New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Kupe - The Great Navigator

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Throughout the Pacific region, Kupe is the navigator credited with bringing the knowledge and data back to the Pacific that enabled the eventual population of Aotearoa. This issue explored the adventurous legend of Kupe’s pursuit of a great octopus, and the ways of Polynesian navigators who used the sky and ocean to guide their journeys between the islands of the Pacific.

Issue information

Polynesian navigators have a special place in the world of Māori, the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand. Stories abound about the navigators of the vast Pacific Ocean, with the most important and famous of them all being Kupe - for it is he who led the way for others to follow.  

It is Kupe who is credited with the discovery of Aotearoa, and who returned to the Pacific carrying navigational knowledge about the vast new land to the south.   

Kupe’s wife, Hine-te-Aparangi, was the first to sight the vast land mass that we call Aotearoa. “He ao - a cloud!” she called, then “He aotea - a white cloud!” and finally “He aotearoa - a long white cloud!”  

The story of Kupe’s epic journey has been handed down through time via the oral traditions of Māori. While there are tribal differences about the story’s finer details, there are also agreed facts that support Kupe’s existence and validate the navigational intelligence and data that he took back to the Pacific. The Kupe legend is indicative of Polynesian fables, which helped in transmitting tribal knowledge and histories through generations. 

Kupe’s journey began in Hawaiki, which Māori speak of as ‘Hawaiki nui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao’, which means the great Hawaiki, the long Hawaiki, the distant Hawaiki. Māori regard Hawaiki as their spiritual and ancient homeland, as it is from there that the original Māori migration canoes travelled to Aotearoa New Zealand, guided by Kupe’s navigational intelligence.  

This stamp collection celebrated Kupe the person and Kupe the legend. It depicted people, places and aspects of Polynesian navigation attributed to and associated with him. It also recognised his contribution to the whakapapa (history) of Aotearoa New Zealand and honoured his position as one of our greatest navigators.  

Presentation Pack

Luke Mikaire Crawford is the kaumatua to the Māori All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby. He has worked closely with graphic designer Dave Burke to produce Māori sports apparel associated with the Māori team. This has developed Luke’s keen interest in and passion for sharing the beauty of authentic Māori stories with the world. In this presentation pack, Luke connected the stories of Kupe the legend and Kupe the great navigator, delving into the navigation techniques of Pacific wayfinders that are still used by mariners today. 

First Day Cover

The first day cover for this issue featured an illustration of Kupe using the stars to navigate across the Pacific Ocean. It included the full set of eight stamps that told the story of Kupe and his family, the first people to discover the islands of New Zealand.

Commemorative Coins

Take a look at the Kupe - The Great Navigator silver and gold proof coins that was also part of this issue. Click here to find out more.

Product Listing for Kupe - The Great Navigator

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Image Title Description Price
Sheetlet Mint, used or cancelled sheetlet of eight gummed stamps. $10.40
First Day Cover First day cover with eight gummed stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $10.90
Presentation Pack

You could discover the full story of Kupe the legend and Kupe the navigator with this presentation pack. It taught you more about Pacific wayfinders and the navigational expertise that has been passed down for generations throughout the region. This pack included a set of eight stamps and a first day cover, with vivid illustrations and design by Dave Burke.

Still availabe for purchase. Click here.


Technical information

Date of issue: 5 June 2019
Number of stamps: Eight gummed stamps
Denominations: Eight x $1.30
Stamps, miniature sheet and first day covers designed by: Dave Burke, Tauranga, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 45.6mm x 35mm (horizontal)
Sheetlet size and format: 210mm x 110mm (horizontal)
Paper type:  Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet:  24
Number of stamps per sheetlet: Eight
Perforation gauge: 14.78 x 14.86
Special blocks: Plate/Imprint blocks, value blocks, barcode blocks and logo blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least one set of eight stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 4 June 2020. First day covers remained on sale until 31 July 2019.