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Pyramidal marae on one of the Pacific islands

Pyramidal marae on one of the Pacific islands

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About 10 years ago I saw some information on the Web that an ancient pyramid-like structure (marae) existed on one of the Pacific islands, but was demolished in the end of 19th century. There was even a photo of this pyramid. Unfortunately, now I cannot find this information anymore. Does anybody know, on which island this pyramid was, and where I can read anything about it? Thank you.

Society Islands

The Society Islands (French: Îles de la Société, officially Archipel de la Société Tahitian: Tōtaiete mā) are an archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean. Politically, they are part of French Polynesia, an overseas country of the French Republic. Geographically, they form part of Polynesia.

The archipelago is believed to have been named by Captain James Cook during his first voyage in 1769, supposedly in honour of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands however, Cook wrote in his journal that he called the islands Society "as they lay contiguous to one another." [2]

History of Voyaging

The origin of voyaging in our ocean dates back to the beginnings of knowledge. History and dreams fuse into the myths of a distant maritime culture. As people of the South Pacific our physical geography is over 99% ocean! Our imperative is to voyage and protect these oceans as we have done for thousands of years. Our history and philosophy captures the spirit of our ancestors by which we will chart our future.

The Cook Islands Voyaging Society Inc (the Society) is as a non-profit organisation established in 1992 after the 6th Pacific Arts Festival held on Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The Society was registered in September 1993 under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 and the registered office is c/o The Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Development. The Society has a constitution and the Executive Committee is elected at the Annual General Meeting. Eleven members make up the Executive Committee and meetings occur monthly.

The Society is actively engaged in raising awareness about Polynesian Voyaging. Sir Thomas Davis, was the head of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and catalyst in the revival of Cook Islands voyaging. In 1994, he led the building and design of a 72’ replica of a Polynesian double hulled voyaging canoe ‘Te Au o Tonga’. Te Au o Tonga has spearheaded many successful campaigns and participated in a joint voyage with other Polynesian canoes to Hawaii and was the first vessel to carry out the vision of the Society. Her journey has included:

  • Te Au O Tonga made her inaugural return round voyage in 1995 to Raiatea, Tahiti, Nuku Hiva, Hawaii, Molokai and Oahu
  • In August 1995, Te Au O Tonga sailed as part of the protest fleet to Moruroa
  • In 1996, the voyage of ‘Te Au O Tonga’ to the VII Pacific Arts Festival in Samoa and then on to Tonga and New Zealand and return voyage to Cook Islands
  • Voyage to the 2000 Millennium celebrations in Gisborne, New Zealand in 1999
  • To the VIII Pacific Arts Festival in New Caledonia in 2000
  • Voyage in 2002, to Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Borabora, Mitiaro and return
  • 2002, a short trip to Aitutaki for ‘Te Au O Tonga’ to participate in movie “The Legend of Johnny Lingo”
  • Te Au Tonga is now based in Aituaki

Te Au o Tonga inspired the building of new vakas and new voyages. The Okeanos Foundation sailed on Te Au O Tonga and asked the people of the Cook Islands if they could replicate seven ocean voyaging vaka (Vaka Moana) based on her design. Okeanos commissioned Salthouse Boatbuilders to build seven vaka in Auckland with the help of Cook Islands traditional boat building experts. In 2010, the builders completed the construction of the Vaka Moana (boat of the ocean). The Cook Islands was integral in the construction, sail design and sea trialling of the new Vaka Moana. The first vaka to be built was Marumaru Atua.

From 2010-2012, the historical voyage for all seven vaka ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean) begun. The voyage was the start to reconnect with the traditions, with Pacific communities and with the ocean and to spread the message of ocean protection. The fleet of seven vaka sailed from Aotearoa to Hawai’i, then to the West Coast of the United States, San Diego, Cocos Islands, Galapagos, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu and completed their journey in July 2012 at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands.

[ Contract signing of Marumaru Atua with Cook Island Voyaging Society President Ian Karika

Since her return in November 2012, Okeanos gifted Marumaru Atua to the people of the Cook Islands under the custodianship of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society by the Okeanos Foundation. Since then she has undertaken the following voyages:

  • 2013 Rarotonga to Suwarrow, the uninhabited island and bird sanctuary to collect a group of environmentalists including President of Cook Island Voyaging Society Ian Karika who had been on the island to conduct a rat eradication programme.
  • September 2014 MUA Voyage to IUCN World Parks Congress 12th-19th November , Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Gold Coast, Sydney, Auckland
  • Feb 2015 Auckland-Waitangi-Auckland 75th Anniversary Celebrations
  • May 2015 Auckland-Rarotonga Te Manava Festival 50th Anniversary
  • May 2015 Rarotonga-Aitutaki-Atiu-Mauke-Mitiaro-Rarotonga Te Manava Festival Pa Enua.
  • May 2015-September 2016 weekly sails around Rarotonga

Marumaru Atua is recognized as a Cook Island national treasure
and has been commemorated on a national $5 coin

We continue to share the voyaging experience with visitors and students taking people out on weekly sails and educating them about traditional Polynesian voyaging. As of 2017, Marumaru Atua is on dry dock for major repairs following a fire. Our aim is to return her to the ocean, continue to offer voyaging experiences for Cook Islanders and visitors, and to become a formidable voice for our oceans. We continue to strengthen our global partnerships and share the legacy of Polynesian voyaging.

World War II

With the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific, the Japanese began occupying the protectorate early in 1942, but their advance farther southward was stopped by U.S. forces, which invaded on August 7. Fighting in the Solomons over the next 15 months was some of the most bitter in the Pacific the long Battle of Guadalcanal was one of the crucial conflicts of the Pacific War. Throughout the campaign the U.S. forces and their allies were strongly supported by the islanders. After the war, because of the proximity of an airfield and the availability of flat land and of the military’s buildings, Honiara on Guadalcanal became the new capital, replacing Tulagi.

Taputapuatea Marae and the Origin of the Polynesian Triangle

It appears that Taputapuatea was where navigators and sailors from different islands would share their knowledge and swap ideas on boat-building. As a result, this sacred landscape also played a pivotal part in the migrations that populated the Pacific Islands.

A tiki of Taputapuatea marae ( CC BY 2.0 )

French Polynesia is seen as being at the center of the Polynesian triangle which stretches from Hawaii, to New Zealand , and across to Easter Island . When the people from what is now the Society Islands travelled to the southern and eastern Pacific in the Middle Ages, they took a stone from the Taputapuatea marae with them on their journey. When they settled in their new homes, they laid the stone in their new maraes.


