Pūrākaunui (formerly spelt Purakanui) is a small settlement in Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. It is located within the bounds of the city of Dunedin, in a rural coastal area some 25 km to the north of the city centre.

The Point (Potato Point) Pūrākaunui

Pūrākaunui lies close to the Pacific Coast to the east of Waitati and north of Port Chalmers, on a peninsula between Long Beach and the Pūrākaunui Inlet.[1] On the opposite shore of the inlet is the community of Osborne. Both settlements lie close to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary and the historic site of Mapoutahi (Goat Island).[2]

Noted former residents of Pūrākaunui include poet David Howard.[3]

Pūrākaunui should not be confused with the locale with the same name in The Catlins, some 100 km further south, which is home to the Purakaunui Falls , in the Pūrākaunui Bay Scenic Reserve on the Pūrākaunui River.



Indigenous agriculture

According to their oral history, Māori people grew sweet potatoes (kūmara, Ipomoea batatas) in coastal Otago, and their religious practice featured worship of the agricultural deity Rongo. Prior to 2021, Western archaeologists believed that the sweet potato failed to flourish in New Zealand south of Christchurch due to its unfavourable climate, forcing Māori in those latitudes to become (along with the Moriori of the Chatham Islands) the only Polynesian people who subsisted solely on hunting and gathering. However, a 2021 analysis of material excavated from Pūrākaunui revealed that sweet potatoes were grown and stored there during the 15th century, before the industry was disrupted by factors speculated to be due to the Little Ice Age. The researchers (from the University of Otago) urged future archaeologists to give more weight to accounts from indigenous oral history.[4]

The Mapoutahi massacre

Chief Taoka was based at a kaika (small settlement) near what is now Timaru. He had visited his nephew (some sources say cousin), Kāti Māmoe chief Te Wera, at the latter's pā, Huriawa, near the mouth of the Waikouaiti River. The two set out to visit another relative, Kapo, and while staying with him they began a heated argument. The argument developed into a fight, during which Te Wera killed Taoka's son.

Taoka returned to his kaika and summoned a war party which laid siege to Huriawa for a year without success. Taoka then moved his party south to attack Te Wera's chief ally, Pakihaukea, at Mapoutahi. Pakihaukea's guard was relaxed and Taoka struck, climbing the palisades in the dead of night and massacring the 250 people found within. So great was the carnage that the name Pūrākaunui (pū rākau nui, "large wood pile") refers to the sight of the bodies which had been piled in a huge heap outside the pā.[5]


  1. ^ "Purakaunui ," Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Mapoutahi Track ," New Zealand Department of Conservation. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Best New Zealand Poems 2004" . Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  4. ^ Barber, Ian; Higham, Thomas F. G. (14 April 2021). "Archaeological science meets Māori knowledge to model pre-Columbian sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) dispersal to Polynesia's southernmost habitable margins" . PLOS One. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  5. ^ McFarlane, R.K., "The massacre at Mapoutahi pa ", New Zealand Railways Magazine, 1 January 1939. Retrieved from NZETC 11 September 2019.


Information as of: 26.08.2021 01:40:02 CEST

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