In the vicinity of Taniwha Marae there are a number of significant archaeological sites indicating that there was a large settlement of people living in the area, some of whom later moved to other areas. There was also large plantations of kūmara and a pā site dating back to the 1700s (Fox, 1976). The route between Waikato and Hauraki ran through this site and was considered a main highway for those travelling between the two regions.
Prior to the Battle of Rangiriri between Waikato and the crown, the mountain range south west of Taniwha Marae was known as Te Ao. After the Battle of Rangiriri, the crown confiscated lands throughout the Waikato region including Te Ao mountain range and then became known as Tangoao to signify the raupatu of this whenua (recounted by kuia Edna Mataapunataha to Mike Tahu). Tangoao is the name that Taniwha was known as during this time period.
Later, parts of the papakāinga where whānau lived was set aside for the purpose of a marae and in July 1960 it was gazetted as Taniwha Marae. There are versions of where this name originated from. One version is that it was named after the creek (Taniwha) that runs alongside the marae. Another version, according to Kahu Te Rire, from Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau, was in relation to an ancestor, Taniwha, a man who assisted Waikato in a battle near Tākauwhata, now known as Te Kauwhata. Taniwha remained in the area after the battle and when he died the surrounding area was named Taniwha after him. Information about the region and whānau who lived at Taniwha in the early 1900s can be read about in Charles Sherson’s 1981 book, Kahikatea, Cabbage Trees and Koromiko: A history of the pioneering and early days in the Waerenga Valley.
Aunty Gypsy Tioke shared with Sam Toka at the Poukai at Taniwha Marae in February 1994 that she remembered the wharenui that stood at the western end of the marae and was named Waipapa. It was facing eastward, towards the waterfall. This was later replaced by another whare which was named Kawariki and faced north, towards the road. At the same time, the wharekai was named Te Rengarenga situated down the eastern end of the boundary facing to the west.
These whare were named after the tongi of King Tāwhiao,
‘Me whakatupu ki te hua o Te Rengarenga,
me whakapakari ki te hua o Te Kawariki’
Many years later, the whānau at Taniwha agreed to build another wharekai and on February 2 1980, Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu opened the new wharekai at the annual Poukai which is named ‘Me Whakapakari ki te hua o Te Kawariki’ and built near the same location as the previous wharekai.
Due to the growing numbers of whānau at Taniwha Marae, the decision was made in 1990 to build another wharenui. Planning started, a building committee was formed, funds were obtained and on April 20 1992, kaumātua Dan Mahu and Uncle Tai Ahu blessed the whenua prior to construction beginning. Kenneth Falwasser started as the lead builder, a task that later fell to Arnold Martin from Horahora Marae. Stan Dewes from Ngāti Porou who lived in Huntly designed and developed stencils for all the heke, the tāhuhu, the maihi, the amo and the kōruru.
The kōruru represents Manawa, which is part of Te Paki o Matariki, the Kīngitanga Coat of Arms. The carving above the main door or Pare was carved by Te Paue Tawhiao. Many whānau members assisted in the building of our wharenui, such as Harry Toka who returned from Australia for three weeks to lay the brickwork for the wharenui, and the painting of kōwhaiwhai panels by a number of whānau members.
On February 6 1993, Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu opened the wharenui which was named ‘Me Whakatupu ki te hua o Te Rengarenga’. The wharenui was built next to Te Rengarenga facing westward.