Mahia History

About the twelfth century Whatonga, Toi's grandson, settled at Nukutarua and from many centuries ago Mahia was known by that name.

Arrival of Takitimu
On its arrival in Aotearoa, in the fourteenth century, the sacred waka Takitimu made its way from its first landing spot at Awanui (near Ninety Mile Beach) down the east coast of the North Island. Eventually the waka arrived at the place called Te Papa near Kaiuku Marae. It was there that the high priest, Ruawharo, Left the waka and decided to settle overlooking Mahia Beach. Ruawharo proceeded to plant mauri (life principle) of the whales and fish of the sea which is said to have brought the whales to the bay. The meeting house at Opoutama is named Ruawharo as a monument to the renowned tipuna.

Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine
It was stories of the beautiful Rongomaiwahine that lured Kahungunu to Mahia and when he finally reached here he was delighted to find that the stories were not exaggerated. Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine were eventually married. This Marriage is described as unique not only because of the intrigue surrounding it, but because of how it changed the whole history of the East Coast. This union has brought about the current Nagti Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine iwi of Mahia.

European Settlement.
The First pakeha trader to inhabit the Mahia Peninsula lived in the area from 1829. In 1837 whalers arrived establishing two whaling stations by 1850. Mahia served as a principal whaling base in the north Island.

Sheep farming began in the 1840's. From here the area developed into a series of pastoral farms.

For more history on the different areas of Mahia Peninsula, see below:


Twenty-one people were killed in the Kopuawhara flood of 1938 ' the largest number of fatalities from a 20th-century flood in New Zealand. It is a sobering reminder of the dangers of building on low-lying land close to rivers.

Click here for more reading on the Kopuawhara flash flood.

Portland Island.

Portland Island was occupied by early maori for generations and was known to them as Waikawa. Captain Cook named it Portland Island as he sailed past in October of 1769.

Click here to find out more about Portland Island.


One aspect of the surroundings that cannot be missed is Mahia's distinctive fishhook shape. This promontory curve out to sea and back towards the land creates a natural whale trap and alludes to the rich whaling history of the area.

Click here to find out more about the whaling history of Mahia Peninsula.


Waikokopu was the first Whaling Stn in the area , the first whaler was an American named Ward whom setup in 1832 but soon sold out to Mr Perry.

Click here to find out more about Waikokopu.

Click here to contact Voyage Mahia for any queries you may have.


Latest Mahia History News:

Whale on Dinahs Beach
A dead 14.8 metre male sperm whale
washed up on Dinah's Beach on Sunday
and has been fascinating locals since...

Weather radar project stakeholders update
"We expect to have the radar operational late July or early August..."

Portland Island Muster
This featured on Country Calendar Saturday May 26th.

SS Tongariro
struck Bull Rock, off Portland Island. It is now one of the best shipwreck dives - excellent visibility, clean water, kingfish galore, shipwreck, all in a maximum of 30ft of water.