Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 50, 1918
This text is also available in PDF
(6 MB) Opens in new window
– 307 –

The Pa-tuna for a Small Stream.

The timber used in its construction is kopuka (white manuka), if procurable; otherwise the ordinary manuka is used. It is carried as near the site as possible, together with the rest of the required material, and then each stake is carefully prepared by two men for driving, one holding and turning, the other sharpening and trimming off the head so as to prevent splitting in driving. The stakes are given a long tapering point, and as soon as they are prepared they are carried to the canoes. In one I saw built at Moumahaki a full day was spent by a company of eight men in trimming these stakes, together with the horizontal logs, which are of totara, and are carefully stripped of sap and have heads formed at the heavy end of the timbers, which are placed down-stream. The lashings are all of split supplejack (kareao), and each stick is securely tied by crossing and recrossing the vine in the form of the letter X. Driving the prepared stakes and lashing on the horizontal timbers took the company another ten hours.

The Moumahaki Stream is between 30 ft. and 40 ft. wide at the chosen site, a spot where the banks rise sheer out of the water, and the most confined spot to be found. Fences are built out from both banks at opposite points, running down-stream and gradually converging to a point. These fences are about 30ft. long, and they close to within 18 in. or so of each

– 308 –

other and then return at a sharp angle to the bank. The fences are constructed of rows of stakes placed within 1 in. or 2 in. of each other, which are held firmly in position by horizontal beams lashed on. (See fig. 3.)

While this work was progressing other natives were employed cutting and sorting out manuka brush and bracken. The latter is carefully tied into small bundles about 2 in. in diameter, and lashed to the stakes under the water, stems up-stream. Other stakes are driven in to assist in holding the bundles, which are forced down until they form a solid mass through which even the water can scarcely find a passage. About 1 ft. above the ordinary water-level manuka brush takes the place of the bracken, as it is stronger and, being on top, can be more easily repaired than the bracken, though the latter lasts much better than the manuka in the water. This manuka brush is also closely wattled together and carried right to the top of the stakes. The whole fence is then securely lashed from the heavy horizontal timber (which in this small type of pa-tuna is on top) to the shore by heavy crossbeams, especially strong sticks being carried from the angle of the pa-tuna down-stream to the shore. Two heavy posts are next driven in about 1 ft. down-stream from the mouth of the weir, one opposite each angle, to which they are securely braced, and they are also braced to each other. These carry the poha, or leading-net, which is shaped something like a huge phonograph-trumpet, with diamond-shaped meshes, which appear to the uninitiated to be too large; but apparently the eels, in the full force of the strong current, which converging to such a narrow point is exceedingly swift—indeed, it is quite a miniature waterfall—are unable to detect this way of escape. The small end of this net is securely sewn to the mouth of the hinaki with green flax (harakeke), and four cross-pieces of manuka about 5 ft. long, notched where they intersect, are then fastened to the large end of the leading-net, which is held open by a large hoop made of akatea vine, and this is slipped behind the two posts at the mouth of the weir and held in position by them, and all is ready. (See fig. 3.)

Picture icon

Fig. 3—V-shaped weir. The arrow shows the direction of the current. 1, braces; 2. poha; 3, hinaki.

The post inserted away from the end of the fence in order to hold the poha in many cases had its upper part carved into the form of a human head. The last such seen in this district was in a weir on the Matahiwi Rapid of the Whanganui River in 1878.

Quantities of manuka branches are pegged down between the fences and the shore until the whole creek is forced into the newly made channel. The first night the hinaki were set after the completion of the Moumahaki pa-tuna twelve eels were taken; a few nights later forty was about the average, except when the moon was bright (the eels apparently do not travel on a moonlight night), until the first fresh took place, when the numbers

– 309 –

immediately increased to hundreds. When the fish are going down-river freely the hinaki is visited and changed every two hours. The poha and hinaki attached are lifted into a canoe, and the eels transferred to a puwai (holding-basket) or another hinaki, and while this is being done other men drop a new leading-net and hinaki behind the posts, working from the pa-tuna itself, and pushing them to the bottom with the feet.

