Story: Canoe traditions

Page 4. Canoes of the 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, the Mataatua is said to have landed in the Bay of Plenty. According to the traditions two visitors, Hoaki and Taukata, arrived on the Hīnakipākau-o-te-rupe from Hawaiki, bringing kao (dried kūmara, or sweet potato) which they gave to Toi, said to be 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 the Mataatua canoe, 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 where the Mataatua had come adrift. Wairaka saved the vessel, uttering the words ‘Me whakatāne au i ahau nei!’ (I must act like a man!). In other accounts it is Muriwai who saves the boat.

The descendants of the Mataatua crew 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 the Whakatōhea tribe. According to traditions, the brothers Toroa and Puhi fought over food resources, and Puhi took the canoe northward 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 entrance 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 the Bay of Plenty:

  • Tākitimu was captained by Tamatea, great-grandfather of Ranginui, the founding ancestor of the Ngāti Ranginui people 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 the Te Whakatōhea tribe.
  • 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 the eastern Bay of Plenty. From this canoe came the ancestors of the Panenehu tribe 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 the 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 the Bay of Plenty', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 10 December 2022)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005