About Rangitoto Island
Ngāi Tai Traditional Name: Te Rangi-i-totongia ai Te Ihu a Tamatekapua (Rangitoto)
Rangitoto Island is Aucklands most recognisable icon situated in the beautiful Waitematā Harbour. Rangitoto erupted from the sea around 600 years ago making it the youngest volcano within Aucklands volcanic field. Rangitoto is also home to the largest Pōhutakawa forest in the world and features over 200 species of native trees and plants including forty fern species.
The island is around 5.5 kilometres wide and 260m high.
Like Motutapu, Rangitoto is pest-free. Because of their close proximity both Rangitoto and Motutapu need to be pest-free so as to protect wildlife that has been relocated to Motutapu primarily. The islands are close enough for wildlife to roam between them, however Rangitoto does not contain any large water sources.
The Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki tribal connection
The two great waka (boats/canoes), the Tainui and the Te Arawa rendezvoused at Ōrāwaho, the channel between Rangitoto and Motutapu. Ngai Tai have very close ties to the Tainui waka.
The captains of these two waka came to blows when Tamatekapua’s indiscretions with Hoturoa’s senior wife Whakaotirangi were revealed. Hoturoa gave Tamatekapua a bloodied nose, before the people intervened and stopped the duel.
This tradition records that Tamatekapua’s blood resulted in the name, ‘Te Rangi-i-totongia ai Te Ihu a Tamatekapua’, more commonly referred to as Rangitoto.
Early Ngāi Tai ancestors
Three early Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki ancestors (tūpuna), were associated with Rangitoto.
According to tradition, Manawatere journeyed to Tikapa Moana, (Hauraki Gulf), from Hawaiiki shortly before the Tainui waka, (boat/canoe), arrived in Auckland and placed his mark, with red ochre, on a large Pōhutakawa tree at Maraetai south of Auckland city. This was an indication to his people who followed soon after that he had found a good place to settle.
Sometime later, when visiting Ōrāwaho, the passage between the islands of Rangitoto and Motutapu, Manawatere was drowned at ‘Ōmokonui-o-Kāhu’, (Islington Bay, Rangitoto), with his body washing ashore on the other side of Motutapu at ‘Te Pēhi o Manawatere’, (Home Bay, Motutapu).
Another famous early ancestor was Peretū. Peretū had a rāhui kākā, (parrot reserve), on Rangitoto.
Anaru Makiwhara, a more recent Ngāi Tai tūpuna, explained that the kākā fed on the rātā pōhutukawa trees, common on Rangitoto after the first eruption. Thus the forest bearing the name; ‘Ngā huruhuru o Peretū’ or ‘The Feathers of Peretū’.
The three peaks on Rangitoto are obvious when looking across the harbour from Auckland city. According to Makiwhara, the first name for the three peaks of Rangitoto was ‘Ngā pona toru o Peretū’ or ‘The three knuckles of Peretu’.
Makiwhara explained that “Peretū had only three fingers and that this was not a deformity, but a sign of his descent from a reptile god ancestor.
Taikehu was a tohunga (expert practitioner- eg. healer, priest) aboard the Tainui waka (boat/canoe) and the brother-in-law of its commander Hoturoa. He led the exploration of Tikapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf), the Waitematā, (Auckland Harbour), and the Tāmaki isthmus, (Auckland).
He climbed Rangitoto, and gave a new name to its peaks. Formally known as ‘The three knuckles of Peretu’ Taikehu named them ‘Ngā Tuaitara a Taikehu’ or ‘The dorsal fins of Taikehu’.
Today Rangitoto is enjoyed all year round by tourists and locals alike. Whether they are tramping around the island or journeying to the summit everyone agrees that this is a very unique and special place.
As well as tourists, the children of Auckland flock to Rangitoto to enjoy breath taking views of their city and learn more about this fascinating yet hostile environment. The latest addition to the island is the new wharf opened in 2014. As part of the new wharf development Ngāi Tai carvers were commissioned to create a new waharoa or, gateway, to the island which you will see as you disembark the ferry.