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Cultural heritage

Ohiwa heritage and history

This ancient whakatauaki, handed down for many generations, demonstrates the enduring relationships of tangata whenua with Ohiwa Harbour and its natural resources. The spawning place of the hammerhead shark below Tauwhare pa is an allusion to the plentiful food supplies available there to nurture the newly-born sharks. This in turn alludes to the bounteous nature of the whole Harbour, and the many hands harvesting that bounty throughout history ('noa mai' is an abbreviation of 'noa mai ra ano', since the beginning of time).

E noho ana au ki te koko ki Ohiwa
Kia whakarongo rua aku taringa
Ki te tai o tua o Kanawa
E aki ana mai ki uta ra
Ki te whanau a Tairongo
Kei Tauwhare ko te kopu o te Ururoa
Ko te kai ra i raru, noa mai te Raweketia
E te ringaringa

As I sit on the beach at Ohiwa
I listen to the waves beating over the sandbar at Kanawa
Against the foreshore
The home of my ancestor Tairongo
My mind wanders to Tauwhare
The birthplace of the hammerhead shark
And to the food basket, revered by many hands

Tangata whenua of the Ohiwa Harbour

Ōhiwa Harbour lies within the homelands of Ūpokorehe, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe. For centuries they have lived in and harvested food from Ōhiwa Harbour and its environs. This is reflected in the high concentration of cultural/ archaeological sites in and around the harbour. Ōhiwa is still recognised as a food basket by Māori, many of whom continue to rely on collecting shellfish and other food to help feed their families.

Māori knowledge of the abundant food resources at Ōhiwa has endured for many centuries. The earliest names of the harbour reflected this, including ‘Te Kete Kai a Tairongo’ (the food basket of Tairongo) and ‘Te Umu Taonoa a Tairongo’ or the place where Tairongo found an abundance of food ready to eat.

In the 1860s all iwi in the eastern Bay of Plenty were dispossessed of much, if not all of their land. For Ūpokorehe, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe this included Ōhiwa Harbour and catchment. While the Crown’s confiscation adversely affected the ability of tangata whenua to use, occupy and manage Ōhiwa Harbour’s resources, it did not extinguish their ancestral relationships nor eliminate evidence of their former use and occupation of Ōhiwa Harbour.

Ūpokorehe, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe have agreed that as tangata whenua they will work co-operatively to exercise kaitiakitanga of the Ōhiwa Harbour. They also acknowledge the relationship that distant iwi like Ngaitai, Te Whānau a Apanui, Te Whanau a te Ehutu, Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Whare and others, have with Ōhiwa Harbour.

To Māori, Ōhiwa Harbour continues to be an important taonga, a priceless treasure that must be looked after so its rich resources are there for future generations to share


Ka rangaranga te muri
Ka rangaranga te mua
Na Angaangarau na Tohearau

In front and from the rear we are united by the multitude of Chiefs of Whakatōhea.

The history of Whakatōhea spans generations of intermarriage between hapū who lived side by side within the boundaries of Whakatōhea. The intermarriages not only occurred within Whakatōhea but also between neighbouring Iwi Ngāti Awa, Te Aitangi-a-Mahaki and Ngāi Tai. For those hapū who lived on the boundaries between Whakatōhea and our neighbouring Iwi, namely Te Ūpokorehe, Ngāi Tama and Ngāti Rua, shared whakapapa (genealogy) was common.

Hapū of Whakatōhea have resided here since the early 1800’s and over time have retained a general understanding of each other’s boundaries, as identified in the following statement made in 1920 at the Māori Land Court in Ōpōtiki, by Hoera Horokai from Ngāti Ngahere and Te Ūpokorehe: “Commencing at Pakihi, to the mouth of the Waiōtahe Stream, to Ōhiwa Harbour, to Te Horo, then turning inland southwards to Puhikoko to Pukemoremore. Then descending to Waimana Stream to Makapouriki; following the the Waimana Stream to Tautautahi along the banks to the mouth of Parau Stream; then following Parau Stream to Tangata-e-roha onto Kaharoa (an old settlement); from Kaharoa to Pa Harakeke, a ridge leading to Maungapōhatu to Maungatapere descending into the Mōtū River to Kaitaura Falls to Peketutu; leaving the river and up a ridge to Whakararonga; following the hill tops until it reaches Tipi O Haumea (a peak) descending towards Makamaka until it crosses Takaputahi Stream to Ngaupoko Tangata following the ridge to Kamakama; along the ridge to Oroi the turning seawards to Te Rangi, then along the sea coast to the mouth of the Ōpape Stream to Awahou, to Tirohanga and back to Pakihi.

Whakatōhea is the only Iwi that resides within this tribal region and can trace their history back to the arrival of the Nukutere and Mataatua canoes. The Mataatua canoe, bearing our ancestor Muriwai from Hawaiki, reached Whakatāne nine generations after the Nukutere canoe. Muriwai’s son Rēpanga went to Ōpōtiki where he married Ngāpoupereta. Rēpanga’s descendant, Ruatakena, became the ancestor of the Ngāti Ruatakena people (known as Ngāti Rua). Muriwai’s daughter Hine-i-kauia followed her brother and married Tūtāmure, the leader of the Panenehu people. The descendants of this union became known as Whakatōhea.

Tūtāmure’s counterpart in the west was Kahuki, who lived at Waiōtahe where he built a pa close to the river. Te Ūpokorehe hapū occupied lands at Waiōtahe and Ōhiwa and were under the control of Kahuki. Being on the western border, Te Ūpokorehe were subjected to a number of attacks from Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa. In times of danger, Te Ūpokorehe sought refuge at Ōpōtiki. The final battle between Whakatōhea and Ngāti Awa and their Tūhoe ally took place at Marae Tōtara, where the Whakatōhea chief Te Rupe led his people to victory with the haka ‘Te kotiritiri te kotaratara’.

Whakatōhea’s territory contained rich sources of food that enabled hapū to access this on a seasonal basis. Ōhiwa Harbour, named ‘the daughter of Whakatōhea’, held plentiful supplies of shellfish, including cockles, mussels and sea snails. Mussels and crayfish abounded in Ōhiwa Harbour and, in the forests, it was easy to catch kererū (wood pigeons) and other native birds. Whakatōhea has exercised its mana over this stretch of coastline for generations and will do so for generations to come.

Whakatōhea land was confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act in 1863 and many Whakatōhea people were killed. Whakatōhea lost approximately 491,000 acres of land and were jammed into the Ōpape native reserves located at Ōpape. This injustice was partially redressed in 1952 when a Government grant was given to Whakatōhea to establish the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board.

For more information visit the Whakatohea website.


Ūpokorehe are a unique people as they can trace their origins back to Te Hapuoneone which existed at a time that predates the arrival of the Mataatua waka and other related waka of the great migration. Their history is so entwined with the Ōhiwa Harbour and the surrounding lands that it has become an integral part of their culture, their society and their very existence.

Ūpokorehe can whakapapa to the famous navigator Hape-ki-tuārangi who arrived on the Rangimātoru waka and settled at Ōhiwa. They were here when Tairongo arrived on the waka Ōtūrereao and of course by way of intermarriage, they also share kinship ties to Mataatua. Ūpokorehe have always maintained their rights as kaitiaki of Ōhiwa Harbour as they have always had a long and respectful relationship with the Ōhiwa Harbour, and their Ahi Kā Roa (long burning fires of occupation) have never been extinguished.

For many generations the Ōhiwa Harbour has paid tribute to the existence and wellbeing of local Iwi and Hapū. Te Ūpokorehe, hold mandate as rightful and legal kaitiakitanga status over these waterways and all surrounding lands, as they sit within the rohe of Te Ūpokorehe.

For generations the Ūpokorehe have managed, maintained and preserved the harbour and all its precious taonga, for it is the lifeline and identity of the local native people. Ūpokorehe have customary rights to fish and gather shellfish pertaining to tikanga.

For generations it has been passed on and understood that it is of the utmost importance we preserve this significant taonga. We are born natural conservationists and to this day we have maintained management, preserved, and replenished the kaimoana and its environment to the best of our abilities.

Te Ūpokorehe reserve all rights customary and legally to the Ōhiwa Harbour and its inhabitants as it is, and always will be, our birthright as legal kaitiaki of this resource.

It is the only part of our heritage we have left. It is the only taonga the Government did not confiscate. It is our identity, waahi tapu, and future existence. 

For more information, contact Trevor Ransfield on 07 315 4990. You can read more about their mangrove management activities in the case study - Upokorehe get 'hands on' with mangroves

Ngati Awa 

“Mä te ngaruru ō te Moana ō Ōhiwa, ka noho momoho ngä taonga tuku-iho hei oranga mō ngä whakatipuranga ō naiānei me ngā wā kei mua”

As Ōhiwa flourishes, opportunities abound for present and future generations to perpetuate its uniqueness”

Ngāti Awa’s contribution to the Strategy partnership is encapsulated in a plea by Mereaira Rangihoea the daughter of the Ngāti Awa Rangatira Te Keepa Toihau in 1847 who at that time was occupying Tauwhare Pā on the North/west shores of Ōhiwa. It was on the occasion of an anticipated attack on the Pā.

The Ngāti Awa occupants of the Pā were totally unprepared and outnumbered and Mereaira pleaded with her father Te Keepa to prevent any fighting. “We have no other choice” said Te Kepa sadly.

Overcome with love and terror Mereaira, (whose husband was Kape Tautini a young Whakatōhea chief) with her infant son, Te Pirini Tautini in her arms, rushed to the top of the southern cliffs of the Pā so that all could see, raised her son above her head and cried:

“The child that I am holding in my hands is a symbol of our two tribes and could make for peace or war, what is the use of living together if the price is ever to be paid for in blood? Has not the sea sufficient for all? Who then can say it is theirs alone? Unless the fighting is stopped now and for all time, I shall throw my child onto the rocks below and his death will be your eternal disgrace”.

The two warring parties were visibly and emotionally moved, they gathered together, embraced, shed tears of joy and a lasting pact of peace and harmony prevailed. Te Pirini Tautini grew up to become prominent in councils of Ngāti Awa.

Ngāti Awa, Whakatōhea, Upokorehe and Tūhoe share universal eponymous ancestors epitomized by the parable: “Te Tapatoru ā Paewhiti” The three sons of Paewhiti”

Ngāti Awa will endeavour to avoid placing ownership stakes in the ground and in its stead offer our contribution as Kaitiaki colleagues to protect the sanctity of cultural traditions and values contiguous to ecological/environmental and recreation imperatives regarding Ōhiwa, Te Umu taunoa ā Tairongo – Te Kete kai ā Tairongo.

The key essence of this contribution by Ngāti Awa is an extraction of the plea by Mereaira: “Has not the sea sufficient for all, who can say it is theirs alone” which is intended to invoke the dynamics of inclusivity.

“Te Toetoe tū tōtahi, kā whati i te hau, ē ngari ano te Toetoe tū kōpuni e kore e whati”.

The Toetoe that stands in isolation will be destroyed by the elements with ease, however the Toetoe that grows in mass will with-stand the winds forces, It is in unity that we gain strength

For more information visit the Ngati Awa website.


Traditional connection with the Harbour

Prior to the arrival of Mataatua into the Eastern Bay of Plenty area and the eventual landing at Kākahoroa, four groups formerly known as Te Hapūoneone, Ngatoropuehu-te-Wakanui, Te Tini o Toi and Ngā Pōtiki and what could only be termed as the ancient people, were already living in the area. The ancient people were time honoured with their own distinct origins, having established their own distinctive connections to the land and instilling it with the spirit of passing generations.

Te Hapūoneone was known as the “earth borne people” and were descended from Hape-kiTūmanui-o-te-Rangi who arrived from Hawai’iki Tawhiti on the Rangimātoru waka landing in Ōhiwa. Hape as stated by Halbert in Horouta married Hine-Rua-Rangi the daughter of Toi. His people also married into the ancient people of the area until they were eventually absorbed into the Te Hapūoneone group and they occupied all that land from Ōhiwa through to Waimana, across the Taiarahia range to Rūātoki and skirting across the Rangitāiki Plains to Matatā. Te Hapūoneone consisted of related tribes which included Ngāti Raumoa (from which the Ūpokorehe hapu is descended), Ngāi Te Kapo and Ngāi Tūranga and were very active in Waimana, Te Urewera and Ōhiwa.

Importance of the Harbour to the people

Tamakaimoana who descended from Ngā Pōtiki lived around Maungapōhatu with many others. A rangatira by the name of Maungaharuru suggested to the people of Tamakaimoana they should move north and occupy the lands in Waimana, Kutarere and Ōhiwa areas. Most of the people thought this would be a good idea and agreed to the suggestion which was politically and economically motivated and would ensure a corridor between Maungapōhatu and Ōhiwa remained open at all times.

Maungaharuru began the massive task of establishing a re-settlement program but he first had to build a number of pa sites and gardens before he could begin the mammoth task of moving the Tamakaimoana and Tairongo people to inhabit them. Maungaharuru passed away before the task was completed. The people of Tairongo and Tamakaimoana developed a very good relationship between them and at certain times of the year would meet at a designated area where they would exchange preserved foods from their particular areas. At certain times one group would travel into the other group’s area to gather fresh items however they always informed the other group of their intentions.

Middens of shellfish can be seen on ridges in Kererūtahi where the Tamakaimoana group would have stopped for meals on the return trip from Ōhiwa to Maungapōhatu. Small shellfish middens can also be found along the ridge from Pukenui-ō-raro, (small hillock) Taumata-ō-Hine, (taumata=resting) Pukenui-ō-Raho (bruised penis) and Nanahu (distort the features) and then dropping in to the Tauranga River at Te Kaawa and on to Maungapōhatu.

Current relationship with the Harbour

The federation of twelve hapu known as Te Waimana Kaaku (who are affiliated to Tūhoe) are located some 27.5 kilometres (26 minutes) due south of Ōhiwa Harbour on State Highway 2, in Waimana and directly along the Tauranga River to Maungapōhatu Mountain. The current relationship of the people of Te Urewera with the harbour has not changed from the time of the ancient people to the present. The relationship and agreement between the people of Te Ūpokorehe Hapū and Te Waimana Kaaku is maintained.

For more information visit the Tuhoe website.

Colonial times

In recent colonial times, before the development of roads, the Harbour was an important transport hub. There was a busy wharf at Kutarere, serviced by coastal scows (flat-bottomed boats) and another at Port Ohope. Local produce was taken from here to Auckland and household and farming supplies were brought in. There was a hotel at Ohiwa spit (in a location now submerged in the Harbour) at which travellers stayed while they waited for a trading scow or the ferry across the Harbour entrance. Cream and butter were transported by boat to Auckland from the dairy factory at Cheddar Valley. The dairy factory is now a pottery.

Click here to read the story of Leo Ducker, the first pākehā child to be born at Ohiwa (250 KB, pdf).

Read more about the restoration of Ngati Awa farm, located on the fringes of the Ohiwa Harbour in this case study - Ngati Awa Farm land-use change