Story: Te Koeti Turanga, Pahikore

Page 1 - Te Koeti Turanga, Pahikore

Te Koeti Turanga, Pahikore

1883–1964

Poutini Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe; mountaineer, guide, bushman, axeman

This biography was written by Trish McCormack and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 3, 1996

Pahikore Te Koeti Turanga was born at Makawhio pa, south Westland, on 18 November 1883 to Ripeka Tutoko (also called Patiere Tutoko) and Te Koeti Turanga, both of Poutini Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe. He was baptised John Butler but was also known as Paraihi Te Koeti. His maternal grandfather, Tutoko, was one of five hapu leaders who between them had charge of different sections of the Te Tai Poutini (the West Coast), in his case the Whakatipu waitai (Lake McKerrow) district including Martins Bay. The bay was an important link in the Poutini chain of settlements at the end of the greenstone trail through the Hollyford Valley. Tutoko, who fought in the intertribal wars of the 1820s and 1830s, was a respected tohunga.

Pahikore and his brothers became legendary throughout Westland for their superb physical strength. In 1905 mountaineer and guide Peter Graham invited Pahikore to work with him as a guide and porter at the Hermitage, Mt Cook. The two south Westland families first became acquainted when Peter's father, David, was shipwrecked at Jackson Bay. He never forgot the debt he owed Pahikore's extended family for helping him to survive.

Records of Pahikore's individual climbs are incomplete and various versions of his name have added to the confusion. In 1905, with Peter Graham, he guided Annie Lindon, the first woman to make a double crossing of Barron Saddle at the head of the Mueller Glacier. Five years later he was with Peter and Annie again, along with her husband, L. H. Lindon, this time on the climb of the 7,775-foot Glacier Dome. It was the first ascent by a woman. Accounts of these climbs recorded Pahikore's name as 'B. Kosti' or 'Butler Te Koiti', and it seems likely that he did many more climbs while employed at the Hermitage.

One of the best-known stories of Pahikore's outstanding physical stamina concerns a single crossing of the Copland Pass from the Hermitage to south Westland. Currently there is a track all the way and the journey takes three days, but Pahikore did it in 15 hours without a track. He also introduced his nephew George Bannister to climbing, and the young man went on to achieve many firsts for Maori above the snowline.

Pahikore and other family members helped to construct the Hermitage hotel and the Copland Track. The family bivouacked out under large rocks in the valley for extended periods of time while they built a track wide enough for vehicles. Pahikore is thought to have been involved in this project until the 1940s. His guiding career was relatively short, and he spent most of his life working as a bushman, cutting silver pine around Lake Brunner and Bruce Bay. He lived mainly at Jacobs River.

During the First World War, in October 1914, Pahikore enlisted in the Maori Contingent. While serving in France with the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion he found time to pursue his interest in competitive wood chopping. At the Forêt de Nieppe, in April 1916, a tree-chopping competition was held between Maori and French soldiers and the Maori team won by three minutes. In May Pahikore represented New Zealand in the Allied Forces championship chops. With his nephew, David Bannister, he vanquished the opposition. The commander of I ANZAC Corps, Lieutenant General William Birdwood, was so impressed that 25 years later he remembered and spoke of the pair while addressing troops at a Second World War chopping event. Pahikore was invalided home in December 1918 with pulmonary tuberculosis, but later regained his top chopping form. He was the toast of Greymouth when he beat Australian champions Walter Bone and Bill Peck in 1922 and 1927 respectively.

The details of Pahikore's first marriage are not known. Sometime in the 1950s he married Mary Ivy Te Raki (formerly Montague). Pahikore Te Koeti Turanga died in Hokitika on 13 March 1964 and was buried in the cemetery there. He was survived by a daughter and his second wife. His feats of physical strength are still spoken of with awe.