They came to Kaikoura for the whales
Boiled their blubber in cauldrons
now holding palm trees.
Built houses on their bones.
Tourists walk on crushed shells
under their arched ribs
in the Memorial Garden
to the dead of seven wars.
They come to Kaikoura for the whales,
from helicopters, boats, and planes.
Tightly circling when they surface
from the Hikurangi trench
for ten minutes
then dive for forty-five.
Only Te Toroa left
doing wheelies above the adolescent
Some stay for years
each named by Ngai Tahu
still riding Paikea's whale to prosperity
surviving the wrath of Ruatapu's waves
Uenuku's son Paikea survived a death attempt at sea from another son Ruatapu. He then rode to the East Coast of the North Island in New Zealand on the back of the whale Tohora to create a new and prosperous life. Many years later one of Paikea's sons, Tahupotiki of Ngati Porou, travelled south and founded the great South Island Maori tribe of Ngai Tahu. Ngai Tahu and Kati Kuri of Kaikoura claim descent from Tahupotiki and Paikea and run Whale Watch
Te Toroa: the Wandering Albatross
Below Bastion Point, a sweet sweeping
of flowering pohutukawa trees,
holds grassy slopes just right for sleeping;
dreaming of wrongs no-one can appease.
Where Ngāti Whātua once gathered kai
on tidal flats tourists paddle in the heat.
Middens where sewer pipes now lie;
prolific shellfish beds no-one can eat.
Sheltered by the curving bluestone wall,
where the tide eats up the bay twice a day,
old people watch slow ripples rise and fall —
inexorable forces no-one can stay.
In the playground children scream and twist
by tupuna no-one can now evict.
Bastion Point: When the Crown announced that the last area of uncommitted land at Bastion Point was to be developed for high-income housing, 300 Ngāti Whātua occupied the site. They had hoped that this ancestral land might be returned to tribal ownership. After 506 days, the protestors were evicted on 25 May 1978 by 500 police.
Pohutakawa: The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flowers is colloquially known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.
Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei: The main Maori tribe in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland)
Tupuna: Maori ancestors