Story: Ngāti Rongomaiwahine

Rongomaiwahine was a woman of very great status, and her descendants are Ngāti Rongomaiwahine. Because of the mana of their ancestor, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine hold firmly to their identity.

Story by Mere Whaanga
Main image: Carved lintel depicting Rongomaiwahine

Story summary

All images & media in this story


Rongomaiwahine was the ancestor of the people of the Māhia Peninsula. She was married to the carver Tamatakutai, but another man, Kahungunu, wanted to have Rongomaiwahine for himself. Tamatakutai was drowned in the crashing surf off the peninsula, and eventually Rongomaiwahine married Kahungunu, the ancestor of Ngāti Kahungunu. They had five children.

Resources from sea and land

Before the arrival of Europeans, the people of Ngāti Rongomaiwahine were able to live from the fruits of the sea and land. Food sources around the peninsula included abundant shellfish, seaweed, eels and whitebait. In the 1830s and 1840s there were whaling stations at Māhia Peninsula. After the stations closed, the people of Ngāti Rongomaiwahine continued to hunt for whales. Inland, the bush provided food and timber resources. Now sheep and cattle are grazed on farmed land. Te Whānau o Rongomaiwahine Trust has been established to ensure the resources of the peninsula are used for the benefit of its people.

Significant places

Some features of Māhia Peninsula are of great ancestral significance. One of the area's most sacred sites is a whale-shaped hill called Te Ara-a-Paikea.

On the western side of the peninsula, the wind rushing through a hole in the summit of another hill, Taupiri, mimics the sound of whale song. Other areas are rich in local history and legend. The pool known as Te Wai Whakaata-a-Tūtāmure is where Tūtāmure looked at his reflection and decided that his younger brother was more handsome, and the more fitting husband for Rongomaiwahine’s daughter, Tauheikurī.


In the 2013 census, more than 4,000 people said they were affiliated with Ngāti Rongomaiwahine.

How to cite this page:

Mere Whaanga, 'Ngāti Rongomaiwahine', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 May 2024)

Story by Mere Whaanga, published 8 February 2005, updated 10 February 2015