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Te Tumu is a place of great historic and cultural wealth.

On this page you’ll find information on the rich history of both tangata whenua and European settlers in the area, and updates on our archaeological work at Te Tumu.

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. It was settled during the time of Ngamarama, then Takitimu and supplanted 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]


The Tauranga City Plan identifies several areas in Te Tumu that are culturally significant to tangata whenua as significant Māori areas. These significant Māori areas, such as pa sites and a burial area, are identified on the map below. There are also a number of archaeological sites identified that reflect pre-European and post-European occupation of Te Tumu.

As part of the structure planning process, we are undertaking an archaeological assessment to further refine these archaeological boundaries and cultural impact assessments will be prepared by the relevant iwi and hapu.

Tauranga City Plan chapter 7 - Heritage

Historical map

Historical map (3.2mb pdf)

This work was approved by Heritage New Zealand and was 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 the kōiwi during the survey.

Data collected during the survey will be presented in a report to Tauranga City Council, Heritage New Zealand, landowners, iwi and hapū. Updated information for each site will also be submitted to the New Zealand Archaeological Association’s site recording scheme.

The significance of each site will be assessed using the Heritage New Zealand significance assessment criteria and Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement criteria.

The results of the significance assessments will be used to identify appropriate management strategies for each site. 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. This is also likely to result in further investigations across the site.

Council are currently working with the relevant iwi and hapu to prepare cultural impact assessments.

European history

The European history of the lower Kaituna River dates back to the arrival of Hans Tapsell in Maketu in the early 1800s, 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 allowed for 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.

The European settlers were firstly interested in the flax but quickly moved into farming as the lower Kaituna was very fertile and wasn’t affected by bush sickness.

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 integral 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.

Papamoa 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.

There were extensive changes made to the Wairakei Drain, with entrances to the sea blocked at Taylor Reserve and very little consideration give to future planning of infrastructure – this was the case until a Comprehensive Stormwater Plan was approved in 2009 to prevent indiscriminate storm water being passed on to the Te Tumu Landowners.

The Hickson Family connection and ownership of the property extends back to 1960.  

These families are all still closely connected with the land; living and working in the area.

Kaituna River

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

The man-made changes to the lower Kaituna River commenced 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.

At the same time the river was straightened and diverted from above the Paroa Flax Mill.

In 1956 the current River Mouth at Te Tumu was opened. This was carried out by the Crown and a further 16,000 acres was brought into production as first class dairy land.

A major scheme of the river diversion and control to alleviate flooding was prepared in 1958 by Mr 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 60,000ha the scheme consists of:

  • 67 kilometres of stopbank
  • 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 stopbanks 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.

There have been regular storm events affecting this area in the past, most notably flooding of the Kaituna River up until the 1970s when drainage works took effect.

There have been more recent floods in 2005 and 2017.  Tangata whenua have been concerned about the loss of freshwater entering the Maketu estuary and the subsequent loss of important shellfish and fish resources. The Regional Council is about to commence a further diversion in 2017 to increase the water flow into Maketu Estuary. This is part of a range of environmental enhancements to the well-being of the Kaituna River and the Maketu Estuary. 

For more information on the Kaituna River diversion visit Bay of Plenty Regional Council - Kaituna River Project

Last Reviewed: 02/05/2018

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