With memories, documents and landmarks in the region dating back before European settlement, there are plenty of sites of interest for the History Buff to enjoy. While our passionate volunteers help collect the stories and images to share here, why not check out our Local Maori & Local Settler information below or talk to one of the helpful Information Centre Volunteers who can point you in the direction of the sites that are meaningful to you.
Eke = to embark upon, run aground. Tāhuna = gravel bank, boulders or stones. Eketāhuna is part of the district known as Te Taperenui a Whatonga (the great playground of Whatonga).
The last known village (or camping ground, as some people say) was Te Waiwaka at the southern end of Eketāhuna. It was from there that the people travelled on to southern Wairarapa.
And from there to Ihuraua to join with the, then, main highway from Wairarapa to Heretaunga, Mahia and Nukutaurua, the landing place of Kurahaupo and Takitimu canoes. From Ihuraua the people could get to Te Oreore and then to the lakes and Cape Palliser (Matakitaki-a Kupe) and the eastern and southern coastal areas by the river Ruamahanga.
From Ihuraura they could go to Patitapu Nga Puka, Waitawhiti then east to Heretaunga or down to the Alfredton area (Maroa) and to the three or four pa, one of these being Te Hoi Tangihia, the name of the Maroa stream, now in it’s new version, Te Hoe.
From Te Hoi Tangiha they could travel to Tiraumea and Rongomai, to the Kainga of Tu-tae-kara and Te Hawera, now called Hamua. If they went upstream from there along the Makakahi River they would come to O-tu-kirihau at the northern end of Eketāhuna. The area between the old bridge and the Newman Reserve was the best place to gather kakahi (fresh water mussels) right up until the 1970’s and 80’s – if you could beat the pukeko!
Following the Makakahi further south from here you would end up again at Te Waiwaka.
However the sweetest eels were in the Nga-taka-he River.
The Eketāhuna Information Centre has more Maori History on display.
In the early 1870’s Sir Julius Vogel initiated a new colonisation scheme to essentially open up the hinterland of the country by clearing the bush and buildings new roads, bridges and rail. And with that would come people and homes.
In 1873 European settlers arrived in New Zealand, the majority being Scandinavian, and they began working on Sir Vogel’s colonisation scheme.
On the 4th March 1873 the “Forfarshire” arrived in the Port of Wellington. After a brief rest at the immigration barracks a group of mostly Swedish made their way over the Rimutakas to Kopuaranga north of Masterton where a camp had been established earlier by the Scandinavians. These people were mostly Danish, Norwegian and some Germans. The living conditions in the temporary camp were extremely crowded, primitive and very unhygienic. But they stayed for the promise of new homes in the Eketāhuna Block 35 km’s north. They just had to wait it out until the land had been surveyed.
Once settled they re-named their new home Mellemskov which means “Heart of the Forest”. However by the late 1870s the name had reverted back to the Maori name of Eketāhuna which means ‘to run aground on a sandbank’, so named by the tangata whenua to describe the location where their waka could not travel any further up the Makakahi River, which runs through the township.