A particularly beautiful and early settlement on the southern shore of Te Rotoiti. It was largely occupied by Ngati Rongomai, whose territory, together with Ngati Hinekura, extended from Tahunaroa eats to Te Ruato.
The extensive flat lands to the south, bordering Te Toroa and Mangakopikopiko streams, supported many cultivations and small settlements as well as substantial tracts of fine bush. Occupation was centred on the lake-edge area and enclosed by two major fortified pa, Tapaniao and Matarehua, which were sited at the western and eastern ends respectively on the higher ground. The Christian settlement of Te Mapou lay at the eastern end of the beach. Two streams meet the lake at Tapuaekura: Te Tokopa. Draining Te Korororo-o-Hiko spring and swamp at the western end: and Te Toroa, near Te Mapou, at the eastern end. Te Toroa is often referred to as the Tapuaekura Stream and the sand beach and nearby cultivation at its mouth as Tapuaewhero. Here in pre-Christian times there was a tuatu, where a tohunga named Tuau performed various sacred rites. A long tributary, the Mangakopikopiko Stream joins Te Toroa some distance from Tapuaekura and close to SH 30.
Tapuaekura seems to have been spared much of the warfare that affected other nearby communities. One incident of note, however, occurred when a war party of Ngati Whakaue arrived seeking revenge for the death of their chief Te Iwipaia, killed at Waiotekau.
Landing at the mouth of Te Toroa Stream, they seized a valuable fishing net named Ngakirikiri, but met a larger group of locals than expected. Leaping back into their canoes they set off, hotly pursued by those of Tapuaekura.
The two groups raced towards Paehinahina, meeting below Ngarehu (Orehu), where a battle took place. Several Ngati Wakaue were killed including Tauwhitu, who was speared by Hare. Another chief of note, Te Umanui, was captured but spared because of a relationship to Ngati Rongomai. The net was recovered and restored to its proper owners.
The stands of bush adjacent to Tapuaekura were important assets in both pre- and post- European times. A pit was established (c 1845) to supply timber for a church at Te Mapou, and another to assist Te Waata Taranui build his carved house, Rangitihi, at Te Taheke in 1868. More was cut in succeeding years for a variety of projects, including bridges built across both the Okere and Ohau rivers in 1872. In 1884 the first steam-powered sawmill in the whole Rotorua district began operating here.
Reproduced with kind permission from Landmarks of Te Arawa, Volume 2 by D.M. Stafford