The islands lie roughly 840 kilometres (520 mi) east of Christchurch, New Zealand. The nearest New Zealand mainland point to the Chatham Islands, Cape Turnagain in the North Island, is 650 kilometres (400 mi) distant. The two largest islands, Chatham Island and Pitt Island, constitute most of the total area of 966 square kilometres (373 sq mi), with a dozen scattered islets making up the rest.

The islands sit on the Chatham Rise, a large, relatively shallowly submerged (no more than 1,000 metres or 3,281 feet deep at any point) part of the Zealandia continent that stretches east from near the South Island. The Chatham Islands, which emerged only within the last four million years, are the only part of the Chatham Rise showing above sea level. [4]

The islands are hilly, with coastal areas including cliffs, dunes, beaches, and lagoons. Pitt is more rugged than Chatham its highest point (299 metres or 981 feet) is on a plateau near the southernmost point of the main island, 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) south of Lake Te Rangatapu. [5] The plateau is dotted with numerous lakes and lagoons, flowing mainly from the island's nearby second-highest point, Maungatere Hill, at 294 metres. [6] Notable are the large Te Whanga Lagoon, and Huro and Rangitahi. Chatham has a number of streams, including Te Awainanga and Tuku.

Chatham and Pitt are the only inhabited islands the remaining smaller islands function as conservation reserves with restricted or prohibited access. The livelihoods of the inhabitants depend on agriculture - the islands export coldwater crayfish - and, increasingly, on tourism.

The names of the main islands, in the order of occupation are:

English name Moriori name Māori name Remarks
Chatham Island Rekohu Wharekauri
Pitt Island Rangiaotea Rangiauria
South East Island Hokorereoro Rangatira
The Fort Mangere Mangere The Māori name has supplanted the English name for this island.
Little Mangere Unknown Tapuenuku
Star Keys Motuhope Motuhope
The Sisters Rangitatahi Rangitatahi about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) north of Cape Pattison, a headland in the northwestern part of Chatham Island
Forty-Fours Motchuhar Motuhara the easternmost point of New Zealand, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Chatham Island.

Geology Edit

The Chatham Islands – the only part of the Chatham Rise above sea level – form part of the now largely submerged continent of Zealandia. This location positions the Chatham Islands far from the Australian-Pacific plate boundary that dominates the geology of mainland New Zealand. The islands' stratigraphy consists of a Mesozoic schist basement, typically covered by marine sedimentary rocks. [7] Both these sequences are intruded by a series of basalt eruptions. Volcanic activity has occurred multiple times since the Cretaceous, [8] but currently there is no active volcanism near any part of the Chatham Rise.

Climate Edit

The Chatham Islands have an oceanic climate (Koppen: Cfb) [9] characterised by a narrow temperature range and relatively frequent rainfall. Their isolated position far from any sizeable landmass renders the record high temperature for the main settlement (Waitangi) just 23.8 °C (74.8 °F). [10] The climate is cool, wet and windy, with average high temperatures between 15 and 20 °C (59 and 68 °F) in summer, and between 5 and 10 °C (41 and 50 °F) in July (in the Southern Hemisphere winter). Snow falls extremely rarely, the fall recorded near sea level in July 2015 marked the first such reading for several decades. [11]

Climate data for Chatham Islands (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 14.9
Average low °C (°F) 11.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 54.9
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 7.9 7.7 11.3 11.1 14.4 16.0 14.8 14.5 11.9 11.2 9.8 9.4 140.1
Average relative humidity (%) 82.2 83.5 83.2 83.4 85.7 85.8 86.9 85.8 83.4 84.0 82.5 82.7 84.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 191.3 145.5 124.2 106.3 81.2 61.8 74.4 101.0 109.1 129.7 148.9 164.0 1,437.3
Source: NIWA Science climate data [12]

The Chatham Islands' time zone Edit

The International Date Line lies to the east of the Chathams, even though the islands lie east of 180° longitude. The Chathams observe their own time, 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand time, including during periods of daylight-saving time the Chatham Standard Time Zone is distinctive as one of very few that differ from others by a period other than a whole hour or half-hour. (New Zealand Time orients itself to 180° longitude.) [13]

The natural vegetation of the islands was a mixture of forest, scrubby heath, and swamp, but today most of the land is fern or pasture-covered, although there are some areas of dense forest and areas of peat bogs and other habitats. Of interest are the akeake trees, with branches trailing almost horizontally in the lee of the wind. [14] The ferns in the forest understory include Blechnum discolor.

The islands are home to a rich bio-diversity including about fifty endemic plants adapted to the cold and the wind, such as Chatham Islands forget-me-not (Myosotidium hortensia), [15] Chatham Islands sow-thistle (Embergeria grandifolia), rautini (Brachyglottis huntii), Chatham Islands kakaha (Astelia chathamica), soft speargrass (Aciphylla dieffenbachii), and Chatham Island akeake or Chatham Island tree daisy (Olearia traversiorum).

The islands are a breeding ground for huge flocks of seabirds and are home to a number of endemic birds, some of which are seabirds and others which live on the islands. The best known species are the magenta petrel (IUCN classification CR]) and the black robin (IUCN classification EN), both of which came perilously close to extinction before drawing the attention of conservation efforts. Other endemic species are the Chatham oystercatcher, the Chatham gerygone, Chatham pigeon, Forbes' parakeet, the Chatham snipe and the shore plover. The endemic Chatham shag [16] (IUCN classification CR), Pitt shag [17] (IUCN classification EN) and the Chatham albatross [18] (IUCN classification VU) are at risk of capture by a variety of fishing gear, including fishing lines, trawls, gillnets, and pots. [19]

For accounts and notes on seabird species seen in the Chathams between 1960 and 1993 online. [20]

A number of species have gone extinct since human settlement, including the Chatham raven, the Chatham fernbird and the three endemic species of flightless rails, the Chatham rail, Dieffenbach's rail, and Hawkins's rail.

Also, a number of marine mammals are found in the waters of the Chathams, including New Zealand sea lions, leopard seals, and southern elephant seals. Many whale species are attracted to the rich food sources of the Chatham Rise. [21]

Much of the natural forest of these islands has been cleared for farming, but Mangere and Rangatira Islands are now preserved as nature reserves to conserve some of these unique flora and fauna. Another threat to wildlife comes from introduced species which prey on the indigenous birds and reptiles, whereas on Mangere and Rangatira, livestock has been removed and native wildlife is recovering.

