The name by which we know the Pā – Kororipo – was in use from the earliest years of the Mission. It means “swirling waters”.
According to oral tradition, Kororipo Pā was occupied by Ngāti Awa, and by the Wahineiti and Ngāti Miru people, until they were displaced in the 1770’s by the new alliances of Ngāpuhi and, in particular, Ngāti Rēhia.
The Pā was located strategically to command the junction of the Wairoa and Kerikeri rivers. Kororipo controlled the major route to the sea from inland Waimate, a heartland of Ngāpuhi in the Bay of Islands.
This was the meeting place where weighty matters were discussed and reached. This was also the place that Ngāpuhi assembled before going to battle.
During the years of Hongi Hika’s residence at Kerikeri (1819 -1826) it was associated with the launching of Great War parties and acted as a fortress protecting the area from attack.
By the early nineteenth century, the district from Hokianga in the west to Whangaroa, encompassing Kaikohe and ultimately extending to Cape Brett, was an integrated defensive area of affiliated northern tribes associated with Ngāpuhi, known as the Northern Alliance.
From a military perspective Kororipo though small, had an impressive defensive position, sited to capitalize on a peninsular shape of land, steep embankments and turbulent waters. In addition, it originally comprised a complex network of pits, palisades and carved posts.
The placement of Kororipo was protected from landward threats by Ōkuretope Pā and from sea by the Pā at Rangihoua and Te Tii.
To provide early warning of potential aggression, Ngāpuhi had developed a sophisticated communications network, whereby scouts were deployed on strategic headlands and at observation posts. Fire and smoke, combined with the blowing of conch and beating of drums, gave an immediate alert, while fast-running messengers carried detailed reports on the nature of threat.
Prior to setting off on a campaign, Hongi would call his allies to action. They would gather at Kororipo to discuss battle strategies.
When the war party was ready, the flotilla would commence its journey stopping at Cape Brett and Whangarei as they did in September 1821 for final reinforcements and preparations before wrecking devastation on Tāmaki, Waikato, Rotorua, and Tauranga and beyond.
Once the campaigning had been concluded, the war party would return back to the Kororipo Pā, where the warriors would announce their victorious return with Haka (war dance) and Waiata (song).
Other associated names with Kororipo point to its Mana (power and authority) and Tapu (sacredness), and consequently it’s significance in northern Māori political, economical and military history.
Te Waha o te Riri
Rendered as “The mouth of Anger” or “The Inlet of War” was one such attribute, and refers to the use of Kororipo as the first of a number of coastal staging posts for the departure of Ngāpuhi fighters and expeditions to the south.
Te Awa o ngā Rangatira
This is associated with Ngāti Rēhia of Te Tii and means “The Deliberating Place of Chiefs” refers to the river and Pā as an assembly place or venue for councils of tribal leaders, where generations had gathered.
Such venues were referred to as “Ngāpuhi Wānanga” rendered as places of learning and discourse on matters of significance for Ngāpuhi. It is highly likely that Kororipo was one such place, a wānanga of the Rangatira (chiefs) and Tohunga (experts in their field)
A short distance from the Kerikeri Basin was a sizable Kainga (Village). The population of the Kainga fluctuated seasonally, but it is evident that there were Pātaka (food – storage platforms) and Whare Whakairo (ornamented houses) when the chiefs Tāreha of Ngāti Rēhia, Rewa of Ngai Tāwake and Hongi Hika of Ngāti Tautahi stayed there in the 1820’s.
The main Kainga was located by the old Pā because of the good gardening and fishing. The chiefs had other homes (or small kainga) at Kerikeri, notably Hongi. Rewa and Hongi also had houses at Waimate and Tāreha lived at the head of Te Puna Inlet.
Gravel (Kirikiri) was dug from the river to increase the yield of kūmara (sweet potato) crops. This common practice of gravel cultivation, or lithic mulching, warmed the soil and may have given the place name (often written as Kidee Kidee)
The promontory situated on the Northern bank of the Kerikeri River, beside the falls and diagonally opposite Kororipo was a burial place for Āriki (high – born chiefs). This double pointed promontory is where the replica “Rewa’s Village” now stands.