Story: Ngā waewae tapu – Māori exploration

Page 3. Northern explorers

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Tōhē, a chief of the Ngāti Kahu people, lived at Maunga Piko in Kapowairua Bay. When he was very old he announced his intention to travel south and see his only daughter, Rāninikura, who had married a man from the Kaipara near Dargaville. His people, concerned about his health, asked him not to go. Tōhē replied that although one could shelter from the wind, one could not shelter from the longing to see a daughter one last time.

He made his way south, naming over 100 places along the western coast, but died at Whāngaiariki near Maunganui Bluff before reaching his daughter’s home. Tōhē’s place names stand as a memorial to this journey. The most well-known are Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (the long beach of Tōhē), also called Ninety Mile Beach, and Kapowairua (catch my spirit), named in memory of his last words to his people.

Nukutawhiti and Ruanui

When Kupe went back to the homeland of Hawaiki, his canoe, Matawhaorua, was re-adzed. Its new captain, Nukutawhiti, renamed it Ngātokimatawhaorua (‘ngā toki’ means the adzes). He took the canoe back to the Hokianga along with the Māmari, captained by Ruanui. The Māmari landed at Ōmāmari and Whāngāpē Harbour.

The two canoes are important to the Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa and Te Aupōuri tribes.


Hineāmaru, the ancestor of the Ngāti Hine tribe, is famous for her trip from Waimamaku, near the Hokianga, to Waiōmio in the Bay of Islands. With her people, she travelled inland to Waimā, Te Hāwera (present-day Mataraua), Awarua, Tautoro and Pouerua before going on to Ngāwhā Springs, Mōtatau and Waiōmio, where the group settled. Hineāmaru later married Koperu, and the descendants of their disabled son, Whē, spread through the hills toward Whatitiri and Whangārei. Because of this, the tribe is also called Ngāti Hine-pukerau (Ngāti Hine of a hundred hills).


There are several traditions about the explorer Rāhiri. In a journey that took several years, he first went from the far north to Auckland (naming Mt Eden Maungawhau after the whau trees that grew there). Further south, he crossed the summit of the Kaimai Range, naming it Te Aroha (loving remembrance) in memory of his relations in the far north and Bay of Plenty. Rāhiri continued around the coast to Tauranga, Whakatāne and the East Coast, visiting Wharekāhika (Hicks Bay), Horoera, Waiapu, Tūpāroa, Tawhitiroa, Tokomaru and Tūranganui (Gisborne) before heading south through Te Wairoa and Ahuriri (Napier) to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington). From there he went north, up the west coast through Taranaki and Kāwhia.

From this extensive trip, Rāhiri is known as an ancestor of Ngāpuhi in Northland, Ngāti Rāhiri-tumutumuwhenua in Hauraki, and Ngāti Ruanui and Ngāti Rāhiri in Taranaki (where he is called Rāhiri-pakaraka).

How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Ngā waewae tapu – Māori exploration - Northern explorers', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 July 2024)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 24 Sep 2007