Manawatū Coast

The coastline within Rangitāne O Manawatū Rohe between the Manawatū and Rangitikei Rivers is of historical, cultural, spiritual and traditional significance to Rangitāne O Manawatū.

The Manawatū Coast has been an integral part of Rangitāne O Manawatū culture, history and existence with those connections being unbroken for over 700 years.  These connections to the Manawatū Coast and coastal sand dune country have been recorded in waiata, korero and whaikaro.  The coastline or area that was traditionally referred to as Okatia the spirit that created the Manawatū River resides on the coast.   The Holocene dune sequence and unique landscape has also been a part of Rangitāne O Manawatū identity and spiritual practice.  The coastal area is abundant in archaeological evidence, with over 35 recorded sites.

Rangitāne O Manawatū earliest connections with the Manawatū Coast are recorded by their Kurahaupo ancestor firstly Kupe who navigated the coastline from the East Coast around Te Whanganui a Tara and along the Manawatū coastline.  One navigational method used was to follow the migratory birds that seasonally reside in the Manawatū River Estuary.  Haunui a Nanaia a tohunga in search of his wife Waireka also travelled the coastline naming the rivers on his journey. 

Whatonga, the grandfather of Tanenuiarangi (Rangitāne) inter alia have first travelled in the Manawatū after journeying up the coastline from Te Whanganui a Tara.  The area was so rich in natural resources that he and his descendants settled in the area with the area becoming known as Te Taperenui O Whatonga or the great supply of food for Whatonga.  Te Waewae-Kapiti-o-Tara-raua-ko-Rangitāne or Kapiti Island also became an important connection to the Coastline and Rangitāne O Manawatū, not only providing an important marine navigational marker but also an important place for spiritual and ritualistic practices.

The Coast following this time became an important route for trade and communication connecting both the South (Te Waka a Maui) and North Island (Te Ika a Maui).  The Manawatū coastline became a place of great wealth and strategic importance for Rangitāne O Manawatū between the Manawatū and Rangitikei Rivers for trade, transport and communication to the East Coast and Central North Island.

The most significant areas of settlement along the Coast were Te Wharangi and Te Papa Ngaio at the mouth of the Manawatū River.  Te Wharangi (meaning - broad flat place) was an area used for river crossings and as a waka mooring for ocean going vessels bringing back fish.  Te Wharangi was a mahinga kai utilised seasonally by Rangitāne O Manawatū to catch whitebait, flounder and other tidal river species.   Rangitāne O Manawatū managedthis river crossing providing the service for Europeans upon their arrival and settlement.  Te Papa Ngaio was a large Pa on the southern bank of the Manawatū River opposite Te Wharangi.    During Wakefield’s 1840 visit to the district he journeyed to the Manawatū and encountered “a body of natives” at the river mouth.  According to Wakefield’s account of the journey, the Maori were unable to supply the New Zealand Company agent with any provisions as “they were from a settlement near the gorge of the Manawatū” however he noted numerous Pataka and storehouses of theirs along the Coast. 

Himatangi the next main area was an important source of a variety of foods for Rangitāne O Manawatū.  The larger area was known as Te Piropiro. The correct hyphenation of the word is said not to be Hima-tangi but Hi-matangi, and thereby provides a different tale.  “Hi” means to fish, and Matangi was a Chief who lived in the mystic past in the Mohaka District of the East Coast.  The name also refers to Matangi capturing and slaying a Taniwha in the area upon his settlement.  Himatangi was also famous for the abundance of eel and birds available from the wetlands and dune lakes in the area, namely Lakes Kaikokopu, Omanuka and Pukepuke.   Numerous traditional eel weir were constructed as well as island Pa, such as Oahura, only accessible by waka and used in a time of battle as a refuge.

The next main area was the mouth of the Rangitikei River being of strategic importance to Rangitāne O Manawatū as it provided an entrance to the Rangitikei and Central North Island.  This importance lead to the heavy settlement of the area with Pa, Kainga and Papa Kainga in the lower stretches of the Rangitikei River to the sea.  The most famous of these settlements was Parewanui and the central point of all Pa and cultivations/farms of the area.  This area was frequented by many of the Crown’s representatives with many meetings being held there to progress the sale of lands in the Rangitikei and the Manawatū as well as plan for the settlement of the region.

The name “Tangimoana” was allocated to a small coastal area.  Traditionally the dune area around the town was referred to as Te Ruahine. The most recognised area or settlement (nearest to the present day township) was Tawhirihoe.  Tawhirihoe was originally a Pa, then a mahinga kai, and cultivation, and finally the flat now known as Scott’s Ferry and Tangimoana.  More recent erosion and river works altered the course of the River rapidly and drastically and made all settlement in that area hazardous.

The areas between these main centres were cultivated and heavily used particularly to grow potatoes and fern root.  Areas such as the coastal lagoons of Puke Puke, Omanuka, Kaikokopu, Okemaha and Haku Purua were important sources of food (particularly Tuna) and seasonal settlement.

Cultural Landscape

The dune geomorphic landscape has been relatively unaltered. However within these features the native forest and cultural cultivations have disappeared apart from two Department of Conservation reserves.  The culturally significant feature of this coastline was the wetland areas and small swallow dune lakes that were found between large dune structures.  Within these lakes and the freshwater streams that feed them were a variety of native fish and eel as well as birds.

The most culturally significant feature of the coastline was the shellfish that were found in areas where the freshwater met the ocean.  The most common were; Toheroa/Tohemanga (Paphies ventricosa); Pipi (Paphies australis); Tuatua (Paphies subtriangulata); Tuangi (Chione stutchbury); and surf clams (Paphies donacina, Spisula aequilatera, Mactra murchisoni, Mactra discors, Dosinia anus). 

Along with these shellfish species were also the range of ocean fished caught offshore as well as the occasional whale.

Significant Sites



Te Waka Puni Waka Mooring
Puru-rarauha Kainga
Hokianga Occupied location
Orua Kai Tawa Occupied location
Te Humetu Occupied location
Tawhirihoe Pa
Te Hakeke Pa
Te Iritau Pa
Te Papa Ngaio Pa
Te Wharangi Pa
Himitangi Dune
Te Ruahine Dune
Nga Totara fossil forest
Awamate Lagoon
Haku-purua Lagoon



Kaikokopu Lagoon
Koputara Lagoon
Pukepuke Lagoon
Mikihi Stream
Te Aputu Cultivation
Arawa Moana tuna
Herangi, Te Kau Omorangi, Wawa, Tirimo Moana tuna
Oahura Moana tuna
Omanuka Lagoon
Ototara Moana tuna
Te Whangai O Tai Hanau Moana tuna
Te Piropiro Area
Okatia Beach
Tangimoana Beach
Kai Iwi Site