Historic site: Te Pa o Kapo

"There is a history in all men's lives."

- William Shakespeare.

Image of Te Pa o Kapo.
Te Pa o Kapo in foreground.
Hill in right background is Whitireia Peninsula
Photo by Hannah Sutton, 2009.

Ngati Ira's settlements in Porirua

Pa provided safe havens against raids or taua

Some four hundred years ago Porirua was the territory of the Ngati Ira who also occupied Wellington and parts of the Wairarapa. During their time they built villages and pa all through this area, especially down the West Coast from Pukerua Bay to Ohariu Bay and Makara. The pa provided safe havens in times of attack from raids called taua that other iwi made into the area.

Te Pa o Kapo is a well preserved Ngati Ira pa site

One of the pa of this period, Te Pa o Kapo, is still mostly intact and can be visited with easy access from Terrace Road. The pa occupies a small promontory, separated from the mainland by a narrow neck, at the northern end of Titahi Bay. The site has excellent natural defences, formed by the steep cliffs above the sea. The link with the mainland has been cut away to leave a narrow causeway with a steeply sloping ditch.

Ngati Toa's arrival in Porirua

Amiowhenua: circling the land

Image of Te Rauparaha.
Te Rauparaha.
Image from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre from
The Southern Districts of New Zealand: a Journal, with Passing Notices of the Customs.

In the years 1819 and 1820 a very large taua was carried out by Nga Puhi and Ngati Toa including the chief Te Rauparaha. The taua was called Amiowhenua (circling the land) and when it reached the Porirua area they noted three major pa here at Porirua; Korohiwa (just south of Titahi Bay) a stockaded pa, and two pa using both earthwork defences and stockades; Waimapihi at Pukerua Bay and Te Pa o Kapo. Of these only Waimapihi was occupied and there a battle was fought and the pa was taken by the taua.

Te Pa o Kapo was abandoned circa 1820

When a few years later Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa returned to settle in the area Te Pa O Kapo had been abandoned and was never re-occupied. The leading chief of Ngati Ira in the area at this time was Whanake (also called Te Huka-tai-o-Ruatapu) who was married to the legendary beauty Tamairangi. Tamairangi was not only beautiful but also of great mana and reportedly was never allowed to walk anywhere but was carried by male attendants. Historians have Whanake and Tamairangi's home at Komanaga Rautawhiri about a mile south of Titahi Bay at the time of Ngati Toa settlement.

Elsdon Best's description of Te Pa o Kapo

Elsdon Best was a famous early New Zealand ethnographer who was born in Tawa. He documented many Maori sites and traditions from all over the North Island. In 1901 he visited Te Pa o Kapo and said:

"Three sides of this headland were perpendicular cliffs, with the exception of a narrow passage down to the sea, and on the fourth it was connected with the mainland by a narrow neck of land which has evidently been cut away in former times, and a deep ditch formed. Above this ditch was a stockade of huge totara posts, of which some of the stumps can still be seen. Inside this was another embankment and pallisade."

Best concluded that Te Pa o Kapo was the strongest fortified pa in the district during Ngati Ira's occupation.

Continue to Titahi Bay Boatsheds or return to Titahi Bay.