Most lakes have been affected by agricultural run-off, but water quality has improved and river quality is generally classed as 'A'. [22]

Moriori Edit

The first human inhabitants of the Chathams were Polynesian tribes who settled the islands about 1500 CE, [23] and in their isolation became the Moriori. The former belief, which arose in the 1800s, was that the original Moriori migrated directly from the more northerly Polynesian islands, just as with the settlement of New Zealand by the ancestors of the Māori. However, linguistic research indicates instead that the ancestral Moriori were Māori wanderers from New Zealand. [24] [25] [26] [27] Howe (2003) states:

Scholarship over the past 40 years has radically revised the model offered a century earlier by Smith: the Moriori as a pre-Polynesian people have gone (the term Moriori is now a technical term referring to those ancestral Māori who settled the Chatham Islands).' [28]

The plants cultivated by the Māori arrivals were ill-suited for the colder Chathams, so the Moriori lived as hunter-gatherers and fishermen. While their new environment deprived them of the resources with which to build ocean-going craft for long voyages, the Moriori invented what was known as the waka kōrari, a semi-submerged craft, constructed of flax and lined with air bladders from kelp. This craft was used to travel to the outer islands on 'birding' missions. [27] The Moriori society was a peaceful society and bloodshed was outlawed by the chief Nunuku-whenua after generations of warfare. Arguments were solved by consensus or by duels rather than warfare, but at the first sign of bloodshed, the fight was over. It has been estimated that the population was about 2,000 prior to European contact. [29]

European arrival Edit

The name "Chatham Islands" comes from the ship HMS Chatham [30] of the Vancouver Expedition, whose captain William R. Broughton landed on 29 November 1791, claimed possession for Great Britain and named the islands after the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham. Broughton's men shot and killed a Moriori resident of Kaingaroa, named Torotoro (or Tamakororo). Chatham Islands date their anniversary on 29 November, and observe it on the nearest Monday to 30 November. [31]

Sealers and whalers soon started hunting in the surrounding ocean with the islands as their base. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the indigenous Moriori soon died from diseases introduced by foreigners. The sealing and whaling industries ceased activities about 1861, while fishing remained as a major economic activity. [31]

Māori settlement Edit

On 19 November and 5 December 1835, about 900 Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama previously resident in Te Whanganui-A-Tara (Wellington) and led by the chief Matioro arrived on the brig Lord Rodney. The first mate of the ship had been 'kidnapped and threatened with death' unless the captain took the Māori settlers on board. The group, which included men, women and children, brought with them 78 tonnes of seed potato, 20 pigs and seven large canoes called waka. [32]

The incoming Māori were received and initially cared for by the local Moriori. Soon, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama began to takahi, or walk the land, to lay claim to it. When it became clear that the visitors intended to stay, the Moriori withdrew to their marae at te Awapatiki. There, after holding a hui (consultation) to debate what to do about the Māori settlers, the Moriori decided to keep with their policy of non-aggression.

Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama in turn saw the meeting as a precursor to warfare on the part of Moriori and responded. The Māori attacked and in the ensuing action killed over 260 Moriori. A Moriori survivor recalled: "[The Māori] commenced to kill us like sheep. [We] were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail we were discovered and killed – men, women and children – indiscriminately". [33] A Māori chief, Te Rakatau Katihe, said: "We took possession . in accordance with our custom, and we caught all the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us, these we killed and others also we killed – but what of that? It was in accordance with our custom." [34]

After the killings, Moriori were forbidden to marry Moriori, or to have children with each other. Māori kept Moriori slaves until 1863, following a proclamation by the resident magistrate. [2] Many Moriori women had children by their Māori masters. A number of Moriori women eventually married either Māori or European men. Some were taken away from the Chathams and never returned. Ernst Dieffenbach, who visited the Chathams on a New Zealand Company ship in 1840, reported that the Moriori were the virtual slaves of Māori and were severely mistreated, with death being a blessing. By the time the slaves were released in 1863, only 160 remained, hardly 10% of the 1835 population. [32]

In early May 1838 (some reports say 1839 but this is contradicted by ship records [35] ) the French whaling vessel Jean Bart anchored off Waitangi to trade with the Māori. The number of Māori boarding frightened the French, escalating into a confrontation in which the French crew were killed and the Jean Bart was run aground at Ocean Bay, to be ransacked and burned by Ngāti Mutunga. When word of the incident reached the French naval corvette Heroine in the Bay of Islands in September 1838, it set sail for the Chathams, accompanied by the whalers Adele and Rebecca Sims. The French arrived on 13 October and, after unsuccessfully attempting to entice some Ngāti Tama aboard, proceeded to bombard Waitangi. The next morning about a hundred armed Frenchmen went ashore, burning buildings, destroying waka, and seizing pigs and potatoes. The attacks mostly affected Ngāti Tama, weakening their position relative to Ngāti Mutunga. [35] [36]

In 1840, Ngāti Mutunga decided to attack Ngāti Tama at their . They built a high staging next to the so they could fire down on their former allies. Fighting was still in progress when the New Zealand Company ship Cuba arrived as part of a scheme to buy land for settlement. The Treaty of Waitangi, at that stage, did not apply to the islands. The company negotiated a truce between the two warring tribes. In 1841, the New Zealand Company had proposed to establish a German colony on the Chathams. The proposal was discussed by the directors and John Ward signed an agreement with Karl Sieveking of Hamburg on 12 September 1841. However, when the Colonial Office said that the islands were to be part of the colony of New Zealand and any Germans settling there would be treated as aliens, Joseph Somes claimed that Ward had been acting on his own initiative. The proposed leader John Beit and the expedition went to Nelson instead. [37]

The company was then able to purchase large areas of land at Port Hutt (which the Māori called Whangaroa) and Waitangi from Ngāti Mutunga and also large areas of land from Ngāti Tama. This did not stop Ngāti Mutunga from trying to get revenge for the death of one of their chiefs. They were satisfied after they killed the brother of a Ngāti Tama chief. The tribes agreed to an uneasy peace which was finally confirmed in 1842. [38]

Reluctant to give up slavery, Matioro and his people chartered a brig in late 1842 and sailed to Auckland Island. While Matioro was surveying the island, two of the chiefs who had accompanied him decided the island was too inhospitable for settlement, and set sail before he had returned, stranding him and his followers until Pākehā settlers arrived in 1849. [39]

An all-male group of German Moravian missionaries arrived in 1843. [40] When a group of women were sent out to join them three years later, several marriages ensued a few members of the present-day population can trace their ancestry back to those missionary families.

