Whanganui a Tara is a MńĀori name
for Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Originally it described the actual harbour
(today officially known as Wellington Harbour), but the term has come to be accepted as the name
of the city as well.
It translates as the great harbour
, which refers to chief Tara who MńĀori tradition says
visited the area in the 12th century and decided to stay.
Although people are said to have lived there since Kupe
visited in the 10th century, it is Tara who is
remembered, both in the name of the city and the name of the first
(tribe) to settle there permanently, Ngai
Te Whanganui a Tara
has superseded an earlier name for the
region, Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui
which means The head
of Maui‚Äôs fish
. According to MńĀori legend, a giant fish was
hooked and pulled to the surface by Polynesian navigator Maui and the fish turned
into land which became the North Island.
It is not known when Te Whanganui a
replaced Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui
as the local
older name is still used in some circumstances, such as in the
official MńĀori name of Victoria University of
Another MńĀori name for Wellington is Poneke
MńĀorification and shortening of the name "Port Nicholson" . This
has been used by the City Council which claims the name is much
older, coming from pŇć
Legend of Whanganui-a-Tara
According to legend, the harbour of Te Whanganui-a-Tara was created
by two taniwha
(sea monsters), Whataitai (or
Hataitai) and Ngake. Whataitai lived in the north of the lake where
the harbour now is, and was gentle. Ngake, who lived further south,
was more violent.
could hear the waters of Raukawa Moana (Cook Strait) pounding to the south, and decided to escape the
lake to get to it.
He went to the north of the lake to build
up his speed for the attempt, then headed off rapidly towards the
crashed into and through the rocks at Seatoun and headed
out into the Strait.
This was seen by Whataitai, who tried
to follow Ngake out of the new entrance. The water was now running
out of the lake, however, and Whataitai became stranded in the
shallows. He stayed there for many generations before being lifted
high onto the land by a great earthquake.
The soul of Whataitai left him in the form of a bird, Te Keo. It
flew high above the harbour and wept for the taniwha, whose body
became the hills close to the harbour entrance.
day, Mount Victoria is
known to MńĀori as Tangi Te Keo, "The weeping of Te Keo",
and the suburb on the hills immediately below it is named Hataitai.