It’s cool to kōrero — August

August 23, 2023

Kai moana — food from the sea.

Off the coast of Kaikōura, a mighty parāoa (sperm whale) flicks its tail as it dives. Photo: Adobe Stock
A traditional Māori matau (fishing hook), crafted out of wood, bone and flax. Photo: Adobe Stock

A diver swims through a sea cave near Tawhiti Rahi (Poor Knights Islands), off the east coast of Te Tai Tokerau. Photo: Adobe Stock

Haere mai — welcome to the August kōrero column. Traditional Māori were very much at home in te moana (the sea). They were fine navigators and builders of sea-going waka, which allowed them to make the long voyage to settle here.

Te moana provided a vital means of travel, as well as being the source of bountiful kai moana (seafood), which remains a well-loved part of Māori cuisine.


Māori fishing skills are evident in the mythical creation story of Aotearoa: the Polynesian hero and trickster Māui went fishing with his brothers and, with his magic matau (fishing hook) hauled up a massive catch — Te Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Maui, ie the North Island). One of the Māori names for the South Island is Te Waka-o-Māui (the waka of Māui).

Kupu hou (new word)
  • Moana (sea, ocean, lake) —pronounced “mo (as in more)-ah-nah”
  • I tēnei rā kua orua te moana. — The sea is rough today.

More words related to moana:


  • pae moana — sea level, sea surface
  • tārawa — wave
  • tauā moana — navy
  • Raukawa Moana — Cook Strait
  • ika moana — whale (general term)
  • moana waiwai — open sea, ocean
  • Te Moana nui-a-Kiwa — Pacific Ocean
  • ngohi — fish
  • matau — fishing hook
  • kai moana — seafood
  • He toka tū moana. — A rock standing firm in the sea. (This refers to a person who is steadfast in their beliefs or position, like a rock that withstands the battering of the elements.)

E mihi ana ki a Titihuia Pakeho rāua ko Mairi Lucas.

  1. Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. (2005). First peoples in Māori tradition – Māui, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.