In 1865, the Māori leader Te Kooti was exiled on the Chatham Islands along with a large group of Māori rebels called the Hauhau, followers of Pai Mārire who had murdered missionaries and fought against government forces mainly on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The rebel prisoners were paid one shilling a day to work on sheep farms owned by the few European settlers. Sometimes they worked on road and track improvements. They were initially guarded by 26 guards, half of whom were Māori. They lived in whare along with their families. The prisoners helped build a redoubt of stone surrounded by a ditch and wall. Later, they built three stone prison cells. In 1868 Te Kooti and the other prisoners commandeered a schooner and escaped back to the North Island.

Almost all the Māori returned to Taranaki in the 1860s, some after a tsunami in 1868. [41]

1880s to today Edit

The economy of the Chatham Islands, then dominated by the export of wool, suffered under the international depression of the 1880s, only rebounding with the building of fish freezing plants at the island villages of Ōwenga and Kaingaroa in 1910. Construction of the first wharf at Waitangi began in 1931 with completion in 1934. On 25 November 1940, during the Second World War, a German raider captured and then sank the Chatham Islands supply ship, the Holmwood, so the wharf saw little use by ships. A flying-boat facility was built soon after at Te Whanga Lagoon and a flying boat service continued till 1966 when it was replaced with conventional aircraft. [42] [43]

After the Second World War, the island economy suffered again due to its isolation and government subsidies became necessary. This led to many young Chatham Islanders leaving for the mainland. There was a brief crayfish boom which helped stabilize the economy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the early 2000s cattle became a major component of the local economy. [41]

Moriori community Edit

The Moriori community is organised as the Hokotehi Moriori Trust. [44] The Moriori have received recognition from the Crown and the New Zealand government and some of their claims against those institutions for the generations of neglect and oppression have been accepted and acted on. Moriori are recognised as the original people of Rekohu. The Crown also recognised the Ngāti Mutunga Māori [45] as having indigenous status in the Chathams by right of around 160 years of occupation.

The population of the islands is around 600, including members of both ethnic groups. In January 2005, the Moriori celebrated the opening of the new Kopinga Marae (meeting house). [46]

Modern descendants of the 1835 Māori conquerors claimed a share in ancestral Māori fishing rights. This claim was granted. Now that the primordial population, the Moriori, have been recognised to be former Māori—over the objections of some of the Ngāti Mutunga—they too share in the ancestral Māori fishing rights. Both groups have been granted fishing quotas. [47]

Chatham and Pitt Islands are inhabited, and had a population of 663 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 63 people (10.5%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 51 people (8.3%) since the 2006 census. There were 276 households. There were 354 males and 312 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.13 males per female. Of the total population, 111 people (16.7%) were aged up to 15 years, 129 (19.5%) were 15 to 29, 339 (51.1%) were 30 to 64, and 84 (12.7%) were 65 or older. Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.

Ethnicities were 74.2% European/Pākehā, 66.1% Māori, 1.4% Pacific peoples, 0.9% Asian, and 2.7% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 5.9%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 48.4% had no religion, 33.5% were Christian, and 7.7% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 51 (9.2%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 147 (26.6%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $36,000. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 318 (57.6%) people were employed full-time, 108 (19.6%) were part-time, and 9 (1.6%) were unemployed. [51]

The town of Waitangi is the main settlement with some 200 residents. There are other villages such as Owenga, Te One and Kaingaroa, where there are two primary schools. A third school is on Pitt Island. There are also the fishing villages of Owenga and Port Hutt. [48]

Waitangi facilities include a hospital with resident doctor, bank, several stores, and engineering and marine services. The main shipping wharf is located here.

Visitors to the Chathams usually arrive by air from Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington (around 1.5 – 2 hours from Christchurch on a Convair 580) to Tuuta Airport on Chatham Island. While freight generally arrives by ship (2 days sailing time), the sea journey takes too long for many passengers, and is not always available. [52] [53]

There is no scheduled public transport but accommodation providers are normally able to arrange transport.

Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) initially serviced the Chathams by air using flying boats. With the withdrawal of TEAL, the RNZAF maintained an infrequent service with Short Sunderland flying boats. NZ4111 was damaged on takeoff from Te Whanga Lagoon on 4 November 1959 and remains as a wreck on the island. The last flight by RNZAF flying boats was on 22 March 1967. [54] For many years Bristol Freighter aircraft served the islands, a slow and noisy freight aircraft converted for carrying passengers by installing a removable passenger compartment equipped with airline seats and a toilet in part of the cargo hold. The air service primarily served to ship out high-value export crayfish products.

The grass landing field at Hapupu, at the northern end of the Island, proved a limiting factor, as few aircraft apart from the Bristol Freighter had both the range to fly to the islands and the ruggedness to land on the grass airstrip. Although other aircraft did use the landing field occasionally, they would often require repairs to fix damage resulting from the rough landing. Hapupu is also the site of the JM Barker (Hapupu) National Historic Reserve (one of only two in New Zealand) where there are momori rakau (Moriori tree carvings).

In 1981, after many years of requests by locals and the imminent demise of the ageing Bristol Freighters, the construction of a sealed runway at Karewa, Tuuta Airport, allowed more modern aircraft to land safely. The Chathams' own airline, Air Chathams, now operates services to Auckland on Thursdays, Wellington on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Christchurch on Tuesdays. The timetable varies seasonally, but generally planes depart the Chathams around 10.30 am (Chathams Time) and arrive in the mainland around noon. There they refuel and reload, and depart again at around 1 pm back to the Chathams. Air Chathams operates twin turboprop Convair 580 aircraft in combi (freight and passenger) configurations and Fairchild Metroliners.

The ship Rangatira provided a freight service from Timaru to the Chatham Islands from March 2000 to August 2015. [55] The MV Southern Tiare provides a freight service between Napier, Timaru and the Chathams. [53]

There is a small section of tar sealed road between Waitangi and Te One, but the majority of the islands' roads are gravel.

