Mythological history tells of two taniwha, Ngake and Whaitaitai who lived in Wellington Harbour when it was just a lake. The lake eventually became too small for the taniwha and they longed to escape into the ocean to the south. Ngake positioned himself on the northern edge of the lake and using his tail as a spring thrust himself towards the southern shores, smashing a passage way through to what is today known as Cooks Strait.

The force of the release of Ngake’s coiled tail carved Awakairangi – the Hutt Valley. Awakairangi – river of food from the sky. As the name suggests, the Hutt Valley was once densely forested and abundant in bird life. Seafood formed a staple part of the diet of local Maori and until the early 1940s eel, crayfish and watercress were harvested from the Waiwhetu River.

Orongomai is the old Maori name of the area where Upper Hutt now stands. It means “the place of Rongomai”. He was an ancestor and patron of the tribes whose ancestors came in the Kurahaupo canoe. According to their traditions the captain was Whatonga, ancestor of the Ngai Tara and Rangitane tribes. By his first wife Whatonga had a son, Tara-ika and his descendants, the Ngai Tara, were the first people known to live in the Wellington/Hutt Valley area and the harbour was named for Tara.

The Ngati Rangi came and were defeated by the Ngati Ira, who in turn were defeated by Tamiti Waka Nene of Ngapuhi and Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa at Pa-Whakataka across the bank from what is now Te Marua. Eventually the Taranaki people, Te Atiawa, occupied all of the Hutt Valley shortly before the Europeans came, with villages at Te Hau-Karetu (Maoribank) and Whirinaki (Silverstream).

Early Maori names for the river were Te-Awa-Kairangi and Heretaunga.

Orongomai Marae is to the south of the modern city centre. The heritage of the city is essentially evidence from the past that has become the inheritance of present day Upper Hutt. Many buildings, structures, sites and features within the city are significant because they possess historical, scientific, spiritual, architectural, cultural or other values.

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Last updated on 05 Sep 2017