Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Te Ara o nga Tupuna

The path of our ancestors

Ka Patua te whenua i te kino
Ka ngaro te mana me
te wairua mo te iwi

"Violence against the land
is as destructive to the Mana and Wairua
of the people of that land
as it is to the land itself"

Te Ara o nga Tupuna

This trail will take about 4 hours to drive and view at an easy pace. Vantage points are mostly accessible by wheelchair but there are steps at some sites throughout the trail, namely at Rangitatau and Uruhau Pa.

Throughout this trail, a Pou, (a carved post), marks various sites. These sites have been identified in this booklet with a Pou symbol.

While trail participants will appreciate that many of the traditional sites occupied by Maori in the past have either been built over or destroyed, there is still a spiritual presence associated with these sites that one will feel while viewing them.

Several of the sites on this trail identify more modern Maori architectural dwellings, eg Pipitea Marae and Tapu Te Ranga Marae to give trail participants a selection of Maori sites through different periods of history.

About the trail
The trail starts at the Pipitea Marae in Thorndon Quay, opposite the Railway Station and finishes at Owhiro Bay on the often wild, southern coast of Wellington. While not all of the old pa, kainga, cultivation and burial sites of Wellington have been included in this trail, the sites that have been included are ones that have been selected for their importance to the history of Wellington, their accessibility to the public, and their viewing interest.

Although this is essentially a driving trail, there are several scenic walks included that take in some of Wellington's most breathtaking scenery, (particularly of the harbour and of Wellington's southern coast).

Click on the map to see a larger version.

Māori History
The earliest name for Wellington, one derived from Māori legend is "Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui", or "the head of Maui's fish", ie the one pulled by the Polynesian navigator Maui - which became the North Island.

The first Polynesian navigators were Kupe and Ngahue, who camped on the Southern end of the harbour at Seatoun in 925 AD.

Later visitors were Tara and Tautoki, the sons of Whatonga from the Mahia peninsula. The encouraging reports led Whatonga to establish a settlement around Wellington Harbour, thus the area became known as "Te Whanganui-a-Tara" (the great harbour of Tara). This is still one of the Māori names for Wellington.

These people built pā in a number of places in Te Whanganui-a-Tara including the Miramar peninsula, where the fortifications of Te Whetū Kairangi and Te Rangitatau Pā are located. Rangitatau Pā was particularly important in the seventeenth century when the Ngāi Tara chief Tuteremoana lived there. His daughter Moeteao married a chief of the Ngāti Ira tribe of Hawkes Bay, and this marriage precipitated a process of intermarriage between Ngāi Tara and Ngāti Ira. This led to the amalgamation of these tribes, to the extent at least that most Ngāi Tara became known as Ngāti Ira.

Later Ngāti Ira were joined by the people of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Mamoe. Each of these tribes occupied distinct areas of the harbour, before most of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Mamoe migrated to the South Island some time in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

In 1819 a war party comprising Taranaki, Atiawa, Ngāti Toa, Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whatua, attacked the Wellington area, destroying the main Ngāti Ira fortifications. Most of the Ngāti Ira fled to the Wairarapā where they are still located today.

About 1825-26, Taranaki iwi, particularly Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga and Te Atiawa, moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and established settlements throughout the area made up of the present Wellington City, Petone beach and the Hutt Valley. The eastern side of the harbour remained mostly in the hands of Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Kahungunu however.
The relationship between these people and the Taranaki iwi was an uneasy one, and eventually they attacked Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Kahungunu and drove them out to Wairarapa, thus assuming effective control of the harbour and the surrounding lands.

Besides the remnants of other tribes who once occupied the Wellington area, there has been an influx of other tribal groups since the 1960s. This has resulted in a somewhat unique and complex mixture of iwi in the Wellington region.

Te Atiawa, because of their continuous occupation and rights through Ohāki (gifting) and conquest, are the recognised tangata whenua of Wellington.

Start of Trail

The trail begins at the Pipitea Marae in Thorndon Quay. From here you can see the Pipitea Marae, Pipitea Pa (site 2) and the Old Shoreline.

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1. Pipitea Marae

Pipitea Marae, a modern marae by today's standards, was built in the early 1980s to cater for the growing demand of an urban Maori population in the Wellington region. It signifies a place for people of all iwi and all races to meet, where traditional kawa and protocol are always keenly observed. It is the biggest Marae in Wellington and being an urban Marae, it is often hired out as a conference facility and/or entertainment venue.

