At Nukutaurua, the Kurahaupo people had a reasonably comfortable life. The sea gave them plenty of fish and shellfish, and there were eels in the lagoons and estuaries, but the land was not so generous. The plants they had brought with them; Taro, Kumara, Yam, Aute, Gourd and Cabbage tree did not grow well there.
If they wanted the plants they had brought with them to yield crops, they needed to move.
In those times there were no roads, only a few tracks, and the Maori had no wheels or pack animals. When moving from one place to another the choice was simple. Either; walk and carry what you have with you, or put it in a boat and paddle.
The founding population of New Zealand was born of Polynesian seafarers; accomplished boat builders, navigators and sailors. Boats were the principle means of transport. As New Zealand was settled, it was populated first around its water margins, coast and river, and later, inland. To travel any significant distance except by water was extremely arduous in this hilly and unbroken land.
“We set of for the plains with everything we could fit in the canoes. Some of the men returned for the rest later.
We rounded the Cape and saw across the Bay for the first time. It was a long way, but we could see the hills on the far shore in the distance; our new home. As we went around the bay we could see that there were other people in the area, we could see their fires. The men had already spoken to some of them. We wouldn’t go where the hearths are kept warm, we didn’t want to fight. We went to the land at the far Eastern end of the bay, close to Te Matau-a-Māui.
At Te Awanga we have a good little harbour, and river. Fishing is good out towards the Cape, and there are plenty of crabs and shellfish around the rocks. We have hills behind us and the plains at our side. The hills give us big trees, for building and for canoes. We burned the bush off the flat land next to us and turned the ash into the ground; it makes fine planting fields.
The soil here is good to work with; as it is neither too hard for the Ko to break, nor too wet for the young plants.
Our plants are thriving in the good soil and sunshine. They will never dry out here. Even if the land dries we will be able to give them water from the rivers. This year’s harvest will be good. Until then we have what sea and forests give us, as well as the fern root that we have been shown by the local people.
This is a bountiful land. Thank the spirits.”
Most of the Kurahaupo people moved on, but Popoto stayed and married Nanaia. Six generations later Rongomaiwahine, was born, famous for her beauty. Rogomaiwahine had exceptional lineage. She was descended from both Popoto, captain of the Kurahaupo and Ruawharo, Tohunga of the Takitimu. Rongomaiwahine rose to lead a tribe of that name, and those people remain on Mahia to this day.
Under the leadership of Whatonga, The Kurahaupo people left Nukutaurua for the lush plains around what is now known as Hastings, in Hawke’s Bay. It is a large and sheltered coastal plain with fertile soils. The plains are watered and drained by three large rivers that never run dry, and it is amongst the sunniest parts of the country. These days it is famous for its wines; a testament to the region’s wonderful growing conditions.
The people of the Kurahaupo settled on the plains, but they were not the only people that had found the location attractive… there were already groups there; the Te Tini a Awa, Ngati Mahu, Ngati Mamoe, and Ngati Ira. Each had their own territories.
One of the elements defining a tribe’s range was where their fire pits were located. Where they regularly lit fires was considered to be within their ‘rohe’, or territory. If you moved onto land that had recent fire pits on it, then you should expect that someone else had prior claim over it.
There were four principal means of acquiring territory.
– The land was vacant
– Your people had always been there
– The territory was gifted to your people by someone with rightful guardianship
– Your people took the land by conquest
If you trespassed on someone else’s land uninvited, then you should expect to be evicted.
The Kurahaupo people occupied the coast and land to the East of the Tukituki River.
Whatonga built himself a house he called ‘Heretaunga’ which was known for its fine carvings. ‘Heretaunga’ means; a place where you tie up the canoes, but over the course of time this name became used to represent the whole area.
On these fertile Heretaunga plains, the Kurahaupo people and their crops flourished.
Whatonga’s first son was born at Te Awanga, to his first wife, Hotuwaipara. They named him ‘Tara-Ika’. The story is that Whatonga went on a fishing trip to Cape Kidnappers where he caught a lot of fish. On his return his wife cut herself on the spines of one of the fish, and Tara-Ika, ‘fish spine’, was named after this event.
Cape kidnappers is known to the Maori as ‘Te Matau-a-Māui’, ‘the fishhook of Maui’ that pulled up the North Island..
After Tara was born, Whatonga set out to explore some of this new land. He rounded Cape Kidnappers and followed the coast of the North Island in an anti-clockwise direction. He touched the top of the South Island, and entered Wellington Harbour which he named for his son; ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’, ‘The great harbour of Tara’.
He continued around the coast to the west and north and then went up the Manawatu River. At Aokautere (to the East of Palmerston North) he married his second wife, Reretua, and had another son, Tautoki. After a while, Whatonga moved on again, back to Heretaunga, bringing with him his new wife Reretua and infant Tautoki.
Reretua had at least two more sons, and Hotuwaipara had another son, Tumatakokiri.
Among the Polynesian immigrants it was common for the men to have multiple wives. These were often women from the ‘Tangata Whenua’, the ‘People of the Land’, that were already living there.
To the South-West of Napier is the township of Taradale. It’s original name is Omaranui, which means ‘place of abundant cultivation’. Overlooking it, and controlling the Tutaekuri River is a huge Pa site called Otatara. This is an ancient site that was occupied by the Ngati Ira when the Kurahaupo people arrived.
Tara took his people, and with the Ngati Mamoe mounted an unsuccessful assault on Otatara Pa. In retaliation, Te Whakumu, Chief of Te Ira, led 400 men in an attack on the Ngati Mamoe stronghold at Puketapu.
This indicates the scale of the population on the plains at that time; a single tribe could present 400 warriors when required.
Tautoki married Waipuna, and they had a son Rangitane, (also known as Tānenuiarangi), who became the eponymous ancestor of the Rangitane tribe. Rangitane, built a Pa on the South side of the Ngaruroro River, in direct sight of Otatara, where he lived with his Grandfather, Whatonga. The Tānenuiarangi Pa was still occupied in 1859 when Europeans arrived, but is now the site of the Whakatu meat works.
Heretaunga became a springboard for growth, and inspired by Whatonga’s explorations, Tara set out to claim some of the new land he had discovered.
Tara and his people made their way south from Heretaunga to ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’, Wellington Harbour. There they settled at Mirimar, which at that time was still an island. By the time Tara reached Mirimar they numbered over 200 people, and Tara had become the Eponymous ancestor of Ngai Tara. From Mirimar, Ngai Tara looked across Cook Strait to the South Island. In time they occupied the Marlborough Sounds and the coast around Nelson.
The Rangitane people expanded down the East coast occupying all that coast until their territory met with that of their cousin’s, now the Ngai Tara. From Palliser Bay they crossed to Wairau and the Blenheim plains.
The descendants of Whatonga, through Tara and Rangitane expanded their range, eventually occupying and controlling the whole of the North Island from Heretaunga south.
While Tara and Rangitane went South, another of Whatonga’s sons, Tumatakokiri, headed North-West… to Taupo.