Kōrero: Waikato places

Whārangi 11. Kakepuku to Maungatautari

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero


Peak (449 m) south-west of Pirongia mountain. It was named Te Kakepuku-o-Kahu (the hill over which Kahu climbed) by Tainui ancestress Kahupeka, who explored Waikato after the death of her husband. The mountain’s shape explains another popular version of its name, Kakepuku-te-aroaro-o-Kahu (the swollen stomach of Kahu), given by Tainui tohunga Rakataura in honour of his pregnant wife. Tainui tribes occupied Kakepuku for centuries, and there are remains of four under the forest canopy.


Township 4 km south-east of Te Awamutu, with a 2013 population of 1,974. Before the Waikato war, Kihikihi was a Ngāti Maniapoto settlement. Kīngitanga leaders conferred at the meeting house Hui-te-rangiora. In 1894, a memorial was erected in the main street to Ngāti Maniapoto chief Rewi Maniapoto, and he was buried there after his death that year.

In 1864 Kihikihi was garrisoned by the 65th regiment and the 1st Waikato militia. It remained strategically important because of its proximity to the King Country border. During the 1880s it was a construction camp for the main trunk railway. Once the last refreshment stop before the (officially) alcohol-free King Country, Kihikihi has two historic hotels: the Alpha Hotel (1868) and the Star Hotel (1882).


Historic battle site 5 km along the Kihikihi–Arapuni road. By March 1864 the British had control of Waikato, but Rewi Maniapoto led further Māori resistance. A force of 300 Māori built a pā at Ōrākau. It was besieged by nearly 1,500 troops between 31 March and 2 April. Short of water, food and ammunition, the defenders were forced to fire peach stones and fragments of metal and wood. Meanwhile, the troops shelled the pā and began digging a sap – a covered zigzag trench – to try and breach its walls.

On 2 April British commander General Duncan Cameron gave the Māori a chance to surrender. He received the famous reply: ‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou, Āke! Āke! Āke!’ (Friend, we will fight on forever, forever and forever!). Shortly after this, the sap reached the pā and the occupants abandoned it. Many were killed retreating south, and others who were captured, including women, were bayoneted.

The events of Ōrākau were gradually mythologised, and when a monument was erected with much ceremony on the site in 1914, 50 years after the siege, it was Māori heroism rather than British ferocity that was remembered.

Pūniu River

River in the south of Waipā district. The southern boundary of Waikato lands confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, it was a natural barrier between Pākehā settlers to the north, and Waikato tribes taking refuge in the King Country. Although some settlers were afraid of Māori attacking from the south, there are accounts of people travelling and trading across the boundary before 1881, when peace was established.

Suspended mountain

Maungatautari can be translated as ‘suspended mountain’. It is said that the name was given by Tainui tohunga Rakataura, who first saw the mountain rising above the fog that often blankets Waikato.


Ancient volcano dominating the central Waikato basin. Maungatautari has three separate peaks – Maungatautari (797 m), Pukeatua (752 m) and Te Ākatārere (727m) – and a long history of settlement.

The first inhabitants, Ngāti Kahupungapunga, were supplanted by Tainui tribes before the 16th century. These peoples – Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Wairere, Ngāti Hauā and Ngāti Korokī – still own lands on the slopes. Another Tainui tribe, Ngāti Maru, lived at Maungatautari in the 19th century.

Some areas were logged, but regenerated forest includes magnificent groves of mamaku, large rimu and rātā on lower slopes and Hall’s tōtara higher up. The Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust was formed in 2002 to restore forest and reintroduce species. 3,400 hectares is enclosed by a 47-km predator-proof fence, and then all mammalian pests were eradicated. Visitors to New Zealand’s largest mainland sanctuary can encounter kiwi, kākā, takahē, hihi (stitchbirds) and other birds and animals not seen on the mountain for generations.

Wharepapa South

Locality beside the road leading south from Waipā to Taupō. It is a destination for rock-climbing enthusiasts, with challenging climbs including the famous Froggatt Edge.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Waikato places - Kakepuku to Maungatautari', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/waikato-places/page-11 (accessed 16 June 2024)

He kōrero nā Nancy Swarbrick, i tāngia i te 31 May 2010, updated 11 Jun 2015