According to Māori legend, the North Island of New Zealand was an enormous fish, caught by the adventurer Māui. For this reason, Northland sometimes goes by the nickname of "The tail of the fish", Te Hiku o Te Ika.
Northland iwi claim that Kupe made landfall at the Hokianga (although others claim this was at Taipa) in the northwest of Northland, and thus the region claims that it was the birthplace of New Zealand. Some of the oldest traces of Māori kainga (fishing villages) can be found here.
If the Māori regard the region as the legendary birthplace of the country, there can be no doubt that it was the European starting-point for the modern nation of New Zealand. Traders, whalers and sealers were among the first arrivals, and the gum and timber of the mighty kauri trees brought more colonisers.
Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands can lay claim to being the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, and contains many historic buildings, including the Stone Store, New Zealand's oldest extant building.
The nearby settlement of Waitangi was of even more significance, as the signing place of New Zealand's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori tribes and the British Crown, on 6 February 1840.