From Wikipedia:- The original name still used by local Maori is Te Kohanga o Te Tai Tokerau (“the nest of the northern people”) or Te Puna o Te Ao Marama (“the wellspring of moonlight”). The full name of the Harbour is Te Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe – “the place of Kupe’s great return”.
You can read the whole lot there, but I found the Maori history interesting. Kupe was according to Maori lore the first Maori explorer to discover New Zealand, and he settled in Hokianga before leaving on his return journey to Hawaiki swearing this would be the place of his return and he left several artifacts including the bailer for his canoe (hopefully he had a spare). Later Kupe’s grandson Nukutawhiti returned to settle Hokianga.
Hokianga today still has one of the highest proportions of Maori population in New Zealand. It has a sub-tropical climate, which made it ideal for the crops the early Maori settlers brought over with them. Northland itself had by far, the highest population density of Maori for this very reason.
European settlers noted the vast ancient forests of the Hokianga area, and this combined with the natural harbour led to the rapid deforestation of the hills, followed in short order by massive erosion, dumping huge amounts of sediment into the harbour. What topsoil remained was converted to pasture and a booming dairy industry developed there (followed by a bust).
Today the main industries are forestry, agriculture and tourism.
One other interesting aspect of Hokianga history still shaping the area today was the Hokianga fire of November 1987. Prior to the centralization of local government enabled by information technology, local government was actually local for many towns in New Zealand, and legal documents were stored locally on paper. When the fire raged through the small township of Rawene, the Hokianga District Council building was burnt to the ground, along with all the paper records. Things like building permits and land use permits were gone. Not ones to miss an opportunity the locals seized the day and buildings were going up everywhere. Clearly they had a defensible argument, “this house has always been here, the records were lost in the fire.” No doubt some of the houses built, were in full accordance with the building code, unfortunately many were not. Whatever benefits were gained from the cheap housing, have now become eclipsed by a seriously depressed property market. Banks can no longer lend against these buildings, and not many people have the money or motivation to do the required remediation work. The fire has reached legendary status amongst the real estate industry, the answer to any question about the soundness or legality of a building invariably starts with “there was this fire in Hokianga……”