Kāwhia is the first homeland of the Waikato peoples; the Kāwhia land and seascape teems with place names denoting the long association of these peoples with the area.
Kāwhia was the final landing point of the Tainui after its long and arduous journey from Hawaiki in central Polynesia. When the canoe arrived at Kāwhia, it was tied to a pōhutukawa tree named Tangi-te-korowhiti. It was finally pulled ashore at a point called Rangiāhua, and is buried behind the present-day marae of Maketū, near Kāwhia township. Following the Tainui’s arrival the commander, Hoturoa, established a place of learning called Te Ahurei.
Early Tainui history is centred upon Kāwhia. Families grew and settled the harbour for approximately seven generations, before settling inland districts.
Source: Te Ara: The encyclopedia of New Zealand