Our historical identity | Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand | Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty

Our historical identity

Our cultural connections in the Bay of Plenty.

"Mai i Ngā Kuri a Whārei Ki Tihirau"

This poetical proverb is an ancient quotation that was uttered by the great ancestress Muriwai, the daughter of Irākewa and Wekanui-a-Ruakapanga.

She was the sister of Toroa, Puhi, Huriwainuku, Rahiriterangi, Taneatua, and Tamawhiro. From these ancestors came the people of Mataatua.

The Mataatua canoe landed at Pārengarenga in the north, then to Whangaparoa just outside the boundaries of the present-day Auckland township. Mataatua then headed towards the east coast and landed at Whangaparaoa under the summit of Tihirau mountain.

Tihirau was named by an ancestor, Paikea. He likened the mountain at Cape Runaway to the ancestral mountain Tihirau in Hawaiki.  Because Paikea had travelled a great distance from his homeland in Hawaiki, he named this mountain at Cape Runaway, "Tihirau-mai-Tawhiti (Tihirau from afar)."

From the east coast, Mataatua sailed to Tauranga.  At Tauranga the ancestor Whārei and his pet dogs disembarked the canoe Mataatua and settled at Bowentown. Whārei observed that the rocks at Bowentown had similar features to his pet dogs, hence the proverb: "Mai i Ngā Kuri a Whārei" or "the dogs of Whārei".

The Mataatua canoe then sailed to Pukehina passing Maketu. The waka then journeyed to Otamarākau then to Te Kaokaoroa and made landfall at Pikowai. The canoe continued its journey and landed at the river mouth of Tarawera.  This area in Matata is referenced as Te Awa o Te Atua. From here the Mataatua canoe sailed onwards to Whakatāne passing the Rangitaiki river and the Orini river.  Mataatua made landfall at the river mouth of Ohinemataroa, the present Whakatāne river.

It was Muriwai who uttered the proverbial saying; "Mai i Ngā Kuri-a-Whārei ki Tihirau." She quoted this proverb because her twin children drowned in the Pacific Ocean during the voyage of Mataatua from Hawaikinui to Aotearoa. For many generations, Muriwai placed a prohibition along the entire coastline from Bowentown in the Tauranga region to Cape Runaway. For such a rāhui to be established and remembered to this day is a statement about the priestly powers and mana of Muriwai.

From Mataatua waka come the descendents of the Bay of Plenty iwi of Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Whare, Ngāti Awa, Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tai, Ngāi tuhoe, Te Whānau ā Apanui and Te Whānau o te Ēhutu.

Within this boundary we also acknowledge the Tauranga Moana connection to the Takitimu waka. The captain of the canoe, Tamatea Arikinui, had returned to Rangiātea on the instructions of his grandfather, Awanuiārangi, to convince tōhunga and ruahine to return with the mauri of atua to Aotearoa to establish higher schools of learning and wisdom. He returned successfully along with Tahu Pōtiki and Porourangi and eventually made his way to Tauranga Moana.

The Takitimu moored at Te Awaiti and Tamatea Arikinui placed the mauri of Kahukura, one of the significant atua, at the base of Tirikawa rock, before conducting karakia. He and his crew then completed their ceremonies of arrival at Waiputakākahu on Mauao. The Takitimu canoe continued its journey, but Tamatea Arikinui remained in Tauranga Moana, marrying Toto a descendent of Toi, and establishing his pā at Maunga Mana, now known as Mangatawa. From this marriage come the descendents of Ngāti Ranginui.

"Mai i Ngā Kuri a Whārei ki Tihirau, Mai i Maketū ki Tongariro"

The second part of our pepehā “mai i Maketū ki Tongariro” reflects our regional connection to Te Arawa waka.

Te Arawa and its crew left Hawaiki after a conflict over food resources. Tamatekapua captained Te Arawa, having kidnapped Ngātoroirangi from the Tainui canoe to act as his navigator. While at sea Tamatekapua also tried to seduce Ngātoroirangi’s wife. In retribution Ngātoro threatened to destroy the canoe in Te Korokoro-o-te-Parata (the whirlpool of Te Parata) but relented at the crew’s pleading. According to some accounts the canoe was saved by a mystical shark (arawa), for which the canoe was named.

The canoe initially arrived at Whangaparāoa and then explored the Bay of Plenty, the Coromandel Peninsula and Tāmaki (Auckland) areas, before making final landfall at Maketū Harbour. Several ancestors made long inland journeys: Īhenga and Kahumatamomoe explored the Rotorua lakes district, the Waikato River, Whāingaroa (Raglan Harbour), Manukau and Kaipara harbours; before returning to Maketū along the East Coast. Ngātoroirangi and Tia, voyaged inland to Lake Taupō. Ngātoroirangi climbed Mount Tongariro, where he nearly froze to death. He called for fire from Hawaiki, which was implanted in several locations between Whakaari and Tongariro. Hei, Tapuika and Waitaha occupied the country around Maketū. Rangitihi occupied the Rotorua lake area. Ngātoroirangi's progeny remained in the Taupō district and were eventually dominated by Ngāti Tūwharetoa. So it is said “Ko te ihu o te waka kei Maketū, ko te kei o te waka kei Tongariro.” From these ancestors come the iwi of Waitaha, Tapuika, Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū, Ngāt Whakahemo and Ngāti Mākino,

"Mai i Ngā Kuri a Whārei ki Tihirau, Mai i Maketū ki Tongariro" identifies key tribal boundaries within which all the various whānau, hapū, iwi and waka of Te Hauora ā Toi reside. This is the pepeha of Te Pare ō Toi.