Electorates Edit

Until the 1990s, the Chatham Islands were in the Lyttelton electorate, but since then they have formed part of the Rongotai general electorate, which otherwise lies in south Wellington. Paul Eagle is the MP for Rongotai. The Te Tai Tonga Māori electorate (held since 2011 by Rino Tirikatene) includes the Chatham Islands before the seats were reformed in 1996 the archipelago was part of Western Maori.

Local government Edit

For local government purposes, the Chatham Islands and the adjoining sea is known as the Chatham Islands Territory and is administered by the Chatham Islands Council, which was established by the Chatham Islands Council Act 1995 (Statute No 041, Commenced: 1 November 1995). [1] The council is a territorial authority that has many of the functions, duties and powers of a district council and of a regional council, [1] making it in effect a unitary authority with slightly fewer responsibilities than other unitary authorities. The Council comprises a Mayor and eight Councillors, one of whom is also Deputy Mayor. [56] Certain regional council functions are being administered by Environment Canterbury, the Canterbury Regional Council.

In the 2010 local government elections, Chatham Islands had New Zealand's highest rate of returned votes, with 71.3 per cent voting. [57]

State services Edit

Policing is carried out by a sole-charge constable appointed by the Wellington police district, who has often doubled as an official for many government departments, including court registrar (Department for Courts), customs officer (New Zealand Customs Service) and immigration officer (Department of Labour – New Zealand Immigration Service).

A District Court judge sent from either the North Island or the South Island presides over court sittings, but urgent sittings may take place at the Wellington District Court.

Because of the isolation and small population, some of the rules governing daily activities undergo a certain relaxation. For example, every transport service operated solely on Great Barrier Island, the Chatham Islands or Stewart Island/Rakiura need not comply with section 70C of the Transport Act 1962 (the requirements for drivers to maintain driving-hours logbooks). Drivers subject to section 70B must nevertheless keep record of their driving hours in some form. [58]

Health Edit

The Canterbury District Health Board is responsible for providing publicly funded health services for the island. Prior to July 2015, this was the responsibility of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board. [59]

Education Edit

There are three schools on the Chathams, at Kaingaroa, Te One, and Pitt Island. Pitt Island and Kaingaroa are staffed by sole charge principals, while Te One has three teachers and a principal. The schools cater for children from year 1 to 8. There is no secondary school. The majority of secondary school-aged students leave the island for boarding schools in mainland New Zealand. A small number remain on the island and obtain their secondary education by correspondence.

Most of the Chatham Island economy is based on fishing and crayfishing, with only a fragment of the economic activity in adventure tourism. This economic mix has been stable for the past 50 years, as little infrastructure or population is present to engage in higher levels of industrial or telecommunications activity. [60]

Air Chathams has its head office in Te One. [61]

Electricity generation Edit

Two 225 kW wind turbines and diesel generators provide power on Chatham island, at costs of five to ten times that of electricity on the main islands of New Zealand. [62] During 2014, 65% of the electricity was generated from diesel generators, the balance from wind. [63] For heating, electricity comes second to wood and, in 2013, solar power contributed about a third as much as mains-generated electricity. [64]

A 1.5 kW wireless link [65] opened in 1913, [66] a public radio link to the mainland was built in 1953 and an island phone system in 1965. [67] In 2003 a digital microwave system was installed for 110 phones in Ōwenga. [68]

The islands were linked as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative in 2014, when satellite bandwidth was increased, [69] and broadband is now provided by Wireless Nation, [70] though Farmside provide some coverage. [71] There is no mobile phone coverage. [71]

In the Waitangi area, the existing copper network will be used to deliver broadband in the form of ADSL/VDSL. [72] VDSL services are available through Bigpipe.

As of 2021, broadband access on the Island is delivered over Satellite - Wireless Nation provide a wireless over satellite service starting at $99/month. [73] Other providers deliver standard satellite broadband services. Broadband costs are more than double than the mainland average, coming in at $249/month for uncapped satellite broadband through Wireless Nation [74]

A high-speed broadband rollout is expected for the Chatham Island [75] by 2022 [76] as part of the RBI2 [77] (Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2) delivering speeds of at least 50Mbps download. [78] To deliver broadband to customers, Wireless technology will be used similar to 4G broadband - there are no plans for an undersea fibre-optic cable. It remains unclear if there will be cellphone coverage enabled on the island.

There is no proposed coverage for Pitt Island - customers in Pitt Island will remain on satellite.

Taputapuatea Marae named a UNESCO World Heritage Site

LOS ANGELES, CA – July 19, 2017 – On Sunday, July 9, UNESCO named the Taputapuatea marae on the island of Raiatea in The Islands of Tahiti as a World Heritage site. This significant designation for the sacred site is of great pride for the Polynesian people and brings an extraordinary opportunity in tourism to expose visitors from all over the world to their history and culture. The Taputapuatea marae is the first cultural site in a French overseas realm recognized by UNESCO.

The Taputapuatea marae is an ancient sacred site estimated to be 1,000-years-old where religious and social ceremonies were performed prior to the arrival of European missionaries. Polynesian ancestors arranged hundreds of stones which they believed to hold Mana, a source of power and spiritual strength in these sacred sites.

This prestigious UNESCO cultural label reinforces Tahiti Tourisme’s campaign “The Islands of Tahiti, Embraced by Mana,” which highlights the wealth of Polynesian culture and the diversity of activities that discerning travelers can discover in 118 islands and atolls. The World Heritage label will encourage visitors to discover the destination’s many aspects through the local people, their way of life, their culture, arts, crafts and through ecotourism.

The classification of the Taputapuatea marae as a UNESCO World Heritage site gives the Polynesian people a new and unifying opportunity to share their traditions and convey their deepest values” says Kristin Carlson Kemper, Managing Director, Tahiti Tourisme U.S.

A 45-minute flight away from Papeete, Raiatea is the second largest economic center in The Islands of Tahiti, possessing various fascinating attributes, both on land and at sea. A narrow channel separates Raiatea from its sister island, Taha’a, where the “Pacific black gold” is grown—a vanilla of such premium quality that it has become a luxury product desired the world over. The island is surrounded by numerous motu (islets) with picturesque beaches and idyllic coral gardens. Scuba diving sites are spread throughout the island, including the Nordby, a shipwreck lying 95 feet under the ocean surface. Raiatea also offers scenic hiking trails through the island’s splendid mountainous interior. The luckiest of travelers may encounter the mysterious Tiare Apetahi, a five-petaled ordorous blossom endemic to Mount Temehani of Raiatea.

