Makō was a great fighter and there are many stories of his exploits with his Ngāti Kurī brothers. At the battle known as “Ōpokihi” against Ngāti Māmoe, Makō and his younger brother Kahupupuni rescued their brother Maru from certain death using their fighting skills.
At the pā Pariwhakatau near the Conway area Makō was present with his sisters Te Apai (mother of Te Ruahikihiki) and Tokerau (both wives of Manawaiwaho), when Manawa was killed by Tukiauau. Their lives were spared as they were protected by Te Hineumutahi. They were taken to the gates of the pā and forced to exit through the open legs of their guardian Te Hineumutahi.
For a male of Makō’s rank this was a humiliating experience. His sisters offered him sage advice and said for him to leave worrying about his mana when he was out of danger.
On reaching a safe distance from the pā Makō called back to the inhabitants saying:
Ko wai tērā e Ngāti Māmoe ka puta atu? E noho i tō koutou pā whakaika ā koutou tamariki, e moe i ō koutou wāhine, kia pēnā ake koe āpōpō. Mā taua Makō nei hoki e kai te tākerekere o tō matau.
Who is Ngāti Māmoe that I have escaped from? Stay in your pā, feed your children, sleep with your wives and the same tomorrow. This shark will rip the binding threads of your fish hook.
Along with other senior Ngāti Kurī chiefs Makō would make the move from Kaikōura following reports of the riches to be found further south. This was a huge incentive for them to claim new lands (tapatapa) for themselves. There is a question whether the chiefs had divided up the lands before they left Kaikōura or that they were charged to go to these locations by Tūrakautahi as head of Ngāti Tūhaitara.
Makō was said to have asked Kaiapu and Tamakino (who had explored further south) and had seen a lake named Wairewa, what food was available there. They replied that there were weka, kākā, kererū and tuna (eels). At which Makō was said to have make his claim (tapatapa) with the well known saying:
Ki uta he uruka mō tōku upoko, ki tai he turaka mō ōku waewae.
Inland a pillow for my head and on the shores a rest for my feet.
The name of his pā at Little River was called Ōtāwiri. He gave it this name after a battle against Ngāti Wairaki of the west coast known as “Tāwiri-o-Te Makō”. It was at this place on the banks of Lake Mahinapua that Makō and Moki retaliated for the deaths of Tanetiki (elder son of Tūāhuriri) and Tūtaemaro, Ngāi Tūāhuriri chiefs. Their bodies had been found piled (tāwiri) in the waters at the lakeside.
Makō settled with his people at Wairewa (Lake Forsyth) where his descendants still take part in the annual harvesting of eels from the tuna heke (eel migration). Each year the eels make their way by crawling over the shingles at Poranui (Birdlings Flat) to the sea so they can make there way to breeding grounds in the Pacific Ocean.