The story of Paikea begins in Hawaiki, where Paikea was known by another name, Kahutiaterangi, the sole survivor of a vengeful plot devised by his half-brother Ruatapu, to drown all the first born sons of Hawaiki out at sea under the guise of a fishing expedition. 

Ruatapu flooded the canoe they were in and the battle at sea called ‘Te Huripureiata’ commenced. Ruatapu drowned the first born sons, then he confronted his brother Kahutiaterangi. As Ruatapu swam towards him Kahutiaterangi called to his kaitiaki to help him. When he had completed his calls there was a sudden stirring in the water and a pod of whales surged up. There is an expression that suggests that the sea was a smokey haze of whales, “kauria ana te moana.” Kahutiaterangi then climbed onto the whale and survived.

This marked the beginning of his legendary and celebrated journey from Hawaiki to Aotearoa, New Zealand.  A significant, spiritual, mythical, and symbolic journey of transformation where Kahutiaterangi the man became Paikea the whale, he was the man riding the whale, he was the spirit of the whale, he was the whale.  From then onwards he became known as Paikea, the whale rider.

Whakakau, whakakau he tipua,        transforming now it is divine
Whakakau, whakakau he taniwha,    transforming now it is the mystical
Whakakau, whakakau he tangata!    ransforming now it is real!

The voyage from Hawaiki resulted in Paikea landing at Ahuahu, Mercury Island. He then moved on down the eastern coastline of the North Island to Whakatane and to other parts of the East Coast. He married a number of women on his journey and finally arrived at a locality close to Tikitiki. There he met Huturangi the daughter of Whironui and Hinearaiara. Te Whironui was the captain of the canoe Nukutere. Paikea married Huturangi and together they continued until finally settling at Whangara.

When Paikea arrived at Whāngārā, he looked at the bay and said,

“Anei taku kāenga o Whāngārā ki Hawaiki, mehemea i te rere te awa i te taha tonu o te marae ko Whāngārā tonu. Me tapaina e au ko Whāngārā-mai-tāwhiti. Here is my home Whāngārā, If the river ran alongside the marae it would be identical with the original Whāngārā. I will call this place Whāngārā-mai-tāwhiti – Whāngārā from a distance.

Paikea continued to name special land features at Whāngārā after his homeland in Hawaiki, such as Waiomoko River, Pukehāpopo, Waingaatu, Rangitoto, Okeka and Tahatuoterangi. They were names which reminded him of home and remain as a symbol of our close relationship with the land, and in memory of our ancestors that have gone. We also remember these names because they establish a meaningful connection to the land.

The whale that brought Paikea safely ashore to Aotearoa followed him to Whāngārā, and can still be seen today transformed into the island just out from Whāngārā named Tahatuoterangi. It is said that when the whale arrived at Whāngārā it had a certain plant growing on it. This plant was a rengarenga (rock lily) which represented the mauri (life principle) of Paikea and reflected our connection to Hawaiki. 

Paikea is believed to be buried on the far side of Tahatuoterangi the fossilised remains of the whale itself. The whale that rescued him sheltered him for the rest of his life and became his final resting place. The whale image remains as an enduring symbol that celebrates the journey and survival of our ancestor Paikea. A legacy we proudly uphold.

Hoatu tō kauhau taniwha ki uta! Let your wonderful spirit arrive ashore!