These were all on headlands, except for one at the north end of the island on a sheer cliff overlooking the open sea. These positions gave good natural defence, and enabled the defenders to observe enemies approaching by sea.
The pa were probably built after 1500 AD. They served as centres of hapu prestige, as well as forts. A Maori proverb says: “He wahine, he whenua e ngaro ai te tangata.” (“for women and land men die.”) Some wars were fought over the right to control good kumara gardening land and other resources. Others were reprisal for insult and trespass, or to increase hapu or tribal mana (prestige or status).
Periodic conflict broke out between Ngare Raumati and sub-tribes of the neighbouring Ngapuhi. Muskets were used as they became available. About 1829 Ngare Raumati were finally defeated by the Ngapuhi chief Rewa. This brought to an end a 300 year period of Ngare Raumati dominance in the southeast Bay of Islands.
These are flat areas dug into the slopes of ridges, knolls and spurs. They form the remains of small villages and were usually close to gardens and the sea.
These are depressions in the ground varying in size from 8 m x 4 m to 2 m x 1 m. Some are between 1 m and 3 m deep, others are merely shallow depressions. They are the remains of roofed, underground storage pits where the kumara crop was stored over the winter. Small pits for daily family use are often found on terraces. Groups of large, communal pits were hidden away from villages for protection against raiding parties.
Gardens and drain lines
These are series of long, parallel depressions visible on the slopes and flat areas behind bays where kumara gardens were planted. They are very faint, and are best seen when the sun is bright and low in the sky. They drained water from heavier clay soils on the slopes, and probably also served as plot division markers.
Two centuries before the crew of the Endeavour became the first Europeans to enter the Bay of Islands, a thriving Maori community lived on Urupukapuka. They were a hapu (sub-tribe) of the Ngare Raumati tribe who occupied the southeast Bay of Islands. The very first settlers of Urupukapuka, distant ancestors of the modern Maori, may have arrived here around 1000 years ago.
Very little is known or recorded about pre-European life on Urupukapuka. Our best record of the past is provided by numerous archaeological sites visible on the present-day landscape. By interpreting these sites it is possible to see into the daily lives of ancient communities.
At the height of pre-European settlement, there were kainga, or villages of extended families, living in all the large sheltered bays. Most of the time life was probably peaceful. However, when an attack from another tribe or hapu threatened, the people could withdraw quickly to the security of an adjacent headland pa (fort). Several of the highest hills along the inland ridges were probably also pa or lookout stations, protected by circles of strong palisades.
Maori fish hook
The early Maori community of Urupukapuka shared a very close relationship with the sea. Kaimoana (sea food) was their most important food. Each day at low tide the women gathered pipi and cockles in flax kits. The men set nets or went fishing with hooks and lures carved from bone and shell, bound to woven flax lines. Kina (sea urchins) were probably popular as they are today. People living in bays could launch their canoes easily to go fishing or to visit other bays, neighbouring islands, or the mainland.
Kumara gardening was an important activity of seaside kainga. Crops were planted around October or November on the sheltered slopes and flat areas behind bays. Around March, they would be dug up and stored in large, roofed, underground pits. Gourds and taro may have been grown as well. Other foods probably hunted and collected were bracken fern root, ti (cabbage tree stems), forest berries and plants, forest and aquatic birds, and kiore (Polynesian rat).
There was plenty of other work for this early community to do, apart from getting food. There were the usual domestic chores of caring for children, preparing and cooking food, and keeping the household in order. Adzes, fishhooks, weapons, and a variety of other tools were crafted from wood, stone and bone. Clothes, mats, kits, fish traps, nets and lines had to be woven from flax and other suitable reeds. Timber and reds were cut to build and repair houses, other structures and canoes. Necklaces and earrings were carved from bone, stone and perhaps occasionally from prized imported green stone. Building a pa required massive earthworks, and was the most strenuous and time-consuming labour. At certain times, such as when someone married or died, there were ceremonies to carry out, and all the people would come together for a hui (large gathering).
Since contact neither Cook in 1769, nor Du Fresne in 1772, visited Urupukapuka, although the French ‘Plan du Port Marion’ located a fortified village on the headland between Otehei and Oneura (Paradise) Bays. This site is now in scrub.
A whaling captain named Brind claimed to have brought 150 acres on Urupukapuka from the Ngapuhi chief Rewa in October, 1839, for one mare valued at £45. The claim was not upheld when Rewa claimed that the mare represented only a deposit, and not full payment.
Later in the 1800s Europeans named Greenway and Symonds leased parts of the island for grazing and began to clear the land and build a fence line. A Maori Land Court hearing in 1905 partitioned Urupukapuka into three holdings with shares for 98 claimants. Soon after this a Mr C F Baker from Russell began to buy up the land from the Maori shareholders.
In 1927 Otehei Bay became the base of American Zane Grey’s fishing expeditions, and a world-famous fishing resort was later established here. The Crown acquired the island in 1971.
To protect conservation sites, sheep are used for vegetation control rather than larger stock.
Dotterel, brown teal and other birds nest and breed on the island. Often their nests are well disguised or little more than impressions in the sand.
Respect nest-protection fencing and move away from birds exhibiting distressed behaviour.