In Māori tradition, Kupe was sailing the waka Matawhaorua when he discovered Aotearoa-New Zealand.  On his return to Hawaiki, it was refitted to enable it to carry more people back to Aotearoa.  One version of the story named the two toki (adzes) used in the refit as Ngä Pakitua, a small bladed toki made from dark coloured pounamu (kahurangi) (sometimes referred to as  "Rere-ki-te-po"); and Tauira Ata, a wide bladed white toki made from light coloured pounamu (sometimes referred to as "Mahurangi").

After the refit the waka then became known as Ngätokimatawhaorua to both recognise the original name and the contribution of ngä toki to its re-fit.  It was captained by Nukutawhiti on its return to New Zealand.

The waka taua Ngatokimatawhaorua (Ngā Toki) was named after the original and built for the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi held in 1940. The inspiration for its construction came from Te Puea Hērangi, an influential leader in the King movement, who in 1936 organised the salvage of the hull of the waka Te Winika from the mouth of the Waikato River.  Te Puea saw the revival of waka on the river as a way of strengthening her peoples’ (Tainui) long-standing spiritual and worldly ties to the river (Evans, 2000).  The reconstruction of Ngatokimatawhaorua was directed by Pita Heperi (of Te Tai Tokerau) and Piri Poutapu (Waikato).   The project was Hekenukumai‘s first major Involvement with waka.

Ngā Toki can carry 80 paddlers and 55 other passengers.  It is the largest canoe in Aotearoa in current use, measuring 35.7 metres long and up to 2 metres wide.*   It can be viewed in the grounds of the Treaty House at Waitangi. 

  1. Te Aio o Nukutaimemeha, built by Matahi Brightwel is longer at 45 metres.  Built by laminating lengths of totara, it was finished in April 1999.   It sits in a paddock at Rangitukia, near the mouth of Waiapu River, in Tai Rawhiti ( 37°46'21.03"S, 178°28'39.45"E)


Evans, J, (2000), Waka Taua: The Maori War Canoe, Reed, p15

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