The men are quite naked, and it seems to me to be cold and somewhat dangerous work. When a fresh is in evidence the men are often immersed nearly up to their necks when pushing the under-net into position, and it takes all the power of two strong men to hold the operator from being swept away by the fierce current; add to this the darkness, and I am convinced that few Europeans would care to take up the work. The nets are lifted by means of a supplejack rope, which is attached to both leading-net and pa-tuna. The hinaki is allowed to swing with the current. Occasionally it breaks away, usually during a flood, when driftwood cuts the poha net to pieces. I myself have at various times found three, two containing eels and one lampreys, that had so broken away. In flood-time, when the water is deep enough, two hinaki and poha are set, one above the other. In a high flood the pa-tuna cannot be operated upon, and in this way the natives often miss the season's catch.

By the arrangement of this type of pa-tuna eels are taken going downstream and lampreys going up. The eels are carried down-stream by the full force of the current, without chance of escape, and the lampreys going up-stream attempt to enter the current between the posts that hold the leading-net and the angle of the pa-tuna, the only possible way, and are immediately swept back into the poha net by the force of water.

The first night the hinaki were placed at the Moumahaki pa-tuna twelve eels were taken, as before stated. The following morning a tohunga (priestly adept) very carefully opened the basket just a little, and the first eel that crawled through into the canoe was killed and taken away by him to a secret place unknown to the rest of the Nga-Rauru people. Thereafter the rest of the eels were noa—that is, suitable for common food.

Formerly the first catch from a new pa-tuna was divided into three parts; in the case of a large weir which accommodated several baskets the outside basket—that is, the side away from which the fishers resided—was taken and so divided. The first division or third was for the gods only, and was cooked in a separate umu (oven), placed in flax baskets called kono, into which the eels were coiled without breaking, and deposited in some sacred place. The second division was for the women, and was eaten by them while the last division was being prepared. The food-baskets in which it was placed were called tapura or iapora; those for the last third, for the men, being designated rourou.

The names of the various parts of this pa-tuna are as follows: The upright stakes are called matia, but usually pou; the heavy horizontal beam, huahua; the braces, tapapa; the two strong posts to hold poha, pou-rerenga; the water-race, ia; the bundles of fern matted into walls, pakipaki; the manuka bundles pegged down, tapapa; the mouth of the pa-tuna, ngutu; the fern-matted fences, karapi; the maul for driving stakes, ta.

In rivers of some width this V-shaped weir may be repeated two or three times, as VVV, thus providing two or more outlets, or waha, at each of which a head-net and eel-pot would be placed. Such a weir was seen in the Waikare-taheke River about twenty years ago.

– 310 –

The Poha (Waitotara) or Powha (Whanganui).—The poha, or guiding-net, is constructed of green flax split into about ⅜ in. strips and woven into about a 2 in. mesh. The knot is the same as that used in the construction of ordinary fishing-nets. The poha, is always made by men, the women being engaged in making baskets for holding inanga and kokopu. The mesh is regulated by the first two fingers of the left hand. The net is commenced at the small end, and as soon as possible it is suspended and worked downward (Plate XXIV), gradually being enlarged to 4 ft. 6 in. or 5 ft. by adding meshes (see fig. 4). The small end is about 9 in. or 10 in. in diameter, according to the size of the hinaki for which it is being made, and the length 6 ft. or more. The poha, when finished, is fastened to a hoop made of a strong akatea vine (in modern days more often to a few strands of fencing-wire), which is in turn fastened to a square of manuka poles lashed together, with projecting ends to catch behind the two posts in front of the pa-tuna (see fig. 5). When a fresh is in evidence the poha lasts only about two nights, as it is quickly torn to pieces by the strong current and odds and ends of timber forced against it. The small end is securely sewn to the hinaki with green flax.

Picture icon

Fig. 4.—Method of enlarging poha (whakatepa).
Fig 5.—Poha hoop (kaututu) attached to frame (tekateka) for holding in pa-tuna.

The names of the poha parts are as follows: The vine hoop, kotuku (Waitotara), kaututu (Whanganui); the manuka square to which the above is lashed, tekateka; the mesh, mata; adding extra mesh, whakatepa; the small end, pihanga; the large end, waharau; the complete net before hoop is put on, purangi.