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  • the Mauao Trust me Ngaa Poutiriao o Mauao

The story of Mauao

Acknowledgements to the Mauao Trust and Ngaa Poutiriao o Mauao

'Postcard, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga' Image taken from Tauranga Heritage Collection, 'Te aroha o Mauao' page. There are no known copyright restrictions.

There was once a hill with no name among the many hills and ravines on the edge of the forests of Hautere. This nameless one was pononga (slave or servant) to the great chief Otānewainuku, the forested peak which stands as a landmark for the tribes of Tauranga Moana.

To the south-west was the shapely form of the hill Puwhenua, a woman clothed in all the fine greens of the ferns and shrubs and trees of the forest of Tāne.

The nameless one was desperately in love with Puwhenua. However, her heart was already won by the majestic form of the chiefly mountain Otānewainuku. There seemed no hope for the lowly slave maunga with no name to persuade her to become his bride.

The nameless one sorrowed and in despair he decided to end it all by drowning himself in the ocean, Te Moananui a Kiwa. He called on the patupaiarehe, the people with magical powers who dwelled in the forests of Hautere. They were his friends and they plaited ropes with their magic to haul him from the hill country toward the ocean.

As they pulled on their ropes, they chanted their magic chant:



E hika tū ake

Arise you who slumber

​Ki runga rā whitiki taua

​Prepare ourselves

​Hei tama tū

​Prove our manhood

​Uea ki te uru

​Heave to the west

​Kumea ki te tonga

​Heave to the south

​Hiki nuku, hiki rangi i arā rā

​Move heaven and earth

​Ka ngaru e, ka ngaru e,

​It awakens, It loosens, shudders,

​Toia ki te hau marangai

​Haul toward the stormy east wind

​Kia whakarongo taku kiri

​That the sky may feel

​Te kikini a te rehutai

​The tang of salt spray

​O ngā ngaru whatiwhati

E haruru mai nei

​Of the turbulent thundering waves

​Wī, wī wī,

​Wī, wī wī,

​Wā wā wā,

​Wā wā wā,

A! hā! hā!

A! hā! hā!

​Horahia ō mata ki a Meremere

​Cast your eyes heavenward toward Venus, the evening star

​Tūahiahi Hei taki i te ara ki a Tangaroa;

​To light the path to the ocean of Tangaroa;

​He atua hāo i te tini ki te pō

​The god who lures many into his embrace, into eternal darkness

​E kokoia e ara e.

​Alas, the birds have awakened

​Dawn has come.

The patupaiarehe chanted this song and hauled the nameless one from his place among the hills from Waoku.

They gouged out the valley where the river Waimapu now flows.

They followed the channel of Tauranga Moana past Hairini, past Maungatapu and Matapihi, past Te Papa.

They pulled him to the edge of the great ocean of Kiwa.

But it was already close to daybreak. The sun rose. The first rays lit up the summit of the nameless hill and fixed him in that place.

The patupaiarehe melted away before the light of the sun. They were people of the night and they flew back to the shady depths of the forests and ravines of Hautere.

The patupaiarehe gave a name to this mountain which marks the entrance to Tauranga Moana. He was called Mauao which means caught by the dawn or lit up by the first rays of sunrise. In time, he assumed greater mana than his rival Otānewainuku. Later he was also given another name, Maunganui, to acknowledge the homeland in Hawaiki.

He is still the symbol of the tribes of Tauranga Moana: Ko Mauao te maunga, ko Tauranga te moana.

Loved this story? Keep learning about Mauao:

Check out the Mauao historic reserves management plan here and a guide with a beaut wee map here.



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