The Ti Kouka Of Puari

Never been afraid to reach out and touch a bit of history :)Cabbage Trees or Ti Kouka have served the peoples of the Canterbury Plains for centuries! They once made great beacons to give a clue to where you were and where you were heading when travelling the vast sea of tussock and flax.For the Maori, these trees were also a resting place and where sacred rites were performed for those Maori travellers to go on in safety. These trees were considered tapu!

These cabbage trees at Victoria Square are considered the grandchildren of the original clutch dating back to the times of the Waitaha…hundreds of years before the Ngai Tahu. Where I am standing is where these trees once stood and where they died.

These trees once stood in a great Maori village called Puari around 1500 years ago. The village stretched from Victoria Square (pictured) to Bealey Ave. Around the Waitaka Pa, 800 Maori had made Puari their home.

Puari’s burial grounds – the sites of the old Library Chambers (demolished due to earthquake damage) and the Central Police Station (future unknown) each on their opposite corners of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street – amazingly enough were still visible until 1853 as rows and rows of the dead had just been covered with a layer of dirt!

Other important historical clutches of Cabbage Trees that still survive in Christchurch today are at Burnside Side High School (the school uses the Cabbage Tree as its icon), Avonside Drive, close to Fitzgerald Ave and those at Riccarton Bush. These were some of the resting spots for Maori walking from Banks Peninsula to the Kaiapoi Pa. Our Main North Road, stretching out to Redwood and Belfast was this Maori walking track to Kaiapoi! Amazing!!!

Near the corner of Fitzgerald Ave and Avonside Drive stands a cabbage tree and a plaque written in Maori. It reads:”He tohu whakamaumahara o matou tiphuna”

Totally intrigued, Chris tried to find a translation so we could learn why the cabbage tree was so important. What we found was two different meanings.

Firstly we came up with what seemed to be a warning – what has been taken, will not be forgotten, a debt was owed.
Secondly, we found the most likely meaning – the remembrance of the ancestors.

They say if you have Cabbage Trees growing, you have strong good ground 🙂

*Photos taken by Chris Bulovic*

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