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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



(c. 1130 – c. 1190).

Maori navigator.

Whatonga was born in Hawaiki about 1130 and was the second son of Ruarangi and Rongaueroa. He was thus a grandson of Toi Kai Rakau. While Whatonga was competing in the regatta at Pikopikoiwhiti a sudden storm blew the canoe out to sea; Toi later undertook his famous voyage in search of his missing grandson. In the meantime Whatonga had reached Rangiatea, where he settled for a time. After his return to Hawaiki he fitted out a large canoe, Kurahaupo (“halo around the moon”) and sailed to find his grandfather. At Rarotonga he learned that Toi had gone on to New Zealand. He followed, making landfall at North Cape, and sailed down the west coast to Tongaporutu, in north Taranaki, where he was told that Toi was living on the East Coast. Whatonga sailed north again and found Toi, who had settled at Kaputerangi, near Whakatane.

Because the Bay of Plenty district was becoming overpopulated, Whatonga sailed down the coast and settled for a while at Nukutaurua, on Mahia Peninsula. From there he sent his sons, Tara and Tautoki, to find a more suitable place for permanent settlement. They chose Wellington harbour, where Whatonga joined them. Their first settlement was at Matiu (Somes Island) but the tribe (Ngai Tara) later spread to Miramar Island and Kapiti. According to tribal tradition Whatonga and Tara were buried in a cave, Wharehohu, on Kapiti.

NOTE—There is confusion in some Maori geneologies arising from the fact that two canoes named Kurahaupo sailed from Hawaiki for New Zealand. The first of these, that commanded by Whatonga, reached New Zealand shortly after A.D. 1150. The second, commanded by Taumauri, is associated with the so-called Great Fleet c. 1350.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The Coming Of the Maori, Buck, P. (1950)
  • The Great Harbour of Tara, Adkin, G. L. (1950).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.