Mataatua is a large, fantastically carved 1875 wharenui (meeting house) that is the centrepiece of Te Mānuka Tūtahi marae (traditional meeting place). A visit provides a more intimate experience than the classic tourist cultural show. The two-hour tour is an immersive and personal interaction with the Ngāti Awa, and includes a guided tour, cultural workshops, the 'Hiko: Legend Carved in Light' digital experience and a hāngi meal. The one-hour ‘express’ tour is a bullet-point version.
In 1879 Mataatua was dismantled and sent to Sydney, much to the consternation of the local Ngāti Awa people whose ancestors it embodied. Adding insult to injury, it was re-erected inside out, exposing its precious interior carvings to the harsh Australian elements. After a stint in Melbourne it was sent to London and ended up spending 40 years in the Victoria & Albert Museum cellars. After 71 years in the Otago Museum, where it was cut down to fit the space, it finally came home in 2011.