Ngātoro-i-rangi and the Taonga


The Ngāti Tūwharetoa people of the Lake Taupō area are descendants of early explorers Ngātoro-i-rangi and Tia, who both arrived on the Te Arawa Canoe. From Te Awa o Te Atua (The River of the God) in the eastern Bay of Plenty Ngātoro-i-rangi , the high priest and navigator commenced his journey to Te Puku o Te Ika a Maui (The belly of the great fi sh of Maui) in the Central North Island.

When arriving in the Taupō District, Ngātoro-i-rangi sought land for his descendants and ascended Mt Tauhara which this gateway now faces. Upon reaching its summit he thrust his staff into the earth and from the furrow flowed a freshwater spring, ‘Te Karetu Ngātoro-i-rangi ’ which still flows from atop of Tauhara to this day. Ngātoro-i-rangi then seized a Totara tree and threw it far into the distance to Wharewaka where it eventually landed with branches piercing the earth and its roots high in the air.

He descended from Tauhara and headed toward the newly formed lake and as he reached the shore he proclaimed “this will be drinking water for my grandchildren”. He then tore a feather from his cloak and cast it into the water. Upon touching the water the feather transformed into an eel, however it did not survive. He turned to his cloak and once again tore a feather and cast it to the water. As it touched the water, the koaro, a breed of whitebait appeared and remains as the traditional fishery of this lake.

While on top of Tauhara, Ngātoro-i-rangi had seen a majestic mountain to the south. He thought to himself that he must venture there and climb that mountain as well. He travelled south and arrived at a place called Hämaria, when the setting sun disappeared. He turned to his followers and said “The night has settled, Let us stop here”, hence the name, Taupō, (Tau, settle and pō, night). When dawn broke the rested travellers continued on their journey and after many stops arrived at the base of Tongariro.

The group began their ascent to the summit of Tongariro and along the way encountered challenges. The final challenge saw a blizzard of snow and ice carried by Tawhirimatea the God of winds descend upon the party.

Seized by the bone chilling cold, Ngātoro-i-rangi was in danger of perishing so he called to his sisters Kuiwai and Haungaroa in Hawaiki for assistance.

Kuiwai e!                               Oh Kui,
Haungaroa e!                         Oh Hau,
Ka riro au i te Tonga                I have been captured by the southern winds.
Tukuna mai te ahi!                  Send me fire!

His sisters heard his urgent plea and quickly filled six baskets with glowing embers, the off-spring of Ruaumoko the God of volcanic energy. The sisters then dispatched the demigod siblings Te Hoata and Te Pupu to deliver the heat to Ngātoro-i-rangi . Te Hoata and Te Pupu plunged deep into the earth and travelled swiftly toward Ngātoro-i-rangi in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

The journey of Te Hoata and Te Pupu to Tongariro saw them surface at many places including; Whakaari (White Island), Moutohorā (Whale Island), Rotoiti, Tarawera, Rotorua, Or kei Kōrako, Wairākei, Tokānu and finally Ketetahi at Tongariro.

Embers were left behind at these places and only one basket of fire managed to reach Ngātoro-i-rangi . With this he became angry and thought,“How am I to be warmed by this one basket of fi re?” Ketetahi, (Kete, basket and tahi, one). In his rage he stomped his feet twice violently shaking the earth. Ruapehu (Rua, two and pehu, vent).

He then slammed his paddle deep into the earth. Ngauruhoe (Ko te Ngaurutanga, the shaft of his paddle and hoe, paddle). Through the ferocity of his actions the one remaining basket containing embers exploded into life bringing forth the raw power of Ruaumoko, God of volcanic energy. With this Ngātoro-i-rangi began to regain warmth and was revived.

The pathway of Te Hoata and Te Pupu is in a direct line from White Island to Tongariro. This is evident at the many geothermal features that now exist. The embers of Ruaumoko and his energy are still active to this day and continue to provide for people.

This korero was approved by the Ngāti Tūwharetoa kaumatua for the unveiling of the Waharoa placed as the gateway to the cenotaph. If you are looking for the full story of Ngātoro-i-rangi you will need to attend a wananga or talk to your kaumatua.

The Geothermal Taonga

Ngā Hapū o Tauhara are the descendants of Ngātoro-i-rangi and the keepers of his legacy.

We have occupied the Tauhara lands mai rano and are the Kaitiaki of our taonga tuku iho, (sacred treasures) Tauhara te Maunga & Te Ahi Tipua (the sacred fire).

These taonga are intrinsic to our Whakapapa and the very hau (vital essence) of who we are and how we relate and interact holistically, and Maori Tikanga wise with Te Atua Ko Io-Tikitiki-o-Rangi (Supreme Creator over all Heavens).

Ngā Hapū o Tauhara whenua are to this very day, still warmed by Ngātoro-i-rangi’s fire.

(Te Rangitahau II, Ngaikiha Te Raukura & Ngā Hapū o Tauhara whanau at Onekeneke Stream outlet at te kainga o Waipahihi – Photograph taken by Herbert Deveril circa 1875 –Reference Number: PA7-45-01)

The geothermal taonga has for generations sustained our ancestors both physically and spiritually, and we look to our taonga to continue to sustain us for the generations to come. We have always drawn upon this resource for the benefit and spiritual well-being of our people.

Our relationship with our taonga has and always will continue to be spiritual, holistic, cultural, social and as of recent decades, economic.

Just as we nurture our taonga, so too does it nurture us.

It is our inherent obligation as Kaitiaki (Guardians) to forever protect both the physical aspects of our taonga, such as its conservation and preservation, and the spiritual and holistic aspects, such as its Wairua (Spirituality) and Mauri (Life Force).

Our geothermal taonga must be conserved as a sustainable resource and Ngā Hapū o Tauhara must fundamentally always maintain an active, meaningful and respected role as Kaitiaki to ensure for its continual protection and preservation for our future generations.

Whano! Whano! Haramai te toki! … Haumi e! … Hui e! ... Taiki e!

(In this instance, as meaning we are united as one and equipped to progress our purpose ,let it be done!)