Cargo Cults: The John Frum Movement Came First

Despite the prominence of the person upon whom it was focused, the Prince Philip Movement is not the largest or most influential grassroots religious sect in Vanuatu. That distinction belongs to the John Frum Movement , which first introduced the idea of an outside savior or redeemer to the people of Vanuatu in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

The three flags of the John Frum Movement, a cargo cult that dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s AD. The John Frum cargo cult is seen as the predecessor of the Prince Philip Movement. (Flickr user Charmaine Tham / CC BY 2.0 )

At various times, Frum has been alternatively identified as an American World War II era servicemen (many were stationed in the New Hebrides), an island native named Manehivi who assumed the alias “John Frum,” or a spirit being that manifested during a kava-drinking session. Regardless of his origins, followers of the John Frum Movement believed he would return to the islands at a future date, showing gifts and other blessings on the people who had believed in his message and his goodness.

This movement and the Prince Philip Movement are examples of cargo cults , millenarian belief systems in which adherents perform rituals which they believe will cause a more technologically advanced society to deliver goods to them. These cults were first described in Melanesia in the wake of contact with allied military forces during the Second World War.

While not quite as large as it once was, the John Frum Movement has continued to exert an effect on island affairs, both as a religious group and as a political party, the latter of which has been in existence for more than 60 years.

The Prince Philip Movement can perhaps best be seen as an offshoot or derivative of the John Frum Movement. While Frum himself seems to have been a mythical figure, Prince Philip was obviously very real and could therefore personify the archetype of the redemptive figure that the people of Vanuatu craved.

This desire for a savior or redeemer may have been triggered by the sense of repression people felt while Vanuatu was under European control. But even after the colonial era ended and independence was achieved, these vibrant and inspiring movements obviously continued to bring meaning and purpose to the lives of those who embraced them.

A field guide to the architecture of the South Pacific

The South Pacific has been neglected in discussions and assessments of world architecture – but there is architecture to discover on these islands of palms and cloudless skies. Architectural historian Bill McKay and photographer Jason Mann decided it is time to investigate.

Government building in Apia, Samoa.

The South Pacific is where most people go to lie on beaches and get away from it all. When we see images of the islands, they are generally resorts and palms and cloudless skies picturesque isles, happy untroubled locals. You may see a few buildings – your over-the-water fale accommodation – if you are lucky, and a couple of cute churches you stop your scooter by, perhaps. But there is a lot of architecture in the Pacific and it is time we took a serious look at it.

Here, you will see images from a new project, by architectural photographer Jason Mann and me, to document the architecture of the region. That’s rather ambitious, as the nations are so diverse and the place covers a third of the planet.

Vuna Wharf in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga.

From the Anglo viewpoint, the watery side of the world has been seen as pretty much empty and dotted with little islands that harbour visions of paradise. Reality is different, of course. The Pacific has seen its share of conquest and colonisation over the past few centuries, followed by, as Paul Theroux describes, “the long parade of explorers and travellers and tourists who felt a need to invent the Pacific and to make it a paradise”.

Since then, we have seen coups, civil wars, corruption, bribery, neo-colonialism, fish stock plundering, prisons for boat people, cyclones and tsunamis. Our picture of the Pacific has become one as full of problems as those in our own homelands. And they have cities and urban issues, heritage issues and environmental issues – just like us.

The Pacific has been neglected in discussions and assessments of world architecture. Not only has the region experienced enormous social, political, economic and cultural pressures over the past few centuries, but, in addition, it is becoming an epicentre of foreign investment, commercial development, economic exploitation and politically-motivated ‘aid’ packages.

Simon Winchester has identified it as a crucible of the 21st century and his latest book on the geopolitics of the region handily summarises in its title the past and future collisions of cultures the area faces Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers.

These pressures are affecting the material and built culture of the Pacific and the area will also be one of the first inhabited regions to bear the brunt of climate change events such as sea level rise and, increasingly, energetic and frequent cyclones. Much indigenous and heritage architecture of all periods is at risk.

But, beyond the depressing stuff, there is so much marvellous architecture to see around the Pacific and, with the help of tangata o le moana (people of the Pacific), it’s time for Westerners to properly appreciate it beyond the tourist drive-by.

Queen Salote Memorial Hall in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga.

This year will see the launch of a website devoted to the architecture of the South Pacific. It’s not just for us, though – it’s for the people of the Pacific, those there and throughout the diaspora, the young people of Pacific heritage growing up away from their parents’ homelands in places like Los Angeles, which has supplanted Auckland as the city with the largest concentration of Polynesian people in the world.

The site will include maps and guides to notable architecture in cities and around islands, as well as other resources, such as building reports (when in the public domain) and bibliographies.

And, hopefully, this work can help politicians and authorities to make wise decisions as well. For example, over the past couple of years, the German Courthouse in Apia, Samoa, has been at risk. It’s a colonial period structure, notable for its architecture but for its history, too. It is where New Zealand invaders formally captured Samoa from the Germans in the First World War it’s also where the New Zealand administration killed a dozen protesters of the Mau independence movement in 1929.

Recently, it was proposed to be bowled to make way for a development site for another foreign interest but now seems to have been saved with the assistance of a couple of New Zealand architectural historians, Dr Christoph Schnoor and Adam Wild. Just as in New Zealand, it is important that we document heritage architecture in order to preserve it.

Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga.

Yet how do you determine what’s good architecture, especially when you are an outsider? The images of Samoa you see on these pages are just a tiny selection of those shot by Jason Mann and are generated from surveys produced by architecture students Matilda Phillips (Samoa) and Miriama Arnold (Cook Islands) during a University of Auckland Summer Scholarship programme in early 2016.

Our definition of architecture is broad and ranges from archaeological sites, through to indigenous and vernacular buildings, colonial and modernist buildings and contemporary structures – and, yes, even to resorts. Matilda and Miriama will be joined by Icao Tiseli and Lusi Vete in managing the website with us and have ambitions to increase the scope to enhance networking and conversations between all those interested in the built culture of the Pacific. This will be supported by a new Master’s level course in Pacific architecture at the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture and Planning.

Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral in Apia, Samoa.

There is a view that all the islands, the nations, of the Pacific, are fairly similar. That’s wrong, even architecturally. The open-walled fale is common throughout the Pacific but in Samoa, you will notice it alive and well and evolving in dwellings from traditional thatched roofs, through to curved and wrapped corrugated steel roofs, to hipped ‘fale palangi’ roofs.