The land above the Marae is the site of Pipitea Pa.

2. Pipitea Pa

This site is of great significance to the Māori of Wellington. Pipitea Pā, a traditional kāinga, (village), stood overlooking the beach close to fresh water and cultivation supplies. Although this area was considered a safe landing site for the canoes, it would have been hard to guard against war parties journeying overland from the north. Also, very little advance warning would have been given of any invaders entering the harbour.
The Ngāti Mutunga who had journeyed south from Taranaki in the Nihoputu migration of 1824 first occupied this site. Patukawenga and Te Poki were the leading figures of the Ngāti Mutunga at Pipitea when, in 1835, they renounced their rights to the land in favour of Te Atiawa. They then left for the Chatham Islands.

Pipitea Pā occupied about two and a half hectares of land and had extensive cultivation areas surrounding it. It was bounded by Davis Street, Pipitea Street and Mulgrave Street, and housed about 80 people in the early 1840s. Much of this area was subsequently claimed by settlers and the New Zealand Company's purchase of 1839, an issue of dispute that is still raging today.

Old Shoreline

The shoreline used to be where the road is beside Pipitea Marae.
Much of the shoreline in Wellington Harbour has changed from when European settlement began in the 1840s. In those days it was simply a beach, and until wharves and jetties were built it remained the only means of access from the water. Reclamation has added over 155 hectares to the inner-city area, changing markedly the shape of the harbour, and in doing so has destroyed many of the traditional Māori kai moana (sea food) beds and food sources.

Travel south along Thorndon Quay, past the Railway Station and turn right into Whitmore Street. At Lambton Quay turn left and stop at the end of Woodward Street.

3. Kumutoto Kainga

Kumutoto Kāinga was situated west of Woodward Street above the mouth of the Kumutoto Stream, which flowed into the sea where Woodward Street now intersects with Lambton Quay, then the coastline. (The Kumutoto Stream now runs underground and out to sea).

The site was known as a flax collecting area and a boat landing site, and in 1831 served as the central flax-collection point in a network of flax stations up and down the east of the North Island. Flax, because of its strength, was a sought after commodity by settlers during this period, as it was used as an everyday item, for example as strapping and ropes for shipping, and for the latching and thatching of houses and roofing.

This site was the earlier dwelling place of Te Atiawa chief Wi Tako Ngatata, who along with approximately fifty other people moved to Kumutoto when Ngāti Mutunga left for the Chathams in 1835. Kumutoto ceased to exist as an occupied settlement in 1853 when Wi Tako moved to the Hutt Valley.

Travel along Lambton Quay and turn left into Johnston Street. Turn right onto Jervois Quay and follow the road to Taranaki Street. Turn right and continue on Taranaki Street to its intersection with Courtenay Place. Te Aro Park is on your right. Look for the plaque on the stone memorial at Te Aro Park.

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4. Te Aro Kainga

Te Aro Kāinga was built by the Ngāti Mutunga tribe of Taranaki in 1824. After their departure, the kāinga was split into two parts and occupied by about 35 Ngāti Ruanui iwi at the eastern end and about 93 iwi of the Ngāti Haumia and Ngāti Tupaia hapū from Taranaki at the western end. The stream close by was an important food source for Māori. It was called Waimapihi, "the stream or bathing place" of Mapihi, a local chieftainess.

In 1839, the Wesleyan Missionaries, Bumby, Hobbs and Minarapa Rangihatuake, were welcomed at Te Aro, where they were given land to build a chapel. The missionaries placed a tapu on the pā and its associated lands against sale. Until February 1844 Te Aro Māori refused to sell any of their lands to the New Zealand Company. However, in late 1844, six resident rangatira (chiefs) signed the 1844 deed which effectively brought Te Aro into the New Zealand Company purchase of 1839.

An earthquake in 1855 caused an uplift which raised land in low lying areas of Te Aro enough to be drained, affecting the Te Aro flat. These low lying marshy areas had provided both a food source, with shellfish in the shallows and eels in the swamps, and also large quantities of flax, which was in growing demand by the European settlers. This loss of food source and economic trading base, combined with severe illness and the 1860 migration back to Taranaki to settle land disputes, gradually saw the population of Te Aro Pā dwindle, until 1870 when most of the remaining land was sold to extend Taranaki Street down to the water front.

