Chatham Islands

This small group of islands some 860 kilometres  south east of Wellington, today has a population of about 600 people, of mixed ethnicity.

The Chatham Islands (a.k.a. “Chathams”) has just two inhabited islands, Chathams ( Rēkohu) and Pitt (Rangihaute), and a number of other smaller islands, such as South East (Rangatira), Mangere, Little Mangere (Tapuenuku), Star Keys (Motuhope) Rabbit Island, The Sisters (Rangitatahi) and the Forty Fours (Motchuhar).

Rangihaute (Pitt Island) today has about forty people living on it.

Rēkohu is the name that the indigenous people of the islands (te Imi Moriori) use. It literally means misty skies or describes the sun being hidden by the mist.

Europeans ascribed the islands the name of “Chathams” in 1791 after the British brig ‘Chatham’ commanded  by Lieutenant Broughton, who stumbled across the islands in 1791, after being blown off course. The HMS Chatham was itself named after the 1st Earl of Chatham (the late William Pitt who had been the 1st Earl of Chatham and also served as Prime Minister of England)

They landed at Kaingaroa and briefly interacted with the “natives” living there. At one point, the natives became quite threatening and Broughton’s men had to fire their weapons to scare them away.

Unfortunately, one man, Tamakaroro, was hit by the gunfire and died. Broughton charted only the northern coast of the Chathams before departing for Tahiti.

** Read for yourself a copy of the ships log here where this interaction is covered in more detail.

As mentioned; Rēkohu is home to the Moriori people. Moriori today are all descended from Rongomaiwhenua and a carving in honour of him sits above the entranceway to Kōpinga Marae, the formal meeting house of Te Imi Moriori.

Rēkohu has a sordid, but well-recorded past and some of the other units that Education Resources provides on their Unit Plans page deal with those historical and contemporary matters in detail.


The main industries / employment opportunities on Rēkohu are in;

      • fishing
      • farming
      • tourism
      • conservation

There are several fish processing factories on the islands and no shortage of work for willing hands


Waitangi boasts a hotel with a restaurant, public bar, gift shop and accommodation. There is a general store, cafe, museum, art gallery, gift shops and a hardware store and service station. Further afield you can find art studios/galleries, fish factories, a licensed club and accommodation providers, including lodges, motels, backpackers and homestays.

There was a thriving township at Waitangi, with a post office, hotel and shop.


There are 3 primary schools on the islands  (Pitt Island School, Kaingaroa School and Te One School) as well as a kura kaupapa and a preschool

In 1881 the first official school opened on Chatham Island and in 1896 on Pitt Island.


The newest, biggest and most well utilised marae on the islands is Kōpinga, which was opened in 2007.

The other marae on the islands is the Whakamaharatanga marae at Te one, which belongs to Ngāti Mutunga O Wharekauri. Members of this Iwi (Ngāti Mutunga O Wharekauri) are descendants of the Taranaki tribe of Ngāti Mutunga that invaded Rēkohu in 1835 (along with Ngāti Tama) and then stayed on.

This building was originally built as a community hall in the 1940s but since 1978 has served as the marae for Ngāti Muntunga O Wharekauri.