Ngāi Tara at Appleby Pā


In the late 1500s when Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri were consolidating their hold over the western districts of Te Tau Ihu, a section of the closely-related Ngāi Tara iwi from the Hataitai district of Wellington established a satellite community at Waimea. Their  was one of the main centres of occupation on the Waimea Plains and was located near present-day Appleby School. It was built upon the ancient Rapuwai-Waitaha gardens that they continued to cultivate. In about 1570 a series of serious misunderstandings contributed to the eventual demise of the Ngāi Tara people at Waimea. The story illustrates the significance to early Māori of horticulture, food gathering and food storage – particularly in a climate of cold and often long winters – and their highly-developed skills in providing sustenance for themselves and unexpected guests in all but extreme circumstances.


Gully, John, 1819-1888 :The Waimea Plains and cultivated country near Nelson / John Gully [1875?]. Dunedin, 1877.. Gully, John, 1819-1888 :New Zealand scenery chromolithographed after original water-color drawings by John Gully with descriptive letterpress by Dr Julius von Haast. Dunedin, Henry Wise & Company ; London Marcus Ward & Co., 1877. Ref: PUBL-0010-08. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Webster, Kenneth Athol, 1906-1967. Hector McLeod & Co :Miramar or Whataitai (Hataitai) in Maori times. No 3. Miramar series. 1907. [Postcard].. [Ephemera relating to Maori. 1900-1919].. Ref: Eph-A-MAORI-1907-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 

Hikutawatawa, also known as Tūāhuriri, was the son of Ngāi Tara chief Tumaro and his wife Rakaitekura, but grew up never seeing his father or grandfather. Tumaro settled at Waimea before Tūāhuriri was born, dismissed by a wife of high status who took up a new relationship with a more senior chief.

Reaching manhood, Tūāhuriri travelled from the North Island to Waimea to seek out the lost side of his family. When his party arrived at Waimea, Kahukura te paku did not recognise his grandson. He ushered the visitors into a house to rest, while instructing slaves to prepare to kill and cook the guests. A slave reported to Kahukura te paku that Tūāhuriri had remarked that the kowhaiwhai (rafter patterns) were identical to those in his grandfather’s old home back at Hataitai. The truth dawned – the Waimea whānau was highly embarrassed and tried to assuage the dire insult, and to reconcile the parties. Tūāhuriri pretended to be mollified, but soon took his leave and returned to Hataitai where he recruited a large roopu (band, group) of young warriors to accompany him back to Waimea to exact utu (revenge). The utu was planned to symbolise the nature of the original offence. The Hataitai party, who were made sincerely welcome this time, simply ensconced themselves for some weeks and ate ... and ate ... and ate, eventually exhausting all the food stores, and reducing the Waimea people to starvation.

Another account attributes the spelling of “Whakatū” (Nelson) to the demise of Ngāi Tara at Waimea; whakatuwhenua (leprosy) was believed to have taken the lives of many within the community.

Tūāhuriri went on to become a senior chief whose siblings and children migrated permanently to the South Island; his descendants today form the Ngāi Tūāhuriri hapu of Ngāi Tahu of the Kaiapoi and Tuahiwi districts, north of Christchurch.

Present-day Appleby School is sited on the Moutere Highway, just south west of the intersection of Cotterell Road and State Highway 60.

The text from this story came from the Tasman District Council/NZ Cycle Trail Heritage Panel 2012

Updated April 2020

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Further sources - Ngāi Tara at Appleby Pā


  • Bagley, S: Summary of Ian Barber’s findings; Department of Conservation, Nelson, October 1992; Mitchell, H&J. (2004) Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough". Vol I p.51
  • Brailsford, B. (1981) The tattooed land. pp44-46. Wellington : Reed
  • Mitchell, H & J (2004) Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough, vol I The people and the land.. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia Publishers in association with the Wakatu Incorporation, pp 51-53,
  • Rigg, T and Bruce, J H (1923) The Maori Gravel Soil of Waimea West, Nelson, New Zealand Journal of the Polynesian Society, 32, pp.85-92.
  • Te Maire Tau & Anderson, A. (ed) (2008) Ngai Tahu a migration history: the Carrington text. Wellington [N.Z.] : Bridget Williams Books ; Christchurch [N.Z.] : Te Rūnanga o Ngai Tāhu

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