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Story of Mauao captured on the page

Tamoe Ngata with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga’s Kaihautu, Te Kenehi Teira, holding an early copy of ‘Mauao – Caught By The Dawn’. Supplied photo.

The story of Mauao – Tauranga’s pre-eminent landmark, also known as Mount Maunganui – has been retold in a book written for children in both English and Te Reo.

‘Mauao – Caught By The Dawn’ will be launched on Friday June 1 at 5pm at the Wairoa Marae, and will mark the end of a labour of love that has taken Tauranga author and illustrator, Tamoe Ngata, over a year to complete.

“As a teacher of kapahaka and Te Reo in schools, I noticed a real lack of resources pertaining to the Mauao story, and so my book is a response to this,” says Tamoe.

A visit to the local library was the catalyst that got the project underway.

“I asked the librarian whether there was a bilingual children’s book telling the story of Mauao, and she said there wasn’t. She then said ‘maybe you should write one’. That was enough to get things started,” she says.

Tamoe is well qualified to write about the iconic mountain. In addition to being a kapahaka and reo tutor ‘on her days off’, she is also a researcher for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, and wrote a report on Mauao which captured the rich history of the famous landmark for its listing as a Wahi Tapu in 2009.

Not only did Tamoe write the text for her children’s story, she also translated it into Te Reo and painted the illustrations for the book, tapping into her love of art. As a working mother with young children, much of the work was done in moments snatched while the kids were asleep.

The result has been thoroughly road-tested – both with Tamoe’s own children and the children she teaches at St Mary’s Catholic School. She is currently working with local writer, Tommy Wilson, to bring the book into production.  

“Word has got out and I’ve already had quite a few orders and sales, which shows that there’s a real demand for the story to be told in this way. That’s really exciting,” she says.

“The Mauao story strikes a chord with people – in some ways Mauao is to Tauranga what Nessie is to Loch Ness in Scotland. It’s a story about a local landmark that really enhances our sense of place and identity.”

The story may well be the first of many.

“I’m already thinking about the next book, though at this stage it’s very early days.”

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