Along with resisting cultural annihilation this fishing village has avoided large-scale development, retaining its sleepy feel despite its considerable natural attractions. It’s basically Raglan and Hot Water Beach rolled into one, but without the tourists. There’s not much here except for the general store/post office, a couple of takeaways and a petrol station. Even Captain Cook blinked and missed the narrow entrance to the large harbour when he sailed past in 1770.
It was in Kawhia that the Tainui waka – one of the ancestral canoes that arrived during the 14th century – made its final landing. The two leaders of the expedition – Hoturoa, the chief/captain, and Rakataura, the tohunga (priest) – knew that their new home was destined to be on the west coast, searching until they finally recognised the prophesied place. When they landed, they tied the waka to a pohutukawa tree on the shore, naming the tree Tangi te Korowhiti. The unlabelled tree still stands on the shoreline between the wharf and Maketu Marae. At the end of its long, epic voyage, the waka was dragged up onto a hill and buried. Sacred stones were placed at either end to mark its resting place.
Famed Ngati Toa warrior chief Te Rauparaha, composer of the famous haka ‘Ka Mate’, was born nearby in the 1760s.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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