Early Māori History
For centuries Maungatapere was an important location for Māori, and like its surrounding districts, has been inhabited by various hapū right up to the current day.
The rich volcanic soil was good for growing staple crops such as kumara, and Maungatapere also served as a meeting point between various ara (trails) in the region.
Māori explorers first arrived from the Pacific into Ipiripiri the Bay of Islands as far back as 1300 years ago in what according to archaeological records is believed to be one of New Zealand's earliest sites of Polynesian settlement. Over the following centuries Māori migrated and settled through Te Tai Tokerau Northland and beyond.
A great place to grow food
Early Māori found the volcanic fields around Northland a great place for growing essential crops, and Maungatapere, Maunu and Whatitiri maunga were all home to various pa and villages. The rich soil sustained many types of native plants which provided a varied and abundant diet.
The land is more fertile than surrounding clay soils and the volcanic ash made it easier to cultivate the ground using handheld wooden implements. The stones from the lava flow also meant the soil was warmer and gave longer growing seasons for subtropical plants such as kumara, gourds, yams and taro. The volcanic rocks were often heaped up to create raised rock gardens that helped hold in soil moisture and warmed the soil.
These volcanic soils were prized and sought after by those who didn’t have them, so storehouses of crops such as kumara needed to be protected from those who didn’t have such abundant growing conditions.
The abundance of springs from the maunga aquifers were good for the gardens, and the various streams and rivers around the area provided an abundance of kai such as tuna (eel), kēwai (freshwater crayfish), kokopu (trout), inanga (whitebait) and kākahi (freshwater mussels).