Travel east down Courtenay Place and stop at the end. Waitangi Lagoon is situated at the Courtenay Place - Cambridge Terrace intersection.

5. Waitangi Lagoon

Waitangi (crying waters) Lagoon was a traditional food source of the Ngāti Ruanui and Ngāti Haumia hapū. Legend has it that a taniwha (water monster) formerly occupied this lagoon, but that having a foreknowledge of the coming of the Europeans, vacated the place prior to their arrival.

Drive up to the top of Mouth Victoria via Majoribanks. Once at the Mt Victoria carpark climb the steps to Mt Victoria lookout to gain a magnificent view of Wellington Harbour. Look for the plaque at the lookout summit.

6. Tangi-te-keo (Mt Victoria)

From here one can see most of Wellington Harbour. Legend has it that two taniwha lived in the harbour (which at that time was an enclosed lake). One was a restless, energetic taniwha named Ngake, who longed to escape its confinements and swim to open sea. It sped about in the north east corner of the harbour, using its tail to build up the shallow area (Waiwhetu), and then hurled itself at the rocks encircling the lake, and smashed through to escape to the freedom of Raukawa moana (Cook Strait).

The other taniwha, Whātaitai, decided to make his escape through another exit. Pushing off with its tail, and in doing so forming the Ngauranga gorge, Whātaitai headed off down the other side of the island of Motu Kairanga (Miramar Peninsula) only to get stuck by the receding tide Ngake had let in. Whataitai's body thus forms the isthmus between the former island of Motu Kairanga and the western side of the harbour, where the airport is now situated. It is believed Tangi-te-keo, (Mt Victoria) was named after the soul of Whātaitai, which, after leaving the taniwha's body, flew up to the top of this hill in the shape of a bird and proceeded to tangi (weep and mourn).

From this spot one can also see Matiu (Somes) Island and Makaro (Ward) Island. Named by Kupe, Matiu and Makaro were always regarded as a place of refuge. However, their lack of water supply meant they were never occupied on a long term basis, and no structures were erected on these islands.

Follow the road down Mt Victoria to Oriental Parade and turn right. Follow the coast road round to Pt Halswell. While driving around Oriental Parade one can see Rukutoa, Point Halswell and the Miramar Peninsula to the left.

7. Rukutoa

Looking out to sea beyond the lighthouse is the area known as Rukutoa. This has always been an important fishing ground and shellfish gathering area for inner harbour tribes. Rukutoa, named because only the most skilled divers were capāble of obtaining shellfish, is notorious for its strong currents and rough waters. Many lives have been lost in divers' quests for seafood at this site.

Continue around the coats and stop at the carpark on the right just past the point.

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8. Kai Whakaaua Waru Kainga

On the east side of Point Halswell, Kai Whakaaua Waru was a kāinga occupied by the Ngāti Ira people. The kāinga site had gardens nearby as well as a stream. Early writers noted several large middens, with oven stones remaining in the vicinity and thought there may have been a kūmara (sweet potato) plantation nearby.

Continue around the coast to Taipakupaku Pt. Look for the small rest area on your left just around Taipakupaku Pt (shortly past Taipakupaku Rd). The first six or so houses around this point are situated on an old burial site.

9. Burial Site - Taipakupaku Pt

A number of burials, dating back from different periods, have been found in this area, including eight skeletons and one skull, upright in the ground. Other relics have also recently been found, including partially ground greenstone. This area is thought to have had extensive occupation by tribes in the early 1800s.

Continue along the coast road and turn right into Awa Road. At the top of the hill turn left into Seatoun Heights Road. Stop at Seatoun Heights Lookout.

10. Whetu Kairangi Pā

Whetū Kairangi was a major fortified pā site built by Tara when he first brought his people to settle. The name of the pā itself refers to the stars in the heavens, although there are two possible explanations of the name's origin. One is that those in the pā could see no other villages and at night had only the stars to look at. The other states that the pā was so named because at night, from the beach below, the cooking fires looked as if they were stars in the sky.

The pā was protected from surprise attack by outlying forts, and provided a safe retreat for the inhabitants of the surrounding unprotected villages. Just along the ridge to the north was the smaller pā of Kakariki-Hutia. It got its name from a battle where the chief of the pā grabbed some uncooked pārakeets and ate them as he ran to battle. The chief prevailed in the ensuing struggle and the victory was attributed to the fortifying properties of the uncooked birds.

