× Search

Te Tumu History banner

Te Tumu: Kōrero whenua

Te Tumu: History

Te Tumu has considerable cultural, archaeological, and historic significance.

Te Tumu History

Nga korero mo Te Tumu

Te Tumu has a long and important history. It is part of a Māori tradition of coastal and river settlement of the Bay of Plenty. There are traditions of arrival, settlement, occupation, and resource use over many centuries at Te Tumu.

Te Tumu was settled during the time of Ngamarama, then Takitimu and succeeded by the arrival of Te Arawa descent groups Waitaha and Tapuika. For a time, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Pukenga occupied these areas before Te Arawa hapu re-occupied this part of the coastline including Maketu.

The earliest occupants of the district were the Ngamarama, then the Waitaha came, they drove the Ngamarama across the Waimapu and occupied Hairini. Ranginui appeared and also attacked the Ngamarama. It was not till after some time that they fought in concert. At first each was waging an independent war on Ngamarama.

The Takitimu waka is one of the famous and well-known migration waka that came to Tauranga. Here Tamatea, the commander, decided to remain and he handed over the vessel to the command of Tahu, the younger brother of Porourangi. On reaching Tauranga or Kawhai-nui as it was called, his first act was to plant a sacred flax, called Whara-whara-nui. He then built a pa inland of Wairakei and named it Te Manga-Tawa.

One of the local traditions recounts the Te Arawa waka travelling past the coastline on its way to Maketu. Places were named including the entire coast from Katikati to Maketu. Tama Te Kapua the captain of the Te Arawa named Maketu (the bridge of my nose), Hei claimed ‘Te Takapu o Waitaha’ (the belly of my son, Waitaha), and Tia named ‘Te Takapu o Tapuika’ (the belly of my son Tapuika). Later Te Arawa people occupied the coastal area including Te Tumu.

The meandering waters of the Kaituna River also hold tremendous spiritual value for the Tapuika people. One extremely important wahi tapu was a bend in the river that was the resting place of the Tapuika taniwha, Te Mapu. Tapuika and traditions refer to the kuia Puparahaki and the role she had in persuading Te Mapu to leave, thereby forging the Parawhenuamea stream and tributaries as she departed. The Kaituna River was an important conduit for communication and travel by canoe.

Te Tumu became an important place for flax growing, dressing and trading in the early 19th century. Hans Tapsell, a trader, established a flax mill and business at Maketu. The surrounding lands became a hive of activity; however tensions grew and conflict broke out.

According to Dr Evelyn Stokes, the large pa on Maunganui was taken by Te Morenga of Ngapuhi in 1820 and never re-occupied. A peace was made with Ngapuhi shortly afterwards by Te Waru of Ngai Te Rangi. This was kept until 1830 when a force of Ngapuhi led by Haramiti were defeated by a combined force of Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui and Ngati Haua at Motiti. An expedition led under Titore and Te Panakareao reached Tauranga towards the end of 1832. This army joined with Te Arawa at Maunganui and at least one month of battles ensued with no decisive battle on either side. It appears that during this time Te Tumu and Papahikahawai were not occupied by Ngai Te Rangi but they probably did prior to Ngapuhi expeditions. According to Te Wharehuia (Tapuika) and Te Tumu (Tapuika), “after Ngapuhi conquered Mokoia [in 1823] and peace was made, they returned to Papahikahawai and Te Tumu and Ngai Te Rangi did not...disturb us there”.

Te Tumu’s most important association with early history is with events surrounding the battle of Te Tumu, which in itself is part of a nine year inter-tribal war whose influence of which extended to Northland, Waikato, Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty. The battle of Te Tumu was attended by a large number of Ngai Te Rangi and Te Arawa hapu supported by small groups of other iwi. The outcome of the battles was the permanent re-occupation of Maketu by Te Arawa descent groups and the realignment of boundaries for Mataatua descent groups including Ngai Te Rangi of Tauranga. A large number of important chiefs and warriors were killed during the battles.

Today large parts of Te Tumu are still owned by European, Māori and tangata whenua maintain ongoing relationships with the ancestral lands, waters, wahi tapu, and sites.


