Iwi mourns whānau killed 135 years ago in Tarawera eruption

By Herewini Waikato

Te Reo Māori tohunga of Te Arawa Wairangi Jones



Today marks 135 years since the eruption of Tarawera Mountain, which killed 120 people, with many settlements destroyed or buried.

One of the iwi forced away from their homelands, Tūhourangi, moved its people inland and some went to the coastal areas of the Bay of Plenty. 

Today the descendants of Tūhourangi gathered at the shores of Tarawera Lake to send out prayers, led by Te Arawa tohunga Anaha Hiini, and recalled the tragedy that took place and the future that lies ahead for the iwi.

Tikanga and Te Reo Māori tohunga of Te Arawa Wairangi Jones was adamant it was appropriate that the people of Tūhourangi had gathered to express their sorrow, which he said was still alive in them today.

“Each year on this day we come, we gather, we remember our loved ones,” Jones said.

The largest phase of the eruption started at 3.30am on June 10, 1886, destroying villages within a six-kilometre radius and obliterating the famed Pink and White Terraces. Tūhourangi began to relocate.

Saved by Hinemehi

During the eruption, an ancestral meeting house, Hinemehi in the village of Te Wairoa, protected and saved the lives of Māori whanau hiding from the burning ash and fire.

But seven years after the eruption, Hinemihi was sold for 50 pounds to Governor-General the Earl of Onslow was taken to England in 1893. She and now sits at Clandon House in Surrey, England.  

But now the people of Tūhourangi are planning her return home.

Another leader of Tuhourangi, Ken Kennedy, travelled with a group of Tuhourangi to England to see Hinemihi standing in England.

“It was such a sad sight to see her there alone. That's where the idea stemmed from to bring her home.” Kennedy said.

Now Tūhourangi is closing in on Hinemihi's return and the goal is to have her home for the 140th commemorations.

Hinemehi at Clandon House in England