Rangitahua (Kermadec Islands) Profile
Rangitahua, which refers to the main island of this 6-island volcanic arc, is significant for Maori as a stepping stone on the long migratory voyage from the homelands of Hawaiki to the great unknown expanse of Aotearoa (New Zealand). It is said that the waka (canoes) Aotea, Tainui, Te Arawa, Mataatua, Te Waka Horouta and Takitimu regrouped at Rangitahua and took on passengers from the damaged Kurahaupo waka, which was undergoing repairs.
A pou whenua, or land pole, was erected on the island in 2001 by kaumatua of the Ngati Kuri iwi to acknowledge and recognise the ancestry and connection that the Northland tribe has with Rangitahua.
Since those initial landings, Rangitahua has probably been utilised by many Polynesian and Maori voyagers as a stopover for rest, repairs and the collection of food and water. Today, remnants of the occupation of the island can be seen by the presence of Polynesian plants, such as the vast stands of fou or shore hibiscus, the majestic candlenut trees, the fibrous Cordyline (ti or cabbage tree), and even taro growing below the springs on the rocky eastern side of the island. There is also the possibility that karaka, an important food source, was brought to Rangitahua before making its way further to Aotearoa.
Years later, Europeans made various attempts to settle on Rangitahua. They were usually courageous and resourceful people, but unwittingly introduced many plant and animal pests which were to have a detrimental effect on this beautiful island’s unique ecology.
Today Rangitahua is administered by New Zealand, whose Department of Conservation is working to reverse the damage done in the past, and with the eradication of goats, cats and rats, the island’s flora and fauna is beginning to flourish anew.
Source: Chauncy Ardell, 2009