In Tonga, you won’t see as many fale-style dwellings but you will see the fale scaled up and incorporated as the main form of many significant churches. Churches are everywhere throughout the Pacific but their appearance and construction can be quite specific to locations.

In the Cook Islands, they supplanted malae (marae) at a very early date and these are often made from coral ripped from ancient terraces. And speaking of stone, we think of the original architecture of the Pacific as, like the fale, lightweight, flexible and lashed together, which is true but ancient stone marae and other structures are much more prevalent than you would think. They range from the astonishing stone city of Nan Madol (Pohnpei, Caroline Islands) to the langi, low stone pyramids, of Tonga, to the stone sculptures and malae of the Marquesas.

The Baha’i temple in Samoa.

And in terms of contemporary architecture, when I passed through Tahiti, I was repeatedly assured there was no interesting architecture there, but the Maria No Te Hau church in Pape’ete, with its space-frame roof, must be one of the great buildings of the Pacific. And, as close as Samoa, you will be awed by the several-storeys-high Baha’i temple constructed from in-situ concrete.

Future issues of Architecture New Zealand will feature articles on the architecture of Pacific nations, along with guide maps, starting with Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands. For those of us with an avid appetite for good architecture, this will lure us away from the beaches and bars of the resorts.

The ancient origins of the ceremonial Kava drink of the Pacific

The ancient origins of Kava drinking is known to trace back at least 3,000 years and is associated with both social and ceremonial function. It was, and is, highly valued for its medicinal uses as a sedative, muscle relaxant, diuretic, and as a remedy for nervousness and insomnia. But Kava is more than a traditional remedy for a variety of ailments. This botanical marvel has been used in parts of the Pacific at traditional social gatherings, and in cultural & religious ceremonies to achieve a "higher level of consciousness".

Kava, which is sometimes known is awa, is produced from a plant typically found in the western Pacific and is traditionally drunk by many of the island cultures of the Pacific Ocean, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii, and Polynesia. In Fiji, for instance, the kava drink is considered the national drink, and is widely consumed. Traditionally, kava was prepared by cutting the root into small pieces, being chewed by several people (often children or beautiful young women, because of their perceived reduced bacterial levels!) and spat into a bowl, where it was mixed with coconut milk. It was believed that the chewing procedure blended the root with enzymes in the saliva and promoted the extraction of the active ingredients of the root and generally produced a much tastier brew. The concoction was then strained through coconut fibre, squeezing the pieces of masticated root until all the juices were blended with the water. This was then decanted into another bowl for consumption. Nowadays, the root is ground, pounded or grated rather than chewed and spat out, although among some locals the traditional method is still practiced.

Preparation of the kava drink . Photo source: twenty-somethingtravel.com.

Although the drinking of kava may be quite casual, it also plays a central role in many ceremonies, including marriages, funerals, healing ceremonies, naming ceremonies, and initiation for young girls and boys. It even played a part in the coronation of King Tupou, the Sixth of Tonga, who took position in 2012. In Fiji, the kava has a symbolic function of bringing two groups of people together. When one visits a new village, it is obligatory to bring the kava root as a gift. The community then gathers to prepare the drink, and the communal drinking then begins. After the village chief has his cup of kava, the drink is offered to the rest of the community in a communal bowl. Before receiving the drink, tradition dictates to clap the hands once, then after finishing the drink, one has to clap three more times. Once the ceremonial drinking is complete, everyone gathered would be friends, and the rest of the celebrations can begin.

The kava drink is neither an alcoholic beverage nor a psychedelic drug. Nevertheless, it does have sedative and anaesthetic properties. Whilst the effects of the kava drink may vary from one person to another, they are generally as such, if taken in a small amount: a mild feeling of sleepiness and drowsiness, relaxation of the body and the muscles, feelings of happiness, and numbness of the mouth, tongue and throat. When taken in a larger quantity, the kava drink may cause the loss of muscle control, sleepiness, the reddening of the eyes and the dilation of the pupils, and a general feeling of sickness.

Although the short-term effects of drinking kava may be mild, it has been claimed that its long-term usage can be quite severe and may cause various problems. These range from less severe effects such as the weakening of the muscles to more serious ones such as liver failure. By the end of 2002, at least 68 suspected cases of kava-linked liver toxicity had been reported, including nine cases of liver failure. Six of these cases resulted in liver transplants, while the other three ended in death. As a result, European, Asian, and North American countries banned the sale of all kava products, resulting in the collapse of the kava export industry in major growing areas. The reports of liver damage due to kava consumption have been puzzling, as inhabitants of the Pacific islands have been drinking the kava drink for at least three thousand years without apparent liver damage.

Many believe the ‘kava scare’ was engineered by the pharmaceutical industry because Kava was being widely prescribed in Europe as a safe and effective alternative to synthetic drugs sold by pharmaceutical companies.


Early Polynesia Edit

The island has been inhabited for more than 2000 years. [7] In the ancient past a road was built that encircled the island. There exists on the island today the stone ruins of a “great number of structures, house platforms, marae complexes, and cemeteries. ” [8] According to David Stanley's South Pacific Handbook:

"The Austral islands were one of the great art areas of the Pacific, represented today in many museums. The best-known artifacts are tall sharkskin drums, wooden bowls, fly-whisks, and tapa cloth." [3]

Arrival of Bounty mutineers Edit

Tubuai was first viewed by Europeans when it was mapped by James Cook in 1777, although his party did not disembark. Cook discovered the island's name, "Toobouai", from the natives who surrounded his ship in their canoes a Tahitian named Omai, who was part of Cook's group, translated. [9]

The next Europeans to arrive were the mutineers of HMS Bounty in 1789. Mutineer Fletcher Christian, in looking for an island on which to permanently hide, had "scoured" William Bligh's maps and nautical charts and decided on Tubuai. [9]

Upon arrival at Tubuai, a conflict arose while the mutineers were still on their ship and several islanders were killed in their canoes. The site of this event in the lagoon on the north side of the island is called Baie Sanglant "Bloody Bay". [4]

