From Desperation to Inspiration: Ko Mauao te maunga:the legend of Mauao


Book reviewer and photographer Lee Switzer talked to Debbie McCauley about her latest book. He later visited the Mauao Camp Grounds where some classes and workshops, but not all, were held during Matariki celebrations.

Ko Mauao te maunga: Legend of Mauao. By Debbie McCauley, illustrated by Debbie Tipuna, translated te reo Maori by Tamati Waaka. Mauao Publishing. 2018.

Author Debbie McCauley had to plan well in advance for her book to be launched during Matariki. It is difficult enough to get the book proofs and overseas publisher coordinated, but to ensure the book is in New Zealand during this special time of the year requires tenacity, constant monitoring progress, and luck. Shipping delays, bad weather, any number of obstacles could prevent the book from arriving on time. Fortunately the season for celebration, stories and remembrance is enhanced with this publication.

The Legend of Mauao, like many stories, has multiple variations in theme, content and action. One of the oldest versions explains why Mauao sits at Tauranga Harbour.These library visitors get a special early reading of Debbie’s book by the author herself. The mural n the wall was painted by Debbie Tipuna.

Basically, the story involves 4 main subjects. Otanewainuku – the highest, mighty peak with almighty powers of nature in the mountain range south of Tauranga. Puwhenua – a beautiful smaller peak who admires Otanewainuku. The hill with no name, and finally the patupaiarehe – night fairies, or night spirits.

The tale becomes an anthropomorphic rendition. The mountain with no name wants to have a very close relation with Puwhenua, but she is not interested. He then decides to commit suicide by drowning in the sea. But needs help to get there. Calling on the patupaiarehe to take him there, they drag him down the slopes creating new river channels in the process. As they near the sea, the sun begins to rise. The night spirits must leave him at the waters’ edge. He is named Mauao, because he is ‘caught by the dawn.’

Ko Mauao te maugnnga: Legend of Mauao by Debbie McCauley retells the story but it is a much more optimistic, uplifting story. The mountain of no name, instead of wishing to commit suicide, wants to leave the area so he doesn’t have to see Puwhenua. When he gets to the waters’ edge, at dawn, the patupaiarehe depart back into darkness. He is happy because he sees the day is light and bright, and welcomes everyone to Te Awanui – Tauranga Harbour.

The many illustrations by Debbie Tipuna depicts the hill without a name, Otanewainuku and Puwhenua. As well, she draws the patupaiarehe with fine characterisations. A map is included. The text is translated by Tamati Waaka. Speakers of Te Reo Maori have called the translation ‘beautiful.’

Billed as a children’s book, it nevertheless has a glossary, Mauao facts, Mauao timeline starting in about 1250s BC, Mauao place names, and other songs and sayings in English and Maori. There are even pages on suggested activities.

The genesis for this story, according to Debbie began in 2012. But Life got in the way; such as publishing other books, working, family. And she wanted the right artist for illustrations. As a team, Debbie and Debbie worked in tandem, like on a story board: draft the drawing, layout the sequence, merge the two for a cohesive whole. The page proofs before final production showed more intense colours were needed for reproduction. Book designer Sarah Elworthy worked closely with writer and publisher to ensure the final product excelled in quality. And it does. (Disclosure. I worked with Debbie for about 8 years in the New Zealand Room of the Tauranga Public Library.)

A much larger edition of the book is due out at the same time as the more comprehensive edition. It is for younger children, only text and illustrations. No added appendix. Debbie McCauley wrote 3 books before Legend of Mauao.   The Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga was published just 3 months ago. See review at

Two months ago, Debbie McCauley published another book: The Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga Te Tiriti o Waitangi Ki Tauranga Moana reviewed here:

Tukutuku panel. Tauranga Moana. Sign: (part) ‘Mauao features prominently on the panel, with the morning sun, from which its name originates, rising in the east.’ Te Roopu Wahine Maori Toko I te Ora. Maori Women’s Weaving League. Matua Branch. NZ Room, Tauranga Public Library.

In keeping with Matariki events classes and workshops ensued at Mauao Camp Grounds.

On the first morning, a day of blessing and signing of a significant document.

