Kaitieki o Ngati Maru, Ngati Kaipoho, Ngai Tawhiri, Ngati Ruapani ki Turanga


Rongowhakaata is a principle Iwi of Turanganui-a-Kiwa.

Rongowhakaata Iwi descends from the eponymous ancestor Rongowhakaata and in particular, Rongowhakaata’s wives, Turahiri and Moetai and their issues.


RONGOWHAKAATA was born around 1550 and lived in Ūawa (Tolaga Bay). He belonged to the Ngāti Ruanuku tribe. Through both his parents, Hinepūnake (mother) and Tūmaurirere (father), he traces descent from the three sons of Paikea — Pouheni, Marupapanui, and Rongomaitūāhu — and also from Porourangi and Ruakapanga.

On a journey to Tūranga (Gisborne), Rongowhakaata visited Te Huia Pā near Ngātapa which belonged to the local chief, Moeahu. It was there he met Turahiri, the second daughter of Moeahu, fell in love, and settled with her and her people at Te Huia Pā. Rongowhakaata and Turahiri had only one child, a son they named Rongomairātahi, who was to become one of the principal ancestors of the tribe. The following whakatauāki (proverb) is in reference to Rongomairātahi and the mana that was bestowed upon him.

Te kotahi a Turahiri, ripo ana te moana

The one and only child of Turahiri who causes the rippling of the ocean

Rongomairātahi lived on the slopes of Puketapu with his wife Uekanihi and had three children. When they grew older, two of the children, Hinetūwaiwai and Ruawhētuki with their families, returned to Ūawa, the home of their grandfather (Tapu-i-paraheka) and greatgrandfather Rongowhakaata. The third child, a brother named Tūrourou, remained at Puketapu and became an outstanding leader of his tribe and of the Tūranga district.

Some years after, Turahiri passed away and Rongowhakaata married Uetūpuke, Turahiri’s sister. A short time later he also took another sister, Moetai, as his wife. Uetūpuke obviously didn’t relish the thought of sharing her husband with another woman, let alone her sister. Although pregnant to Rongowhakaata, she and her attendants left Te Huia Pā and settled in Ōpōtiki. No sooner had she and her party arrived in Ōpōtiki, Rongowhakaata arrived to take her home. Uetūpuke refused to return but promised him that if their child was a boy she would name him Rongopopoia. Indeed a son was born, and was named Rongopopoia, who grew to adulthood and prominence in the Ōpōtiki and Ōhiwa Harbour district, forging important linkages with the iwi and hapū of the area. Meanwhile, Rongowhakaata’s marriage to Moetai produced four daughters.

In his later years, Rongowhakaata lived in Pēwhairangi Pā on the current Pā-o-kahu Block. He remained there until his death and was also buried there. Around 1814-15 a massive flood swept through the pā and surrounding areas and washed away virtually everything in its path. Raharuhi Rukupō, together with his brothers and relatives, tried in vain to divert the floodwaters in an attempt to save Rongowhakaata’s gravesite, however, it was washed away as well.

The mana of Rongowhakaata in the Tūranga district was established through his marriage to Turahiri and the descendants of their only child, Rongomairātahi. Through his second wife Uetūpuke and their son Rongopopoia, Rongowhakaata’s link into the Ōpōtiki district was also cemented. And through his third wife Moetai, in particular the marriages of their daughters, Kahukuraiti to Hauiti, the founding ancestor of Te Āitanga-a-Hauiti of Ūawa (Tolaga Bay), and Rongokauae to Tamateakota, a son of Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine, Rongowhakaata’s mana and influence has certainly been etched into the fabric of our community and beyond.