Mutineer James Morrison [10] wrote: "The Island is full of Inhabitants for its size and may Contain 3000 souls." [5] After only ten days on the island, the mutineers sailed for Tahiti to get women and livestock in which they were only nominally successful. [9] When they returned to Tubuai, they built a fort on the northeast part of the island at Ta'ahueia, manned with cannon and swivel gun which they named Fort George. The mutineer leader, Fletcher Christian, knew that settling on Tahiti was sure to mean the mutineers' eventual discovery and arrest, so despite being viewed as intruders, Christian was reluctant to view permanent settlement on Tubuai as unfeasible. [6] Christian favoured using diplomacy over time to eventually obtain wives, but many of the other mutineers insisted on raiding parties to take wives by force. [6]

The islanders of Tubuai did not want to allow their women to stay at the mutineer camp or to allow them to become wives. [6] They also were not disposed to trade food. It was not long before armed parties of mutineers started burning houses and desecrating marae during skirmishes to obtain women. More battles ensued and more natives were killed. [11] One mutineer, the heavily tattooed Thomas Burkett (who was later tried and hanged in England] for mutiny), was speared in the side by one of the islanders during one of the skirmishes. [12] [13]

After only two months since their first arrival on Tubuai, the mutineers left for good. [3]

1800s Edit

Increased contact with Europeans also meant more exposure to diseases to which the islanders had no immunity. This proved particularly devastating to the population of Tubuai. At some point during the 30 years from when the mutineers left the island on September 17, 1789, and the early 1820s when accounts by Christian missionaries began to be recorded, the population that was estimated by the mutineer Morrison to be 3000 was now reduced to no more than 300 people. [14] [15] [16] One Protestant minister when visiting a congregation on Tubuai on January 3, 1824, wrote that several islanders were still suffering from a devastating illness. He described the symptoms and noted that several hundred had died within the previous four years. [14]

Tupua'i is located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The island is at the centre of the Austral Islands, located 195 km from Ra'ivāvae, 210 km from Rurutu, 700 km from Rapa Iti and 640 km south of Tahiti.

It consists of two former sets of volcanic peaks on Mount Taita'a (422 m (1,385 ft)) which are separated by the collar of Huahine (35 m (115 ft)). Its area is 45 square kilometres (17 square miles), surrounded by a large lagoon, the largest of the Austral Islands.

The coral reef that surrounds it in effect creates a lagoon of 85 square kilometres (33 square miles), an area almost double that of the island. It sometimes reaches 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) wide. Its depth is low, leading to a characteristic colour of turquoise or jade. For a large part, its depth is around 6 metres (20 feet). However, it can reach up to 25 metres (82 feet) in some parts of the south-east. The waters are constantly replenished via a rather strong and fairly constant ocean current, contributing to the preservation of the lagoon habitat and the health of the coral in the reef. The generally cooler waters and until recently very low pollution have also helped sustain this environment.

Many small streams run through the island, though they often empty into swamps rather than the sea. These swamps represent a fairly large portion of the island. Only the river Vaiohuru has any real flow.

Eight offshore motu surround the main island (with an additional 0.4 sq km):

  • Motu One (also known as îlot de sable (Sandly Islet) in the North)
  • Motu Rautaro
  • Motu Toena
  • Motu Roa (also called Motu Tāpapatava'e)
  • Motu Mitihā (originally Motiha'a)
  • Motu 'Ōfa'i (also called îlot caillou (Rock Island))
  • 'Iri'iriroa
  • Îlot plat (Flat Island)

The islets above are listed in clockwise direction from the north of the island. The last two islands are often submerged and hence not visible.

The motu 'Ōfa'i is itself the only island that has not formed through coral because it is composed of basalt, hence its name. It is also the only outcrop of volcanic land other than the main island.

The climate of Tubuai is cooler than Tahiti, with temperatures averaging 20–25 °C (68–77 °F). [17] The climate is rather temperate although it can be quite tropical for a large part of the year. The lowest temperature measured on the island was 9.2 °C (48.6 °F) on 31 August 1951. The highest was 32.7 °C (90.9 °F) on 25 March 1980. [18] The lagoon waters typically reach 26 °C (79 °F) in summer but only drop a few degrees in winter.

The rainfall is about 2000 mm per year with about 1700 mm per year for the years 2006 and 2007. The highest recorded rainfall 2839 mm in 1962 and the lowest was 1186 mm 1952. The record for rainfall in a day is in turn 191 mm on 23 April 1942. [18]

Hours of sunlight is about average for the Australs and is around 1970 hours per year, [19] one of the lowest levels in Polynesia. The humidity is lower in contrast to Tahiti in the order of a few percent, mainly due to its higher latitude and its lower altitude (thus retaining fewer clouds).

The trade winds coming from southeast are the prevailing winds. Those coming from the North or Northwest are synonymous with a change towards more sunny days. [20] The maximum recorded wind speeds, however, never exceeded 45 m/s. [18]

The island has also been the scene of several cyclones, though they are not very frequent and are often weakened before reaching landfall (as with Cyclone Meena in 2004). However, much bigger cyclones occasionally hit the island. As such, on 5 February 2010, Tupua'i found itself in the path of Cyclone Oli with winds averaging 160 km/h (gusting nearly 220 km/h). [21]

Average weather records on Tupua'i: [17]

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average maximum temperature (°C) 27.8 28.3 28.5 27.5 25.8 24.4 23.7 23.5 23.9 24.5 25.7 26.8 25.87
Average minimum temperature (°C) 22.8 23.3 23.0 22.1 20.4 18.5 18.1 18.0 18.0 18.9 20.3 21.5 20.41
Average temperature (°C) 25.3 25.8 25.75 24.8 23.1 21.45 20.9 20.75 20.95 21.7 23.0 24.05 23.14
Monthly average precipitation (mm) 199.2 175.3 176.3 174.2 137.5 107.8 144.9 148.7 98.7 120.1 121.8 187.7 149.35

Since the 1990s, the island's population has stabilised to approximately 2000 inhabitants.

Evolution of the population of Tupua'i since its discovery: [1] [22] [23]

Communes 1777 (discovery by Europeans) 1820 1895 1977 1983 1988 1996 2007 2012 2017
Tupua'i about 3000 about 300 430 1419 1741 1846 2049 2050 2170 2217
Mata'ura 868 954 1025 970
Ta'ahueia 558 552 572 645
Māhū 420 544 573 602

Tubuai is the administrative capital of the Austral Islands, [24] and the commune consists solely of this one island, including the six or seven motus surrounding it. Tubuai was annexed by France in 1881. The commune itself consists of the following associated communes: [25]

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