How Hokitika got its name

In the olden days Ngati Wairangi was the iwi to live on the West Coast, but Ngāi Tahu wished to live there because they wanted the pounamu.

Ngāi Tahu made a plan for a surprise battle at Lake Mahinapua. In the night Ngāi Tahu quietly snuck up Tuwharewhare (Mahinapua Creek). The goal was to surprise Ngāti Wairangi to begin battle.

But with his second vision, the expert of Ngāti Wairangi saw their plan unfolding. His name was Tuaroaro-o te rangi. He then performed a very strong karakia to tip the mokihi (boat made from flax stalks - rushes) that Ngāi Tahu were in.

In the ’tipping’of the Mokihi, three chiefs were drowned. Tanetiki, Tutepipirangi and Tutaemaro were their names.
There was a big battle between the two iwi. Many people were killed. There were so many that the battle was called ‘The heaping of the sharks’.
One survivor out of the battle knew that if the three chiefs were left at Lake Mahinapua, Ngāti Wairangi would take away their mana.

Therefore he cut off the three chiefs’ heads and carried them all the way back to Kaiapoi. To do so, he held them by their hair, two in his hand and one in his mouth. He swam through the Hokitika River back to his iwi. The river was named after this battle and means 'correct return'.

This is how Hokitika got its name, ‘The going by the ‘right’ path.’

The correct procedure according to Māori custom (tikanga) was to return home with their mana in tact by following the correct pathway to return home.