This Ngāti Ira pā was later occupied briefly by some of Wi Tako Ngatata's Te Atiawa followers before they moved off to eventually settle in Kumutoto Pā in the late 1830s.

The Pou at the park in Hector Street marks the site of Kupe's first landing site Te Tūranga o Kupe (11), Te Aroaro-o-Kupe (12), and Kirikiri-tatangi (13).

11. Te Turanga o Kupe

Kupe, the great explorer, first landed at Seatoun when he entered the Wellington Harbour, naming his landing area on the Seatoun foreshore "Te Tūranga o Kupe" (the great standing place of Kupe). Upon surveying his surroundings, he decided to swim out to Steeple Rock, one of the remnants, along with Barrett Reef, of the taniwha Ngake's bid for freedom into Cook Strait.

12. Te Aroaro-o-Kupe

While bathing at Steeple Rock, Kupe was washed against the jagged edges of the rocks and badly injured himself, hence the name Te Aroaro-o-Kupe meaning "the groin of Kupe" where he did himself the injury.

13. Kirikiri-tatangi (Seatoun Foreshore)

This name denotes the rattling or rustling sound caused by waves disturbing gravel on the beach. Kupe left some of his people at Seatoun in order to grow food and replenish supplies while he went to explore Cook Strait. Much of the Seatoun Flats were used by Kupe and others as cultivation grounds.

Oruaiti pā is a ten-minute walk from the pou.

Follow the coastal track along the beach, and around Fort Dorset. Walk up the ridge line track to the top of the hill to the pou for spectacular views over Oruaiti Pa and the Wellington Harbour entrance.

14. Oruaiti Pā

Fort Dorset now occupies the site of Oruaiti Pā, one of the old Rangitane stockaded villages of pāst centuries. The pā was nestled into the hill (Fort Dorset) and looked out at Te Aroaro-o-Kupe (Steeple Rock). The flat area adjacent to Oruaiti and below Whetū Kairangi is Marae-nui (where Kupe left his followers to grow provisions). This was an important cultivation area for all the people nearby, which was increased in area and significance by the Hao-whenua earthquake of approximately 1460. Thus the actual landing place of Kupe, Te Tūranga-o-Kupe, was much closer to the base of the hill - where the foreshore would have been before the earthquake.

This site was not only used in pre-European times to watch for enemy entry into Wellington Harbour, but also during World War II when threat of attack was a real possibility.
O-rua-iti means "place of the small pit" where kūmara and potatoes were stored. The Rua potato possibly got its name from this site.

Park at the carpark marked by the pou and walk the short distance to the Ataturk memorial at the top of the steps. From the lookout, sites 15, 16 and 17 can be seen.

15. Rangitatau Pā

Looking to the eastern ridge, one can envisage Rangitatau, a fortified pā that protected the approach to Whetū Kairangi from the sea, with its clear view of Cook Strait and the approaches to the Harbour. The nearby village of Poito often used this pā as a citadel in times of stress or as a retreat when invaders were threatening.

Fresh water was obtained from the nearby Te Poito Stream, which also serviced the Poito Pā. The people of both sites were greatly involved in fishing and collecting kai moana (seafood), which made up a large percentage of their diet.

16. Poito Pā

Looking up the valley on a low spur, above the Tea Poito Stream on its western side, is where Poito Pā, a heavily terraced and palisaded village, once stood. Along with Rangitatau, both pā were attacked and destroyed by raiders from the north in 1819-20 with large numbers killed in the raid. Check the map again?

17. Palmer Head/Rangitatau

The eastern ridge was home to another pā site of Tara, which is still recognisable today. On the eastern side of the extremity of the spur is a ditch like depression that may be an old entrance way from the beach below. Hut sites are also evidenced further up the spur.

Out to sea, the rock site Te Kaiwhatawhata, at the end of Pālmer Head was a favourite fishing spot where Hapūka (Groper) were caught.

Continue around the coast to Island Bay and stop at Shorland Park on the corner of Reef Street and The Esplanade.

This pou marks the site of Te Mupunga Kainga and across the road, Tapu Te Ranga Island.

18. Te Mupunga Kainga

Island Bay was a favoured place of settlement for Ngāi Tara and Ngāti Ira prior to the arrival of the European settlers. Both the hills and the flat were used as pā sites. Old ovens, refuse of shell, bone and stone, including human bones, have been found in the pāst both at this site and at an unidentified village directly across the road on the water's edge.

