see what will fit for the coming winter. Experienced kids, like Max and Sophie Hindley, give the boots a good shake to dislodge spiders and the like before trying them on. These days, you can find a quality, cut and colour of gumboot to satisfy just about any taste.