JM Barker (Hapupu) Historic Reserve

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A Moriori tree carving or dendroglyph at the reserve

JM Barker (Hapupu) National Historic Reserve is 33 hectares of kopi forest which was created to protect Moriori tree carvings called momori-rakau (or dendroglyphs).

The reserve is located at the north-eastern end of Chatham Island, the main island in the Chatham Islands, close to Hanson Bay.


Hapupu was given to the New Zealand government in 1979 by Barker Bros (Brothers AND Sisters) Ltd. It is one of only two national historic reserves in New Zealand (the other being the Cook Landing Site National Reserve at Kaiti, Gisborne). This designation reflects the particular importance of Hapupu both culturally and spiritually for the Moriori of Rekohu (Chatham Islands).

The momori rakau are among the few visible remaining signs of pre-European contact Moriori culture. The carvings depict Moriori karapuna (ancestors) and symbols of the natural world, such as patiki (flounder) and the hopo (albatross). During the review in late 1998 here were found 82 trees with carvings. Numbers of momori rakau have been steadily declining due to; the age of the host trees, stock grazing, wind and in earlier years: people removing the carvings as souvenirs.

The reserve was fenced in 1980 to provide protection for the tree carvings from grazing stock and this is now showing very good recovery. Planning is underway between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Moriori people to secure a small portion of the reserve for contemporary Moriori carvers to begin a new generation of momori-rakau.

Barker Bros, recently sold most of their remaining farmland, including that which surrounds Hapupu, to Hokotehi Moriori Trust, the mandated body responsible for Moriori assets, acquisitions and negotiations.

The momori rakau have been the subject of much debate throughout the years mainly about the purpose behind them. One author has even released a book in 2007 in which he broadly claims that the carvings depict mainly birds and has even given these carvings a new name "manu -moriori" which could be translated to mean bird people. Chatham Island Moriori representatives are not supportive of the release or sale of this book as it is another example of someone making money out of the cultural and intellectual property rights of Moriori. Moriori do not consider themselves to be 'Bird People" either, but can rightfully claim synergy with the creations of nature all around them. Moriori have been the guardians of Rekohu since the dawn of time and were doing a pretty good job until they were interrupted in 1791 by a European 'discovery.' The only recorded example of a Moriori committing a carving to a tree on the Chatham Islands dates back to the 1840s when a Moriori carved a tree on Pitt Island after burying his murdered wife and child next to it. This example also has no relevance to birds.


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Coordinates: 43°48′01″S 176°21′10″W / 43.8003°S 176.3528°W / -43.8003; -176.3528