The Splore site is part of the ancestral lands of Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Paoa, two of the five iwi who form the Marutūāhu confederation. The Marutūāhu tribes are all descended from Marutūāhu, a son of Hotunui, who is said to have arrived in New Zealand on the Tainui canoe.
Both tribes exercised influence and power for many years after European contact. Chiefs of Ngāti Paoa signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and the tribe become a significant player in the early Auckland economy. Ngāti Whanaunga chief Hāmiora Mangakāhia, one of the leading was one of the leading experts on the proceedings of the Native Land Court and was elected Premier of the Kotahitanga Parliament in 1892. But through a series of bad deals and bad faith on the part of the Crown, both tribes were alientated from their assets and became impoverished.
After three decades of work in the Waitangi Tribunal process, Ngāti Paoa and Ngāti Whanaunga, as part of the Hauraki collective, finally initialled settlements with the Crown in August 2017, signalling a new era for both iwi and their people.
The farm next to the site belongs to the Royal whanau and is the largest piece of land in Aotearoa to have never been out of Māori ownership. In the park itself, there are a number archaeological sites – including the remains of three different pā – mostly around the Tāpapakanga Stream. These are off-limits to festivalgoers and respect for them is a condition of entry.
There is an inspiring partnership story embodied in the historic beachside homestead that is the base of operations during each Splore. It was built in 1900 by James Ashby, who lived with his family at Tāpapakanga from 1899 and formed a lifelong friendship with the local chief Tukumana Te Taniwha. It's a mark of the regard in which Ashby was held that he was held that he is represented, carrying an axe, on the two pou whenua (carved posts) at the park entrance.