Champion of Ninety Mile Beach
E kore a mau i akoe, he wae kai pakiaka
A foot accustomed to running over roots makes the speediest runner
North of Kaitaia is Te Hiku o Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui) – the narrowest part of New Zealand. On the west coast of Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (90 Mile Beach), washed by the Tasman Sea, stretches in a smooth unbroken curve of golden sand from Scott Point in the North, to Ahipara in the South – some 55 miles. The iwi tribes of the Far North are Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa & Ngati Kahu. Ngati Kuri and Te Aupuri live near the tip of New Zealand, from Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) - the leaping place of the spirits.
The korero of Te Houtaewa is part of our history and took place about 1830. In the Far North, Te Houtaewa was a rangatira, and was well-known for his exceptional endurance, speed, and his tenacity as an athlete.
The legend goes that Te Houtaewa was asked by his mother to gather kumara from the local gardens in Te Kao for a hangi, but instead he ran the great distance of Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē all the way to Ahipara, filling his kete with kumara at the foothills of Whangatauatia.
He was caught by the local Te Rarawa iwi who ran to the beach, creating a barricade to stop Te Houtaewa from returning home. Thinking quickly on his feet, Te Houtaewa ran up the hill of Whangatuatia, causing the barricade to break as they chased him up the hill. Far enough up the hill, Te Houtaewa saw the broken barricade and took his chance to speedily run down past them. He successfully got past the Te Rarawa people, his kete filled with kumara, and begun the journey along Te Oneroa-a-Tohe back to his mother in Te Kao.
Te Rarawa sent their fastest runners in pursuit of Te Houtaewa but were unable to compete with his unbelievable stamina and speed. Te Houtaewa returned to his waiting mother with kumara in two ketes, and such was his endurance that his journey took only a little longer than it took to prepare the hangi.