Read about the Māori traditions surrounding the naming of the marine reserve.

The footprint of Rongokako (Te tapuwae o Rongokako), an ancestor of East Coast tradition, is embedded in one of the rocky structures of the marine reserve, close to shore.

There are many traditions surrounding Rongokako. He was a giant of great athletic prowess and dexterity, who could stride long distances. Although his origins are unclear, some say he was the father of Tamatea and came from Hawaiki in the Takitimu canoe. Others say he came in the Horouta canoe. Another version suggests that his arrival was as mysterious as his departure.

According to local tradition, Rongokako was sent by Kiwa to investigate the late arrival of the Horouta waka to Turanganui-a-Kiwa. On his arrival at Ohiwa, a disagreement arose between Rongokako and Paoa and the two giants fought. Paoa chased Rongokako down the East Coast shoreline. To help overtake Rongokako, he set a large rat trap to snare the giant's pet, an enormous kiwi. But Rongokako saw the danger and sprang the trap, which flew inland forming Mount Arowhana. The site of the trap became Tawhiti, an area between Te Puia and Tokomaru Bay.

Rongokako left footprints in the flat rocks as he strode down the eastern seaboard of the North Island. The first of these tapuwae (footprints) is at Wharekahika (Hick's Bay). The second is at Kaiora, south of Whangara mai tawhiti, from which is derived the name of this marine reserve, Te Tapuwae o Rongokako. The next footprint is located at Turanga, another at Nukutaurua, on the Mahia Peninsula. Rongokako then stepped over to Te Matau-a-Maui (Cape Kidnappers), then to the shores of Raukawa (Cook Strait). He crossed the Strait and was gone.

Kaiora, the settlement that overlooks the marine reserve, was a well populated papa kainga (village). The famous East Coast chief, Porourangi, lived here and is buried close by.

Konohi, the local chief, also inhabited the district. He had three sons Marukauiti, Te Riwai and Wahakapi, from whom the present tribe of Whangara mai tawhiti claim descent.

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