Look out to sea from this site to view Tapu Te Ranga Island.

19. Tapu Te Ranga Island

This island was used mainly as a pā of refuge with the top of the hill levelled off to form a lookout. A stone wall was erected around the pā to aid in defence from invaders. Legend has it that Tamairanga, wife of leading Ngāti Ira chief Whanake, and her children sought refuge there during the final battle that forced Ngāti Ira from Wellington Harbour. When the island was besieged and defeat was imminent, Tamairanga and her children escaped in a canoe before they could be caught and killed, and sought refuge further up the coast at Mana Island.

20. Uruhau Pā

A fortified pā site, Uruhau was one of a number of sites positioned to protect the major pā Whetu Kairangi from surprise attack. The name means "windy head". A Muaupoko raiding pārty, as a prelude to an attack on Whetū Kairangi pā, is said to have surrounded Uruhau, but in a fierce battle were beaten off.

Drive back to The Esplanade and turn right into The Parade. Drive north up The Parade, turn left at Tamar St, right at Eden St, left at Seine St and left into Rhine St. The Tapu Te Ranga Marae is half way up Rhine St on your right.

21. Tapu Te Ranga Marae

Begun in 1974, this modern marae is certainly unique in Māoridom. The building of Tapu Te Ranga Marae (literally translated as "the sacred rising"), has been the unrivalled passion of former builder and Māori historian Bruce Stewart for the past 25 years.

Tapu Te Ranga Marae, to the many that have visited, conjures up images of an imposing nine storey colossus constructed from what Bruce refers to as "everybody's junk". The walls of the Marae are the ex-car cases from the former car assembly plant Todd Motors. Driftwood and other odd assortments are combined aesthetically to make up the structure.
As Bruce states:

What people threw away, what they decided was rubbish a long time ago - I could see wasn't rubbish. It was beautiful stuff they had thrown out. Now of course, people are waking up to it. The floors are totara, which you can no longer buy. All this stuff was junk. So I gathered it and built a nine storey house out of junk.

However, Tapu Te Ranga marae is not just a physical nine storey structure. It is also a visionary attempt to give something back to Papatūānuku (Mother Earth). Bruce has started a challenging regeneration project that covers much of the surrounding hills.

Return to the coast road and continue along to Owhiro Bay.

At Owhiro Bay intersection, turn right into Happy Valley Rd and stop at the play park on the left. At the bottom of the bank behind the pou are the food storage pits. Owhiro Kainga and the Owhiro Terraces are situated on the hills either side of the valley.

22. Food Storage Pits

The name Owhiro means "moonless night" which comes from Whiro, "the first day of the lunar month".

The name ōwhiro means "moonless night" which comes from Whiro, "the first day of the lunar month". Looking down into the gully, at the back of the playpark beside the stream, one can clearly see the site of the traditional storage pits that once serviced the villages and pā of ōwhiro Bay.

The nearby stream was important as it was used to keep food supplies cool and fresh and as a source of drinking water. The principal branches of the stream drain the eastern slopes of Te Kopāhou ridge on the west and the western side of Tawatawa ridge on the east.

Owhiro Terraces
On the ridge facing southwest, grass covered terraces can be seen. This was once a Ngāti Ira kāinga that was sacked by and occupied by Ngāti Awa last century.

Owhiro Kainga
The eastern side of Owhiro Rd was home to an unidentified Owhiro Bay village. Middens can be seen close to the spur, which was once the site of occupātion. It is thought this village was once occupied by Ngāti Awa who may also have had a kāinga near the river mouth.

To return to the city, continue along Happy Valley Road to Brooklyn. From here follow the main road into the city via Willis Street.

Maori Glossary

HapuSub-tribe
Hui Meeting or gathering
Iwi Tribe or people
Kainga Unfortified village or place of residence
Kai moana Sea food
Kawa Ceremony or dedication
Kumara Sweet potato
Marae Meeting ground, village common
Pa Stockade or fortified place
Rangatira Chief
Tangi To cry, weep or mourn
Taniwha Water monster
Tapu Sacred, forbidden

This reproduces a brochure authored by Matene Love for Wellington City Council and the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Korero o te Wa I Raraunga I Rauemi I Te Whanganui a Tara I Whakapapa