Ihenga the Great Explorer

Tamatekapua was the captain of the Te Arawa canoe that discovered and named many areas upon their settlement in Maketu.

Tamatekapua had a grandson named Ihenga who, like his grandfather, was also interested in exploring and discovering new areas. After the death of the father of Ihenga, Ihenga was advised by his uncle to go inland and explore and settle the land for his whānau.

So Ihenga, his wife Hinetekakara and their first child set off, making their way first to a river full of eels upon which they feasted. The river was named Kaituna, the chiefly river.

From here Ihenga and his whānau followed the Kaituna until they found a beautiful place with waterfalls and bush. Their dogs went ahead, searching for food. When they returned with whitebait in their mouth, Ihenga knew there must be another water source nearby so he trekked to the top of a hill and saw part of a lake he named Rotoiti, or “small lake”.

Ihenga and his whānau settled in the Whakapoungākau Ranges and his wife gave birth to their second child.

Ihenga went on to discover and name Lake Rotorua and the island Mokoia which was the homeland of Hinemoa and Tūtānekai. He then explored around this area, naming the majority of places including the mountains, rivers and lakes – names which are still used today.

An ever-curious explorer, Ihenga encountered the unknown and made beautiful discoveries through his own fears, angst and determination. He finally settled in Ngongotahā but journeyed north to Maketū several times in his lifetime.

Ihenga the intrepid and revered explorer is honoured through the naming of the tupuna of the Waiariki whare and is represented in a carving outside the marae.