Ngā taero a Kupe

The Māori history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara is a complex one beginning with Kupe’s visit in about 950AD.


Jock Phillips, 'Painting - Images of Māori', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Kupe was the first Māori to come to this area and named many places on his travels. Kupe and his people did not stay to populate the area but returned to Polynesia. A few examples of the names Kupe gave are:

                       Te Tangihanga-a-Kupe                  Barrett's Reef 
  Te Tūranganui-a-Kupe   Seatoun Beach
  Te Aroarao-a-Kupe   Steeple Rock
  Matiu   Somes Island
  Makaro   Ward Island


Prior to Māori building permanent pā and kāinga, there were the early people sometimes known as Te Kāhui Maunga and some known as Kāhui Tipua, who moved through to hunt and fish and then move on without establishing much in the way of local settlements or cultivations.

Historian Elsdon Best names Waitaha and Te Tini o Mamoe as the earliest inhabitants of Wellington following Kupe and there is a suggestion that some traditional information and archaeological data may support this. However, it is generally accepted that the first people to permanently occupy the Wellington area were the Whātonga people who arrived from Hawke’s Bay.

Whātonga arrived with his sons Taraika and Tautoki. They first established kāinga on Matiu/Somes Island and then moved onto Motu Kairangi which is now the Miramar Peninsula. Te Whanganui-a-Tara is named after Taraika.

Tautoki became the founder of the Rangitāne iwi, and his brother Tara founded the Ngāi Tara iwi. Tautoki's people occupied the Wairarapa with their western boundary up the Heretaunga (Hutt) River and along the Tararua range. Ngāi Tara occupied the area to the west of the river and the southern coast. Over many years, Ngāi Tara melded into other iwi from the east coast and became known as Ngāti Ira. Many other tribes came and went through Wellington. Ngāti Mamoe, Ngāi Tahu ki Wairoa are said to have coexisted around the harbour with the Ngāti Ira people.



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Information provided by Wellington Tenths Trust

Image from Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand