Maori History

The tangata whenua whose rohe or area is situated in New Plymouth District have histories that originate hundreds, even thousands, of years ago.

The information below is just a small piece of the whole story relating to the indigenous people of this area. It is to give you a picture of the groups of mana whenua - those who have authority over the land and who reside in the area today.

For more information about any of groups please contact them directly.

All but one of the iwi groups in our district identify as iwi of Taranaki. These iwi are Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Maru and Taranaki. There can be confusion sometimes because there is an iwi called Taranaki, as well as the confederation of iwi in the Taranaki region who are often referred to collectively as Taranaki iwi. However for the collective group of iwi we will use the term Taranaki whānui. 

The other iwi in our district, which is not part of Taranaki whānui, is Ngāti Maniapoto, who identify with the confederation of iwi in the Waikato known as Tainui.

The iwi of our district are descendants from tupuna (ancestors) who arrived in a great number of waka (canoes) over many decades. However, the mana whenua of today associate themselves mainly through oral traditions such as whaikōreo(speeches) and waiata (song) with canoes from the last wave of migration: Namely Tainui, Tokomaru and Kurahaupo waka.  

The following brief information is given on the iwi within New Plymouth District. It needs to be remembered that although the tangata whenua have lived here for centuries, no thought was given to hāu and iwi rohe when the country was being divided up into territorial authority areas and therefore our district crosses over various iwi boundaries.

Iwi information

Ngāti Maniapoto
Ngāti Maniapoto claim interests in land south of New Plymouth District's northern boundary, which is the watershed of Mohakatino River. Their eponymous ancestor Maniapoto is a direct descendant of the captain of the Tainui waka, Hoturoa.

Ngāti Maru
This inland iwi is situated between the Taranaki iwi of Ngāti Mutunga and Te Atiawa in the west, the iwi of Whanganui in the east, Ngāti Haaua to the north, and Ngāti Ruanui in the south. The Waitara valley is generally considered part of the rohe along with the upper reaches of the Waitara River. The settlements of Tarata and Purangi are also within their rohe.

The full name of the iwi is Ngāti Maru-whara-nui, derived from the ancestor named Maru-whara-nui and not to be confused with the Ngāti Maru iwi of the Thames area. The home of the iwi today is Te Upoko o te Whenua Marae near Tarata, and the Ngāti Maru Pukehou Trust is the mandated voice of the iwi.

Ngāti Mutunga
Ngāti Mutunga is a coastal iwi with neighbours Ngāti Tama in the north, Ngāti Maru in the east and Te Atiawa in the south. Mimi, Urenui and Onaero are some of the rivers in their rohe, which also held the very well-known pā of Okoki that is today an historical site and burial place of one of their most famous sons, Te Rangihiroa (or Sir Peter Buck).

Their marae at Urenui is situated on the main road just north of the township.

The tupuna of the iwi, after whom they are named, was said to be Mutunga (the last), who was the last son of his parents and thus received this name.

Ngāti Tama
The Ngāti Tama rohe is situated along the coast in the northern part of Taranaki, and their members are the descendants of Whata, Rakeiora and Tamaariki of the Tokomaru waka.

The iwi is bordered on the east by Ngāti Haaua and in the south by Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Maru. Their rivers include Mohakatino and Tongaporutu and the geographical feature of Parininihi (Whitecliffs).

Today, Pukearuhe Pā is the home of this iwi, which has about 1,000 members.

Historically they were well known for their fighting ability and the guarding of the entrance way from the north into Taranaki. Percy Smith describes Ngāti Tama as: "... at one time one of the bravest tribes in New Zealand, whose warriors have over and over again hurled back the strength of Waikato on the numerous occasions when the latter attempted to force the passage to the south, past the Kawau and other strongholds. Ngāti Tama, in fact, held the keys to Taranaki and they proved themselves very capable of doing so."

Today the Ngāti Tama Development Trust is the mandated and authorised voice of the iwi and has an office in New Plymouth.

Although the tribal rohe of Taranaki iwi is large, incorporating most of the coastal area from New Plymouth to Opunake, there are only two hapū who reside in New Plymouth District: Ngāti Tairi and Ngā Māhanga. They have a collective voice of Te Kotahitanga o Ngā Māhanga Ā Tairi Society Incorporated.

Te Atiawa
The iwi of Te Atiawa take their tribal name from Te Awa-nui-ā-rangi. Their whakapapa and history is extensive and their tribal rohe is the largest in our district.

Their rohe is mainly coastal, and historically there has been many a battle with their southern neighbour Taranaki with regard to boundaries. A branch of this iwi migrated to Wellington in the early 19th century and still resides there. 

This iwi has a number of hapū affiliated to it: Ngāti Rahiri, Otaraua, Pukerangiora, Puketapu, Ngāti Tawhirikura, Manukorihi, Ngāti Tuparikino, Ngāti Te Whiti and Hamua. Owae Marae in Waitara is the marae to which all of these hapū affiliate, but each hapū is autonomous and many of them have their own hapū marae as well.