Basic Information

Type/Species: Taniwha
Origin: Maori (Māori) Mythology, New Zealand

About Kaiwhare

Kaiwhare lives in an underwater cavern south of Piha in New Zealand.

Kaiwhare came to the Manukau Harbour after another feat, transporting the ancestor Hape to the new homeland. According to legend, the tupuna (tūpuna), or ancestors, wanted to leave the shores of the Pacific Islands for a new home. They chose to take only those who had sound body and mind on the long journey. Hape, although older than many of the others, had clubbed feet, so he had to be left behind. [3]

Hape did not wish to be left behind, so he prayed to Tangaroa, the god of the sea, to find a way to bring him to the new home of his family and friends. For three days and nights, Hape prayed, and on the fourth day, a wave roared up in the ocean, and as it flowed toward him, Hape saw the shape of a stingray. [3] Tangaroa had answered Hape's prayers by sending him a taniwha, Kaiwhare, to take him to the new lands. [3]

Kaiwhare took Hape to Puketapapa, on the shore of Manukau Harbour, where the two friends parted ways. Hape acknowledged the taniwha in incantation and prayers and bad him thanks and farewell. Kaiwhare, for a time, returned to the sea. [3] Hape waited for the arrival of the waka, or ship, of his family and friends, who landed on the same shores that he and Kaiwhare parted ways. [3] Upon arrival, he greeted them, and they welcomed him back into the fold. [3]

Kaiware later became the guardian of the Manukau Harbour. [3] He would visit the local people for offerings, and he acted as their protector. [1]

Unfortunately, he began killing and eating those who fished and gathered shellfish in the harbor, making it too dangerous for anyone to use Manukau Harbor at all. [1] In desperation, the people searched for external help. Finally, they heard of a man at Hauraki who possessed a mere, a short, flat weapon made of greenstone and used for striking, [2] with special powers to tame or kill any taniwha.1 His name was Tamure (Tāmure).

Tamure (Tāmure) agreed to help with Kaiwhare, so he had a group of men sent out to spear flounder in the harbor. [1] Tamure (Tāmure) himself hid near Kaiwhare's den. Kaiwhare, seeing the torches from the fishermen, began to ready himself for a meal of humans. As he emerged, Tamure (Tāmure) struck Kaiwhare with his mere, wounding him gravely. [1]

The people allowed Kaiwhare to live, despite his unwarranted attack on those of the harbor. Since the incident with Tamure (Tāmure), the taniwha has satiated himself only with crayfish and octopus near his cave. [1]

Taniwha often are associated with people in Maori (Māori) mythology, generally as guardians and enforces of certain practices, such as the taboo laws. Kaiwhare, like many other taniwha, is a guardian gone wrong, although unlike other taniwha associated with people, there is no specific reason for Kaiwhare's attacks.

Physical Description

Hape saw Kaiwhare manifest himself as a stingray, but other depictions of Kaiwhare show him as an eel-like sea monster as large as a small whale. Taniwha are known shape-shifters.


  1. Orbell 55
  2. Orbell 211
  3. Manukau City Council Gateway to New Zealand: The Story of Hape

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.