Stories of our Māori Placenames


Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – a time to celebrate the richness of the Māori language in all its forms, including our Māori placenames which create a striking snapshot of New Zealand history and geography. They tell tales of romance, war, travel and discovery. Aotearoa has the record for the longest placename in the world, which tells quite a story. One of the stories behind the name Waitangi  is a tale of romance and legacy – the story of Maikuku and Huatakaroa, with a little help from a taniwha!


This plaque at our main entrance recognises the Waitangi Treaty Grounds as a Wāhi Tūpuna


Te Ana o Maikuku – Maikuku’s Cave


Maikuku was a local chief’s daughter, renowned for her beauty. She was a puhi (a young woman kept sacred) and was sent to live apart from her people in a cave in the cliffs near the beach here at Waitangi. A young man called Huatakaroa searched and searched for her. He was guided to her cave by the tangi (wailing), of a taniwha, a water spirit – which is one of the stories behind Waitangi (weeping waters): wai (water) and tangi (wailing or weeping). The couple had a child, Te Rā, who became a famous ancestor of the Ngāpuhi hapū Ngāti Rāhiri. 



The beach shown above at Waitangi Treaty Grounds was originally named Te Ana o Maikuku to commemorate Maikuku. Today it is also known as Hobson Beach to mark the arrival of Captain Hobson here in 1840. The waka shelter here is named Te Korowai o Maikuku – The Cloak of Maikuku, in honour of Maikuku.

Many Māori placenames were changed after the arrival of Europeans. Explore the rich tapestry of tales told by the original Māori placenames with this interactive Dual Language and Te Reo Māori map.  Look at the distribution of Māori placenames in Aotearoa.  Māori placenames often have common components; find out more at 1000 Māori Placenames.

And just in time for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori and Mahuru Māori, check out and download our  Inquiry unit: Teaching Resources – Our Māori Placenames.

This explores the significance in Māori culture of tapa whenua  – naming places, to record history and describe places.Have fun exploring Māori placenames with upper primary to lower secondary students as well as learning some te reo Māori!

Image source

16/9/2020 Imogen Rider