Topic: Tauranga Waldorf School: The Land

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'The Wanderings of Ngaiterangi' is a retelling of the Ngaiterangi legends associated with the land that the Tauranga Waldorf School occupies. It was written in 2009 for the school children by Debbie McCauley who was the school librarian there from 2005 to 2008.

The Wanderings of Ngaiterangi

There are four main legends associated with Ngaiterangi, the iwi (tribe) whose land the school sits upon. The full versions of these stories, compiled by Evelyn Stokes, can be found online at:āori/stories-of-tauranga-moana.aspx 

The legends include: 

1. The Pet Tui of Kahukino

2. Te Heke o Rangihouhiri

3. The Battle of the Kokowai

4. Nga Peke e Maha

The ancestors of Ngaiterangi arrived in Aotearoa from Hawaiki aboard the waka (canoe) Mataatua. In the first of their stories, the Pet Tui of Kahukino, the ancestors are living in the Opotiki area under the chieftainship of Kahukino. A visiting chief (an ancestor of Pukenga, also descended from the Mataatua waka) coveted Kahukino’s pet tui as it could talk, sing magnificently and was reputed to have magical powers. Kahukino refused to part with his beloved pet. The visiting chief felt insulted and later attacked the pa. Many were killed and the wanderings of the survivors began. They wandered as far as the poverty bay area where they worked under virtual slavery for another iwi (circa 1650AD). Under attack again, they fought bravely but moved on, only to withstand another attack. After that, they were provided with canoes and food supplies which they used to move on from the East Coast and head for the Bay of Plenty. They built a pa and settled for a time, but under attack again, the wanderers again packed up and moved west along the coast to Whakatane.

Tauranga Waldorf School site in 1990

In the second story, Te Heke o Rangihouhiri, the iwi get into trouble with the Ngati Awa of Whakatane and are forced to move on again. They travelled west along the coast to near Matata.  Then they moved near to Pukehina where they made plans to attack a pa at Maketu. Pukenga came in and helped Ngaiterangi during the several battles that ensued, the main one being in a valley called Poporohuaema above Little Waihi near Maketu.

The third story, The Battle of the Kokowai (circa 1700AD), begins with Ngaiterangi living relatively peacefully at Maketu until an incident involving Ngati Ranginui from Tauranga Moana. Plans were made to attack the great pa of Ngati Ranginui and Waitaha on Mauao. Ngati Ranginui held the west side facing Tauranga Moana. Waitaha held the east side facing Maketu. These were well fortified pa with terraces, banks and palisades. Ngaiterangi came up with a plan and arrived as visitors at night bearing baskets of kokowai (red ochre) from the banks of the Kaikokopu stream, near Maketu. Mauao’s iwi were suspicious but welcomed the guests. As the welcoming ceremony went on into the night, the Ngaiterangi men gradually excused themselves one by one. Suddenly the last one swiftly left the Whare Whakairo (Meeting House) and secured the door behind him so no Ngati Ranginui could escape. The Whare Whakairo was then set ablaze. Ngaiterangi, who had climbed Mauao’s northern face, attacked from the summit whilst other warriors attacked from all sides. Many fleeing Māori drowned in the harbour as their waka had been sabotaged before the attack. Ngaiterangi took the great pa thereby establishing themselves in Tauranga Moana.

Tauranga Waldorf School c2001

The forth story is Nga Peke o Maha. After the battle for Mauao, Pukenga came from Opotiki to Papamoa. Pukenga attacked and destroyed a pa at Otumoetai and several others before returning to Papamoa. Ngaiterangi drove them out of the area after other incidents. Within three generations, Pukenga had moved back into the area and then broke a Ngaiterangi tapu. Ngaiterangi decided to punish Pukenga and warriors disguised as women pretended to collect shellfish. Pukenga warriors were drawn to investigate and were then attacked. Most were killed while trying to escape, along with their chief. The surviving Pukenga then wandered, living in Maketu, Rotorua and the Coromandel. Many years later Ngaiterangi allowed Pukenga back into Tauranga Moana. They gave them land at Waito, facing Rangataua, which is called the Ngapeke Block (circa 1860AD). The land our school sits upon is just outside the border of the Ngapeke Block.

by Debbie McCauley (2009).



Bernie Johnson, personal communication, August 10, 2009.

History of Tauranga Moana (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2009 from

Karren Anderson, personal communication, August 6, 2009.

Ngaiterangi Iwi History (2009). Retrieved August 10, 2009 from

Peter Arts, personal communication, August 8, 2009.

Stokes, Evelyn (October, 1980). Stories of Tauranga Moana: Occasional paper No. 9. Hamilton, New Zealand: Centre for Māori Studies and Research, University of Waikato.

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Tauranga Waldorf School: The Land