sketch of te aro pā

Te Aro , shown in this drawing from around 1842, was first established by Ngāti Mutunga in 1824 and later occupied by other iwi.
Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference: A-049-001. Drawing by Edmund Norman (attributed). Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.


According to ethnographer Elsdon Best and others, the first settlers of this area, who they call Maruiwi, were said to have originally landed in Taranaki (from Polynesia) before moving to other places. Others have used the terms Kāhui Tipua or Te Kāhui Maunga for these early people. They were less tribally organised than later Māori, and are sometimes referred to as the moa hunters.

Ngāi Tara

The first of the tribal groups to settle this area was probably Ngāi Tara. Possibly as early 1250 AD, the Ngāti Hinewai hapū (subtribe) established the major (fortified villiage) of Te Akatarewa on the slopes of Mount Alfred, around where Wellington College is today.

Ngāti Rangi and Ngāti Ira

Ngāi Tara were displaced over time by a related group of Ngāti Rangi. They were in turn displaced by Ngāti Ira – the descendants of Ira-kai-pūtahi – who lived in the Huriwhenua flat area and in some other places around Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour).

Taranaki iwi

Ngāti Ira were displaced from Te Whanganui-a-Tara by iwi from Taranaki; firstly Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama, and then Te Āti Awa and other Taranaki peoples. These migrations were prompted by Ngāti Whātua and Ngāpuhi war parties making forays into Taranaki from 1818 to 1821, during the intertribal musket wars. The waves of migration came first to the Waikanae area, and Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Huriwhenua were among the later areas settled. It is thought that Te Akatarewa and the area around Pukehu was probably not occupied at the time of the arrival of the Taranaki iwi.

Te Aro , which was on Wellington’s waterfront, around where Manners Street and Taranaki Street now meet, was first established by Ngāti Mutunga in 1824. They vacated it in 1835 when they left to settle in the Chatham Islands. The was then occupied by Ngāti Tupaia and Ngāti Haumia along with their Te Āti Awa kin.

Te Āti Awa occupied much of the Wellington area, with coastal settlements at Paekawakawa (Island Bay), Ōwhiro, and Waiariki and Ōterongo, both on the coast between Sinclair Head and Cape Terawhiti. They also were located around the harbour at Kumutoto (present-day Woodward Street), Pipitea (Thorndon Quay), Kaiwharawhara, Ngauranga, Pito-one (Petone), Hikoikoi/Waiwhetū and along the Pencarrow coast.

Next: Māori at Pukeahu

Updated on 23rd July 2015