The traditional history report of the Rongowhakaata Trust notes that Ruapani is an important ancestor for all of the iwi and hapu of Turanganui a Kiwa, including Rongowhakaata. All iwi and hapu, including Rongowhakaata, trace their ancestral links to or through Ruapani. Ruapani was a chief of the Turanganui tribes. This was due to the lines of aristocratic descent from Paoa, Kiwa, and the other migrants of the Horouta canoe that converged in him. Ruapani lived at Popoia pa but also moved with members of his second family when they chose to leave their ancestral home. Ruapani was the father of Ruaroa, another prominent ancestor. Kahungunu is a further ancestor of importance for Rongowhakaata; he married two daughters of Ruapani and his descendents intermarried with the descendants of Rongowhakaata.
Rongomairatahi lived with his wife Uekanihi on the slopes of Puketapu. They lived with Uekanihi’s father Tapuiparaheka of the Karimoi branch of Ngai Tahu or Uawa. Rongomairatahi and Uekanihi had two daughters, Hinetuwaiwai and Ruawhetuki, and a son named Turourou. The Rongowhakaata iwi comprises those who trace descent from Rongomairatahi through these three children. These descendents make up the three primary hapu of Rongowhakaata:
- Ngati Maru
- Ngai Tawhiri
- Ngati Kaipoho
Ngati Maru are the descendents of Tapuhere who married Tahatuoterangi. Tapuhere was the daughter of Nihotunga, the great-grandson of Rongomairatahi. Tahatuoterangi was her cousin, the son of Uenuku who was the brother of Nihotunga. Uenuku lived in the Poho o Maru house at Te Papa o Maruwhakatipua. When the descendents of Tapuhere, known as Te Ngare o Tapuhere, had increased to a point where they included their own hapu groupings they adopted the name Ngati Maru after Maruwhakatipua.
Ngai Tawhiri are descended from Rongomairatahi through the three children of his granddaughter, Rongomaimihiao. Rongomaimihiao had two sons, Tawhirimatea and Tutekiki, and a daughter Materoa.
Ngati Kaipoho descend from Kaipoho, the son of Whare and great-grandson of Rongomairatahi. Kaipoho built Tapui pa on the west bank of Te Arai River. Kaipoho also had a fishing settlement at Te Kowhai, near what is now Brown’s Beach. Kaipoho was killed in battle and later avenged by his son Te Aweawe who took over the Tapui Pa. Ngati Kaipoho at one time fought against Ngati Maru and caused Ngati Maru’s exodus from Waiapu, where they had lived for a time.
Besides the three major hapu of Rongowhakaata there are a number of descending hapu; Ngai Te Kete, Ngai te Aweawe, Ngati Rua, Ngati Ruawairau, Te Whanau a Iwi, Ngai Turehe, Ngai Te Aringaiwaho, Ngati Pakirehe, Ngati Rongokauwai
- Ngai Te Kete are a section of Ngai Tawhiri that lived on the Rakaukaka and Papatu lands. The name Ngai Te Kete commemorates the collecting of the bones of those who died in a battle at Manutuke. The bones were washed and placed in kete before being taken away. Those involved in the removal of the bones became known as Ngai Te Kete.
- Ngai Te Aweawe descend from two ancestors bearing the name Te Aweawe. Te Aweawe I was the son of Kaipoho who avenged Kaipoho’s death and took over Tapui pa.
- Ngati Rua descend from Ruarapua who lived at Turi o Ruarapua on Tahora (the part later known as Tahora 2C1). Halbert notes that Ngati Rua are a relatively small section of Rongowhakaata who also descend from Mahaki through the ancestor Taupara. Taupara’s grand-daughter Ruawhetuki married Ruatapunui, a son of Ruapani.
- Ngai Turehe, Ngai Te Aringaiwaho, and Ngati Pakirehe trace their descent to Kaipoho’s great-grandchildren Turehe, Aringaiwaho, and Pakirehe.
- Ngati Ruawairau descend from Ruawairau, the grand-child of Rongokauwai. Rongokauwai was the daughter of Rongowhakaata and Moetai. Moetai was Rongowhakaata’s third wife, who he married after slaying her husband Tuaiti.
- Ngati Rongokauwai is a hapu identified by Rongowhakaata. Rongokauwai married Tamateakota, the second son of Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine (she being an important ancestor for the Mahia and Wairoa district). Rongokauwai had a son named Tutaunga, who had a son name Tutengaehe. The descendants of Tutengaehe became known as Ngati Rongokauwai, after his grandmother.
- Rongowhakaata see Whanau a Iwi as a hapu with strong links to both Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Rongowhakaata. Kahutia of Rongowhakaata was a leading chief of Whanau a Iwi, who are said to have shared interests in the coastal region of Turanganui a Kiwa with Ngati Maru, Ngati Kaipoho and Ngai Tawhiri.
This map shows the traditional and customary interests of Nga Hapu o Rongowhakaata.