Oakura Bay and the wider Whangaruru Harbour has a long and fascinating history. In particular, cultural sites from prehistoric Maori activity abound.
Oakura is said to be named after “ao-a-kura” which can translate as “the light-that comes with-the red sky”. The sign of the colour “kura” in the morning sky, or in the evening sky, is similar to the concept of “Red at night – shepherds’ delight. Red in the morning – sailors’ warning”.
As told by local kaumātua, Morere Piripi and his wife Mere.
Oakura Bay is situated at the southern end of the historic Whangaruru Harbour. The Whangaruru area is of particular significance to Ngātiwai, who are the manawhenua. Puhimoanariki, captain of the legendary waka Mataatua and the first ancestor of Ngapuhi, named this place “Whangaruru” while sailing up the coast. It took Puhi a long time to find a good, sheltered place to settle – hence “Whangaruru” comes from whanga (to wait) and ruru (to shelter). Alternatively, the name means “sheltered harbour”.
Oakura is located within the rohe of Ngātiwai with the local hapu being Te Uri o Hikihiki. The bay is rich in Maori heritage; having a number of wahi tapu and other sites of significance to manawhenua, including the urupā, parekura site and waka burial sites.
“Ngātiwai is unified by its descent from one of the oldest lineages in Taitokerau, Ngāti Manaia. Unlike surrounding iwi, direct descent from Manaia has given Ngātiwai status on Northland’s east coast since the beginning of human occupation. The occupation of Manaia established iwi status in the northern part of the Ngātiwai rohe. Principally through the son of Manaia, Tahuhunuiōrangi, manawhenua and manamoana of Ngātiwai on the coast coast from Whangarei to Whangaparāoa was established. At times this extended to Tamaki. After the time of Te Rangihokaia, himself a descendent of Manaia, a number of key marriages cemented the relationship between Ngātiwai and the Kawerau hapū of Ngāti Rehua and Ngāti Manuhiri. This ongoing relationship with Tainui is another unique feature of Ngātiwai among iwi in Taitokerau. Today Ngātiwai claims manawhenua and manamoana from Rakaumangamanga to Mahurangi, across to Aotea, and returning to Rakaumangamana by way of the many islands and waters of Te Moana-Nui-A-Toi.”
Excerpt from Ngātiwai iwi website.
The Te Kapua Cemetary (urupā) at the southern end of the Bay is the burial site for a number of Ngātiwai warriors killed in battles on the Poor Knights Islands dating back to the 1800s. This land is wahi tapu – defined as a ‘place sacred to Maori in a traditional, spiritual, religious, ritual, or mythological sense’.