Taipa-Mangonui is one name given to a string of small resort settlements in the far north of New Zealand’s North Auckland Peninsula, close to the base of the Aupouri Peninsula. The resorts of Taipa, Cable Bay, Coopers Beach, and Mangonui, all of which lie along the coast of Doubtless Bay, are so close together that they have run together to form one larger settlement with a combined population of 1566 (2006 census).
The „miniature conurbation“ lies 150 kilometres by road northwest of Whangarei (though only 100 kilometres as the crow flies), and 20 kilometres northeast of Kaitaia. It is thus the northernmost centre in New Zealand with a population of above 1000, even though it is nearly 100 kilometres southeast of the northernmost tip of the North Island.
According to some Maori legends, the great Polynesian explorer and navigator, Kupe, sailed from Hawaiiki in his canoe, named Matahourua and landed at Taipa Bay. Others believe that he landed in the Hokianga Harbour around AD 900.
Centuries after Kupe’s landing his descendants, the chiefs Te Parata and Tu moana were said to have brought the ancestors of the Ngatikahu tribe to the Mangonui area around AD 1350, returning on the same canoe. Legend has it that they found insufficient fresh water at Otengi Bay and travelled up to the mouth of the Taipa River to land. There they settled and married into the local tribes.
Another canoe led by Moehuri is said to have been guided by a large shark into the Mangonui Harbour to a landing spot opposite the old post office. He made the shark Tapu and called the harbour Mangonui, meaning ‘Big Shark.’ in the Maori language. In the 19th century, the spelling of Mongonui was more common, and the Mongonui electorate filled one seat in Parliament between 1861 and 1881.
Moehuri settled in Mangonui and married into the local people- remnants of the Ngati Awa and branch tribes of the Ngati Whatua. Pā were located all around the area, including one at Mill Bay, called Rangikapiti by Moehuri.
Taumarumaru pa was located on the headland between Mangonui and Coopers Beach while at the western end of Coopers Beach was Ohumuhumu pa, surrounded at one time by a large village.
The first European visitors appeared in 1769. Jean De Surville and his crew aboard St Jean Baptiste landed at what he named Lauriston Bay to get fresh vegetables to combat scurvy. Captain James Cook had sailed by eight days earlier and believed the area to be an enclosed body of water, commenting that it was ‘doubtless a bay’ and so the name Doubtless Bay came about. Around twenty years later, whalers and sealers from all over the western world were the next to arrive and the name Coopers Beach is thought to have come from the coopers on the whaling boats. When Hone Heke destroyed Kororareka (Russell), the evacuation saw 40 to 50 ships in the Mangonui Harbour. The town assumed new importance and was considered the country’s second capital. The last whaling ship visited Mangonui in 1885.
The first European settler is considered to be James David Berghan from Ireland who arrived in Mangonui in 1831. By the later half of the 19th century, flax and timber industries were flourishing in the area. Other setters developed farms and businesses in the area while some married into the native population. The dynamic mix of settlers coming from various parts of Europe, combined with the Maori population provided Mangonui with a rich heritage.