  • Maketu Minutes Book 1878. P177
  • Percy Smith. The fall of Te Tumu Pa, near Maketu, Bay of Plenty New Zealand. P121-130. Journal of the Polynesian Society, Volume 32, No. 127
  • The Wisdom of the Maori. The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 10. New Zealand Government Railways Department, Wellington. 1 January 1935.
  • John White. The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: tai-nui, Volume V, 1888. pp231-
  • Alister Matheson. Tapsell Big Guns.
  • Mitchell, J.H. Takitimu. A history of the Ngati Kahungunu people. 1944.pp41, 59, 56
  • “Kainga Pakanga” – Manuscript with identification and narrative relating to Nga Te Rangi. (Te Reo Māori). No date
  • Neil G Hansen. Tauranga County, 1945 to 1989. The story about the post World War II years, of wide ranging development, until local reorganisation. March 1995.
  • Bay of Plenty Shipwrecks. Alister Matheson. Volume 47. No2
  • Russell Kirkpatrick, Kataraina Belshaw, John Campbell. Land-based cultural resources – waterways and environmental impacts 1840-2000. University of Waikato. 2004
  • Stafford, D. Te Arawa. 1967 (reprint 1986) pp47-50, 129, 211, 278-28, 485
  • Stokes, E. Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana: Vol 2, Documents related to Tribal History, Confiscation and Reallocation of Tauranga Lands, 1992. p19, 27
  • Kawharu, Johnson, Smith, Wiri, Armstrong, O’Malley. Nga mea o te whenua o Te Arawa. Customary tenure report. March 2005

Unpublished reports

  • Mātauranga onamata i nga mahi o ngā Tupuna a Tapuika. Kaituna River and Maketu Estuary Management Strategy History Report. 2008
  • Minnhinnick, Roimata. A Report on Mauao/Mount Maunganui. Wai 540-A2/Wai 215-A49. 1997. p29 (taken from Stokes:Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana:1990:4) Serials
  • Daily Southern Cross, 12 May 1864
  • Waiata The Lament for Hikareia, Recorded in legends of the Maori (Volume 1, James Cowan, page 314


  • ML 2046 C.1870
  • ML 3994 1877
  • ML 3995 (undated)
  • ML1916 A-1B, sheet 3, 1900
  • ML 872 [Tauranga 27c (8x4 feet) – Plan of surveys in the Confiscated Block Tauranga – shows inland tracks and, pa and villages]
  • SO22804 [Index map of Tauranga County MD3074 – shows big bend of Kaituna River and beach track]
  • MD3212 – Block V Te Tumu SD – Post April 1908 Plan of Tumu-Kaituna Block April 1900 – 1916 (surveyed by James Baber and later added to) SO12541 Plan of Block V Te Tumu Survey District [1916]


At present the Tauranga City Plan identifies several areas within Te Tumu that are culturally significant to tangata whenua. These areas are identified as significant Māori areas (SMA) and included features such as pā sites and burial areas. There are also archaeological sites across Te Tumu that reveal the early inhabitation of the area.

As part of the structure planning process, archaeological surveys and assessments have been completed to further refine these archaeological areas. These survey along with cultural impact assessments have also then assisted in a review of the SMA across Te Tumu.

Archaeological investigations were approved by Heritage New Zealand and were carried out by specialist consultants Archaeology BOP between early December 2017 and mid-January 2018. During the investigations, Archaeology BOP were accompanied by three cultural monitors from Tapuika, Ngā Potiki and Ngāti Pūkenga

During the survey, the team found kōiwi (human bones) exposed out of the ground at three of the sites. One bone was found at each location, on the surface of the dune systems. In accordance with tradition, the bones were not moved from where they were found. Loose sand was placed over the exposed bones and the cultural monitors performed a karakia after each discovery.

The kōiwi were found within known archaeological sites and will continue to be protected from any future urban development following structure planning and rezoning of Te Tumu. Kōiwi are regularly found in archaeological sites throughout the Tauranga area, so it was not unexpected for the team to discover kōiwi during the survey.

Data collected during the survey has been captured within a report that has now been prepared by Archaeology BOP. The information captured and set out within this report, along with other information gathered from across a range of literature has been utilised to carry out an initial review of SMA across Te Tumu.

