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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Naming of Turanga

Naming of Turanga

There is (Elsdon Best says) one tradition that seems to indicate that Poverty Bay was occupied, albeit but sparsely, by Mouriuri during Toi's lifetime. It states that, shortly after Whatonga reached New Zealand and had found Toi dwelling at Whakatane, he resolved to seek a home for himself and his followers. As they were about to leave in the Kurahaupo, Toi said to their leader:

“Farewell! When you see a bay trending inward to the north-west, wherein are two rivers, one at the southern end of the sandy beach, and the other at the other end of the beach where it trends westward, a bald cliff south of the southern river, a ridge on the eastern side of the other river, the outspread (hora) land lying between the two rivers, a range to the south-west and one to the eastward—when you see this lay of the land, then that is the place where I stopped (halted) out at sea and inspected the place from my vessel. Now do you make your home here, for human occupation is scattered, as it also is farther south. When you enter the bay, turn your face to the south and you will see the point of land I spoke of projecting outward. Now do you name it ‘Turanga’ for me in memory of my turanga (halting) out on the ocean.”

This story, with some topographical variations, was obtained by J. M. Jury in Poverty Bay in 1840, and was published by his son, H. T. Whatahora, in the Journal of the Polynesian Society (December, 1913). However, the Maoris of Poverty Bay do not agree with Best and Whatahora that the district was ever known as “Turanga-nui-o-Toi.” They claim that it was named “Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa (after Kiwa, captain of Takitimu canoe). Several stories have been handed down as to the circumstances in which the designation “Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa” was bestowed. One states that a canoe in which a son of Kiwa was fishing was blown out to sea and did not regain the land. The distraught father was unable to realize that he had lost his son. Day after day, he would stand on the beach, near the mouth of the Turanganui River, gazing seaward and always hoping that his son would return. On that account, the spot became known as “Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa” (“The long standing-place of Kiwa”), and was subsequently adopted as the name for the district. In another story, the district is stated to have received the name because it was the locality in which Kiwa halted after he had set out on foot from Mahia to explore the land higher up the coast.

Another name which the district is said to have borne is “Turanga-nui-a-Rua.” Best was of the opinion that the Rua so honoured might have been Ruawharo, one of the principal chiefs page 6 of Takitimu; or Rua-te-Hohonu, a reputed ancestor of the Rongowhakaata tribe, of Turanga; or even Ruapani, the eponymic ancestor of Ngati-Ruapani. He added that the Maoris of Poverty Bay hold that the Rua in question was Ruamatua, a famed chief of Hawaiki, whose island was named “Tawhiti-nui-a-Ruamatua.”