According to tribal natives, Kupe was the first Polynesian to discover the islands of New Zealand. His journey there was triggered by difficulties with fishing in Hawaiki, his homeland. Apparently the problem was a great octopus belonging to Kupe's competitor, Maturangi, Kupe set out in his canoe to kill the octopus, and such was the length of the pursuit that it bought him to New Zealand.
With a companion known as Ngake (or Nghue) in another canoe called Tawhirirangi, he pursued the creature all the way to Cook Strait (known as Ruwakawaka), where it was finally destroyed
The arrival of Kupe is of great importance, and many tribes are at pains to cite a relationship to him. It is said that his wife, Kuramārōtini, devised the name of Ao-tea-roa (‘long white cloud’) on seeing the North Island for the first time. Like Māui before him, Kupe’s arrival is a foothold in the land for Māori. His adventures took place predominantly in the south Wairarapa, Cook Strait and Northland regions. However, in some versions he travelled as far south as Arahura on the South Island’s West Coast, and to the Coromandel Peninsula. Taputapu-ātea and Te Whitianga-o-Kupe, for example, commemorate Kupe’s time in Hauraki.
A Cook Strait story
As with many important traditions, there are several versions, particularly in the Cook Strait region and in the north. In an account narrated by a man named Te Whetu of Te Āti Awa to the ethnographer Elsdon Best, Kupe travels down the west coast from the Auckland region to Taranaki, and then to the Cook Strait region. Here his two birds, which he had brought from Hawaiki, set off to the South Island to survey the new lands. One, a cormorant named Te Kawau-a-Toru, becomes ensnared at Te Aumiti, a narrow stretch of water off Rangitoto ki te Tonga (D’Urville Island):