Oral histories recall in 1350 AD the Aotea waka left Raiātea, an island some 125 miles from Tahiti, on a voyage to New Zealand. At its helm was the illustrious Turi.
Turi had had a long-standing feud with a rangatira named Uenuku and, rather than risk being killed, decided to leave Raiātea on the Aotea. Aotea was one of two waka fashioned from the same tree and given to Turi by his father-in-law, Toto.
Turi set sail for Aotearoa with another waka Te Rīrino which was unfortunately lost somewhere in the Tasman Sea.
During the voyage to Aotearoa, the Aotea stopped at Rangi-tahua during which time several crew of the wrecked waka Kurahaupo are said to have joined the Aotea crew.
The Aotea is supposed to have first landed at the East Cape of the North Island, when the Pohutukawa was in full bloom. Finally, making its way to a small bay called Hawaiki-iti in Aotea Harbour, just north of Kāwhia.
Leaving the waka at Kāwhia the crew journeyed south on foot, naming rivers, streams and places they came across, before finally settling around the mouth of the Pātea River.
Aotea is the ancestral waka of the South Taranaki Iwi. Descendants of the Aotea waka also include, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru, Taranaki Iwi Te Atihaunui-A-Paparangi, Ngāti Apa (Rangitikei), and Muaupoko (Horowhenua).
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.