Story: Canoe traditions

Page 4. Canoes of Bay of Plenty

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Mataatua, Te Aratāwhao and Hīnakipākau-o-te-rupe

As well as being linked to Ngāpuhi in the north, Mataatua is said to have landed in Bay of Plenty. According to the traditions two visitors, Hoaki and Taukata, arrived on Hīnakipākau-o-te-rupe from Hawaiki, bringing kao (dried kūmara, or sweet potato) which they gave to Toi, one of the first great Polynesian explorers. Toi sent the canoe Te Aratāwhao to Hawaiki captained by Tama-ki-hikurangi, charging him with retrieving more kūmara. Tama stayed on in Hawaiki and sent the kūmara back on Mataatua, captained by Toroa with his brother Puhi, his sister Muriwai, and his daughter Wairaka. The canoe arrived at Whakatāne, which was named after an incident when Mataatua came adrift. Wairaka saved the vessel, uttering the words, ‘Me whakatāne au i ahau nei!’ (I must act like a man!). In other accounts, it was Muriwai who saved the boat.

The descendants of the crew of Mataatua settled the region. The descendants of Wairaka, Awanuiarangi and Tūhoe-pōtiki became the ancestors of Ngāti Awa and Ngāi Tūhoe. Muriwai became an important ancestor for Whakatōhea. According to traditions, the brothers Toroa and Puhi fought over food resources, and Puhi took the canoe north to Tākou Bay in the northern Bay of Islands, where he became an important ancestor for Ngāpuhi.

The ancestors Tīwakawaka and Māku

Te Aratauwhāiti, captained by Tīwakawaka, was an early migration canoe that made landfall at Whakatāne. Those remembered in the crew are Tīwakawaka's wife, Haumianui, his brothers Toikairākau and Hīrawe, and the crew members Māku, Areiawa, Turuturu, Tokamauku and Hīmoki, each of whom had rocks named after them at the mouth of the Whakatāne River. The migrants built a named Kaputerangi above the present-day Whakatāne township. Other accounts say that Māku arrived on another canoe, either before or after Tīwakawaka.

Another seven canoes

There are traditions about the arrival of seven other canoes in Bay of Plenty:

  • Tākitimu was captained by Tamatea, great-grandfather of Ranginui, the founding ancestor of Ngāti Ranginui in Tauranga.
  • Te Paepae-ki-Rarotonga, under its captain Waitaha-ariki-kore, is said to have landed near Matatā.
  • Te Rangimātoru, under Hape-ki-tū-mātangi-o-te-rangi, which landed at Ōhiwa, is the ancestral canoe of the old tribes Te Hapū-oneone and Ngāi Tūranga.
  • Arautauta was sailed by Tarawa – accompanied by two taniwha (sea creatures) – and landed at Waiōtahe Beach, between Ōpōtiki-mai-tawhiti and Ōhiwa Harbour. On arrival, Tarawa placed the creatures in the spring, Ōpōtiki-mai-tawhiti, and then travelled inland to the Mōtū River, where he met and married Manawa-ki-aitu. Their descendants became part of Te Whakatōhea.
  • Ōtūrereao, captained by Tairongo, landed at Ōhiwa. Another account has it that Taikehu was the captain.
  • Tauira, with Mōtataumaitawhiti as captain, landed at Te Kaha in eastern Bay of Plenty. From this canoe came the ancestors of Panenehu and Te Whānau-a-Apanui.
  • Tūwhenua, captained by Tamatea-mai-tawhiti, is another Bay of Plenty canoe.


Tāwhirirangi was the canoe of Ngāhue, who is said to have landed in Bay of Plenty and then explored much of New Zealand. According to the tradition, Ngāhue discovered greenstone and the moa in the South Island and returned to Hawaiki with greenstone adzes, which were used to construct several other well-known canoes.

How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Canoe traditions - Canoes of Bay of Plenty', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 June 2024)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005