Tag Archives: Northland


Solving a Mystery: The Ahipara Women’s Fire Brigade

- By Lawrence Wharerau (Kaiwhakataki: Programme Coordinator, Māori, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

I have an affinity with Northland – I love the bush, the people and the sea too, and it’s not just because I’m from down them ways. One of my favourite places on earth is Ahipara, by the sea at the southern end of Te Oneroa a Tohe aka Ninety Mile Beach and sheltered by the Tauroa Peninsular to the west. The Herekino Forest has its eastern flank and it is 14kms northeast to Kaitaia, with Pukepoto in between. Shipwreck and Ahipara Bays are famous surf spots and they were once popular places for gathering toheroa.

Some years ago (as in over 15 years ago), I was going through the film collection at The Film Archive (as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision was then known), when I came across an amateur film called Ahipara Women’s Fire Brigade, circa 1955, which piqued my interest. I had never heard of this brigade and initial enquiries gave little evidence about what they were about nor who these women were. At the time I was curating for a ten marae screening tour of Northland for the project Te Hokinga Mai o Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua ki Ngāpuhi.

The Ahipara Women's Fire Brigade. Back row: Harriet Pure, Hinemoa Te Paa, Linda Curie, Doris Hales. Middle row: Api Kīngi, Joyce Hunt, Jackie Saunders, Mary Hanlon. Front row: Peggy Adams, Agnes Rakich. Photo by Bruce Rogers, supplied courtesy of Te Ahu Museum and Archive, Kaitaia.
The Ahipara Women’s Fire Brigade. Back row: Harriet Pure, Hinemoa Te Paa, Linda Curie, Doris Hales. Middle row: Api Kīngi, Joyce Hunt, Jackie Saunders, Mary Hanlon. Front row: Peggy Adams, Agnes Rakich. (Photo by Bruce Rogers, supplied courtesy of Te Ahu Museum and Archive, Kaitaia.)

The seven-minute film starts with a wide shot overlooking Ahipara from the top of Whangatauatia Mountain, which dominates the environs to the south of the seaside village and is the gateway to the Ahipara gumfields. Then it shows several of the brigade members going about normal domestic duties: hanging washing, ironing, gardening, and the like. Cut to a rubbish pile on fire, a call is made to the local fire station, the klaxon fire alarm is activated, and then it’s all on. It’s down tools and aprons and a mad rush to ready the fire tenders, a Land Rover with trailer and a flat-bed truck, packing the required equipment, and heading off to the incident. Hoses are run out and the fire is attended to with a crowd looking on.

Ahipara Women's Fire Brigade (New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, 1965).
Ahipara Women’s Fire Brigade (New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, 1965).

You can watch the film on our online catalogue, here

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Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Māori Language Week began officially in 1975 and radio was involved right from the start in promoting the week and the use of te reo Māori. In the radio collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision we have programmes broadcast during those first years, in both English and te reo. They feature interviews with many of the promoters of the week, such as the members of the Te Reo Māori Society – who were instrumental in getting the language officially recognised and were behind the drive to get more Māori heard on our airwaves and TV screens.

Here you can listen to interviews in te reo from 1975, with Rawiri Rangitauira (Ngāti Whakaue) and Hakopa Te Whata (Ngāpuhi) or listen to interviews from 1976, with  Whaimutu Dewes (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rangitihi ) and Tamati Kruger (Ngāi Tūhoe).

In 1975,  there were no kura kaupapa Māori and the ground-breaking kōhanga reo movement had not yet started. So Windy Ridge Primary School on Auckland’s North shore was unusual in that it was teaching students te reo, which had been introduced to the curriculum in 1974. RNZ’s Māori programmes producer Haare Williams went to the school and recorded programmes for that first Māori Language Week in 1975:

“Māori Programmes” / “Te Puna Wai Kōrero,” September 1975 

You can listen to the full programmes online, in English here, or listen to them in te reo Māori here.

By 1978 there was growing concern that there were not enough teachers being trained to teach te reo and meet the demand from schools. Here you can listen to a radio programme in English featuring an interview with John Rangihau (Ngāi Tūhoe), about the training of Māori language teachers and the place of te reo in New Zealand society.

Listening to archived radio news coverage,  we can see that progress promoting use of te reo met with some resistance in Pākehā New Zealand through the 1980s.  Here is coverage from “Morning Report” in 1984, about the official outcry when a Post Office Tolls operator Naida Povey of Ngāti Whātua (now Naida Glavish, President of the Māori Party) started greeting callers with “Kia ora”:

“Morning Report,” 23 May 1984

Today, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision archives a multitude of programmes in te reo Māori every day, broadcast by  iwi radio stations around the country, as well as television productions from Māori Television. From our historic radio collection this item from 1964 still remains a perennial favourite with both Māori and Pākehā.  It is a radio advertisement from 1964 for the soap powder “Rinso.”  It was produced for an episode of the radio quiz show “It’s in the Bag” hosted by Selwyn Toogood. This episode was broadcast from Northland, where there would still have been a large te reo Māori-speaking population in 1964:

Radio commercial for Rinso performed in Māori, 1964

Reckitt and Colman New Zealand : [Rinso packet. 1950s?]. Ref: Eph-F-PACKAGING-1950s-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23206427

Feature image:

March on Parliament in support of the Maori Language. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1980/2470/20A-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22342091