Museum dedicated to Kauri opens in the Far North

By Taroi Black

Master waka builder Hekenukumai Busby and a team of locals from Totara North have opened a new museum to commemorate the kauri timber industry. Kauri forests once covered 1.2 million hectares from the Far North of Northland to Te Kauri, near Kawhia. Taonga inside the museum also include historical photos and carvings. 

Nestled in the small settlement of Totara North is Te Mama Museum which holds 200 years of history in the timber industry.     

Hekenukumai Busby Aya, “The treasures in this whare were made at Lane's Mill in Totara North more than 100 years or more. And I'm thrilled to be able to advise the descendants of this meeting house here and the mill out there, which is almost falling apart and has been here for many years and many a kauri has come through this mill.”

A special opening ceremony was conducted to commemorate the history of the timber industry in Northland up until the early 1950s.

Hone Piorakena says, “These are the saws they used for cutting the timber to build homes. This one lying here belongs to the mill. This is a big saw which was used to saw blocks of timber in two for building homes.”

Busby says, “It's only right that this place remains here because the work that was carried out here, the memories of years of work at the mill is all here.”

Maori used kauri timber for boat building, carving and building houses. The gum was used as a fire starter and for chewing. The arrival of European settlers in the 1700s to 1800s saw the decimation of these magnificent forests.

Busby says, “The population has dropped considerably, and many have forgotten about this place and the jobs that were here and now that the whare has been rebuilt, I'm thinking of the descendants that are coming through they're here to learn about the history of the past.”

Hone Piorakena says, “Most importantly for me, is the memories of this area, and this mill. I think back to my own parents when we were growing up in this area and while I was working at this mill. 1957 to 1961 I finished up at the mill here and moved to Rotorua.”

The museum includes Māori carvings specially made out of Kauri and old photographs commemorating an era which helped shape Northland today.