Long, long ago, a whale and her baby swam into the Tauranga Harbour. They swam through the entrance, past Mauao (Mt Maunganui) and Te Moutere o Matakana to Te Papa (Tauranga).
They decided to venture further into the harbour, so they swam up past Te Papa and Matapihi toward Maungatapu. Once there, they found the water getting shallower, so they decided to return to deeper water. However, instead of swimming back out through the entrance, they turned and headed into the Rangataua arm of the harbour between Matapihi and Maungatapu.
They struggled over the mudflats of Rangataua, trying to find a way back to the open sea. They knew which direction the ocean lay; they could hear the sound of the waves pounding on to the beach at Omanu and Papamoa. Tired and thirsty, they stopped at ‘Karikari’ on the eastern shore of Rangataua to drink from a spring. They did not know that the spring was magic and that drinking from the spring would turn them into stone. They began to drink. Suddenly all life departed from them.
They both became fixed with the mother whale gazing northward out to the sea and the baby whale nestled beside her. The father whale came in search of his family. He saw that they had turned to stone. He too, drank from the spring and became fixed behind the mother and baby whale, and is known as ‘Kopukairoa’. The mother whale, ‘Mangatawa’, lies at the southern end of Rangataua Bay with the baby whale, ‘Hikurangi’, nestled beside her.
There is a spring at the base of ‘Mangatawa’. Sometimes the water flowing from it is quite white, and it is said to be the milk of the mother whale or ‘Te Waiu o te tohora’. Mangatawa rests there as a guardian of the people of Tauranga Moana and Te Arawa.
Our maunga are treasured by Nga Potiki and local iwi in Tauranga and afar and are here with us every day.