Ngatoroirangi - A Māori Story
The earliest Māori stories speak of a man named Ngatoroirangi, a tohunga (high priest) who guided the Te Arawa canoe to this land from Hawaiki, the ancestral homeland of Māori. Anxious to explore, he travelled east from Maketu, down the coast until he reached what is now known as the Tarawera River. Naming it Te Awa-o-te-atua, he turned inland and followed it upstream until he reached Ruawahia, the central peak of Mount Tarawera. Here he had a remarkable experience.
Ngatoroirangi met a spirit in the form of a person named Tama-o-Hoi, who objected to him trespassing over what he claimed as his land. He used sorcery to try and destroy Ngatoroirangi, but his power was no match for the tohunga from Hawaiki. Using a superior spell, Ngatoroirangi caused Tama-o-Hoi to sink into the ground. He then continued on his journey. The great eruption of Tarawera Mountain in 1886 was blamed by some on Tama-o-Hoi who, it was claimed, was so enraged at having been so long confined underground that he gave vent to his feelings by causing the disaster.
Ngatoroirangi finally reached the magnificent mountains that now form the Tongariro National Park. In order to view this new land he climbed towards the summit of Tongariro, the highest of the three mountains there. As he neared the top he was affected by the intense cold and feared he would die. In desperation he prayed to his sisters, Te Pupu and Te Hoata, for help.
His sisters travelled from their distant spiritual homeland, beneath sea and land in the form of fire. Wherever they paused to rise to the surface they left part of their fire, creating the geothermal system that remains today.
Their journey included Whakaari, (White Island) twenty-five miles offshore as well as Tikitere, Te Whakarewarewa, Waimungu, Waiotapu, Ōrākei Kōrako, Wairakei, Tokaanu and the mountains: Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngāuruhoe.
Ngatoroirangi was saved and the chain of thermal activity has been of great value to the people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) ever since.