Two documents were signed. (Left) Revised Memorandum Between Mauro Trust and Tauranga City Council. (R) Mauao Historical Reserve Management Plan. (available online) Previous Memorandum was signed in 2013. Photos: Mauao Memorandum of Understanding (15 September 2013)

                            Mauao Camp Ground. Jack Thatcher lesson to children, Mauao map.Jack Thatcher leads the class to Pilot Bay shore and Mauao. He explains his own whakapapa and tells the children other names for Pilot Bay                                                                      Conservation.                                      From the Conservation window: Mauao in the background.                                                        Fishing and navigation tools.                                             Hepora August, carver, explains Maori instruments.15 June. Meet at Mauao Camp Grounds, leave 5:30am. Walk to summit of Mauao. Jack Thatcher leads a group every morning, but today is a special dawn. At the trig, he gathers the group for a brief talk.Group moves to edge. Jack says and sings several karakia. He then explains how to find Matariki. Look towards the east, hold up your left hand and spread your fingers. The little finger points roughly to Matariki location in the sky.The group moves to the steps, still at the summit, leading further down the slope. The sky is cloudy but a narrow band of light above the horizon provides viewing of a small island peak in the distance. It is White Island.

‘Today,’ Jack says, ‘is a new year. Happy New Year!’

Text and all photographs by Lee Switzer.

More Mauao photos:

Mauao and Environs:

Mauao Fire (14 January 2016)

Remains of the Ranui

The Stone Jetty      

Lee Switzer is a regular contributor to ARTbop. You can find examples of Lee’s photography and images, poetry, short stories, event and exhibition reviews and book reviews in the ARTbop archives. Lee is also a long-time contributor to the archives of the kete managed by the Tauranga City Library.


ARTbop promotes

(or we think you should check this out!)

ARTbop is promoting poetry in the Western Bay of Plenty

Established spoken word, slam poet and performance poet Dhaivat Mehta and author, reviewer and poet Marcus Hobson are at the heart of a poetry initiative to give Whakamarama District locals the opportunity to meet and share their spoken words with others.  Meeting in the convivial atmosphere of the Black Sheep on the second Wednesday of every month and providing an evening of entertaining words and thought from 6.00pm to 8.30pm.



Join us every second Wednesday of the month,

6.00pm to 8.30pm

     at the

   Black Sheep Bar & Grill

Cnr SH2 and Plummers Point Road, Whakamarama

Read your own poems or poems by your favourite poet.   Enjoy the power of the spoken word!

Phone:   07 571 8722   021 145 5810

ARTbop Editor, book reviewer, author and persistent reader of poetry, Marcus Hobson at alchemy at the Black Sheep

The cover is as amazing as the words

Tauranga slam poet and alternative spoken word poet Dhaivat Mehta

You can hear Dhaivat Mehata’s collaborative original word and music project with Kingsley Smith on their You Tube channel:  TRYPTOFUNK   Here’s a taste…. Liquid of the Godz (Part 1) Other parts of this series are also now available on You Tube.


 We recommend you visit both the People’s Gallery and the smaller Incubator Gallery to view the current exhibitions.                           From a recent exhibition of sculpture at the People’s Gallery Photo Lee Switzer                                         An exhibition opening at the Incubator Gallery Photo Lee Switzer

Also, the Tauranga Art Gallery in its large upstairs gallery area is showing the selected finalists in the 2018 Miles Art Awards.  This is a diverse and interesting collection of work.  There is a small gallery retail space. (PS can we please have a salon de refuse)

Check in with Creative Bay of Plenty opposite in Willow Street  to collect one of the updated arts trail brochures for Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and surrounds.  A Macandmor production:  and check out their newly developed arty email you can subscribe to.  

When you are in the Downtown Tauranga area you can  visit The Art Lounge on Devonport Road, and Macandmor in the Goddard Centre Arcade.  You’ll also want a warming coffee, treat or lunch in one of Downtown Tauranga’s cafes.   Enjoy your creative winter in Tauranga Moana and the Bay of Plenty!


And don’t forget the next Affordable Art & Artisan Fair   The Fairs are held within the Black Sheep Cafe & Restaurant complex on the last Sunday of every month 11am to 3pm.  There is heaps of parking, clean toilets and wonderful food and coffee.  There’s live music. There’s an event prize you can win.   If you would like to join us as an exhibitor/retailer of your original creativity or artisan products you can contact us at

We are sign posted along SH2 with signage to the turnoff of SH2 and Plummer’s Point Road.  You won’t be able to miss us!  Here’s  just a taste of what you’ll find.

Isaac of Re,Work it and his unique garden art features in the entryway to the Fair

Artists from the Omokoroa Arts Group at work (and check the papers they have introductory classes on offer at the moment)

My lunch!  A treat from the Black Sheep cafe food range!     So good to see visitors from all around our region at the Fair on Sunday 24th June. Our Fair, along with local craft markets such as the Zee Market at Elizabeth Street, Downtown Tauranga and the Lizard Market at Omokoroa are focused on providing a venue for the exhibition and sale of original, local creativity and artisan products….more about this later. Keep warm and keep on enjoying the creativity of the Bay of Plenty.



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