Further consideration of this will also be given to identify appropriate management strategies for these sites – beyond simply requiring a rule-based approach under the City Plan. Management strategies may include remedial work such as removal of vegetation to prevent any ongoing damage, retirement from grazing or intensive land use, and long-term passive recreation designations. There is also the opportunity to consider place naming or other cultural recognition tools. This work is likely to result in further investigations across the site as discussions on this continue with landowners and tangata whenua.

European history

The European history of the lower Kaituna River dates to the early 1800s with the arrival of Hans Tapsell in Maketu and the beginning of the local flax industry in the area.

The flax industry provided many jobs for Māori and Europeans at the mills on Te Tumu and continued to be a significant part of the local industry until the Depression in the 1930s. It also necessitated the development of basic infrastructure.

In the 1880s the Crown decided that the swamp land of the lower Kaituna River would be made available for European settlement, with the specific expectations the land would be drained and turned into production. European settlers set up farming as the lower Kaituna was very fertile.

With roads yet to be built, the river and beach were the main transport routes between Te Tumu, Tauranga and Auckland. Early pioneers in the area were serviced by scows (flat-bottomed boats used for transporting cargo) coming from Tauranga.  Te Tumu played an important role in shaping settlements and land-use across the wider Bay of Plenty.

The Ford Family have been in the Te Tumu area since 1907 as farmers and landowners. The family’s connection to their current Te Tumu landholdings extends back to 22 December 1911 when George Pinckney Ford executed his first lease / purchase with the Crown and established The Sandhills. The Hickson family connection and ownership of the property extends back to 1960. These families are all still closely connected with the land and live and work in the area.

Pāpāmoa was first subdivided by the Taylors in the 1950s and the first lots were sold by public auction. Baches were built on the sections – many of which are still owned by the original families. At that stage, infrastructure was minimal with basic gravel roads, no footpaths, sewerage, active reserves or schools, and no drainage for stormwater.

Kaituna River

The Kaituna River district has been subject to severe flooding in the past.

The man-made changes to the lower Kaituna River began in the 1920s by the Kaituna River Board and the first large scale projects of straightening the lower Kaituna River started in 1926, when the Ford Twin cuts were constructed.

In 1956 the current River Mouth at Te Tumu was opened.

A major scheme of the river diversion and control to alleviate flooding was prepared in 1958 by Andrew Murray, a consulting engineer from Auckland. The ‘Murray Scheme’ proposed a major river diversion from the railway bridge to the then existing outlet. This proposal was amended by the Ministry of Works and in stage one of the amended proposal there was a cut to the sea at Te Tumu.

Ongoing river straightening works, including the 1981 Kaituna River Diversion, were undertaken by the Catchment Commission (now the Kaituna Catchment Control Scheme) to bring about 6000ha of land into production and convert swamp land into first class dairy farming land.

In the lower Kaituna River Catchment area of about 60,000 ha, the work included:

  • 67 kilometres of stop bank
  • 88 kilometres of canals and drains
  • Seven pump stations (and 14 pumps)
  • Three weir structures
  • Five major floodgate structures
  • Riverbank protection - six kilometres of planting and 1.5 kilometres of rock or rubble
  • Mole/groyne structure at the river mouth.

This was a very significant amount of land and added to the rate base of all councils, including Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and Tauranga City Council.

It also added to the prosperity of the Bay of Plenty economy with a significant increase in dairy farming and horticulture.

The pumping station was installed next to the wetlands to control water levels after the very extensive stop banks had been constructed along the southern side of the Kaituna River to prevent flood waters covering the newly drained swamp. This would improve the economy and lessen the likelihood if flooding along with less disruption to production and loss of stock.

Recent work undertaken by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to restore the rivers freshwater flows into Te Awa o Ngātoroirangi / Maketu Estuary can be viewed here:

Kaituna River rediversion and Maketū Estuary enhancement

Key information

Project type
Major projects
Planning, design and renewal


Pāpāmoa / Pāpāmoa East

Who's listening

City Planning and Growth 
Tauranga City Council 
07 577 7000

Other ways to get involved

Tauranga is your city. We’re working to make it even better.

Tauranga City Council, Private Bag 12022, Tauranga, 3143, New Zealand |Terms of use|Privacy statement

Back To Top