Topic: Traditional Story: Nga Motu
There are two little islands, little bits of land sitting on the mudflats within the boundaries of the City of Tauranga. One is Motuopuhi, which the Pakeha call Rat Island, in the estuary of the Waimapu not far from Hairini. Motuopae, or Peach Island, sits in the Waikareao Estuary, not far from Judea Pa. Neither of these islands used to be there before, but how did they get to be where they are now?
Motuopae was a hillock among many small hills inland of Otumoetai. Motuopae was in love with one of these hills but as so often happens, the lady did not respond to him at all. She turned her attention to another. Motuopae could not bear to stay around and watch his object of affection ignoring him in favour of someone else. He decided one night to swim out to sea. However, he dithered about this idea for too long before he started on his journey. He had only got as far as the Waikareao Estuary before the sun rose. He could only travel at night. The first rays of the early morning sun caught him on the mudflats of Waikareao and fixed him in his place there. He could not move. And there he sits facing out to sea.
Motuopae belongs to Ngai Tamarawaho of Huria, Judea Pa. It is their urupa, a burial ground, where the bones of their ancestors rest in peace. It was called Peach Island by the Pakeha because of all the peach trees that grew wild there. But it would be a very daring child who would go and break the tapu on that island by eating any of those peaches.
Motuopuhi used to be much closer to Maungatapu. That was in the days when Waitaha people had their pa on the cliff top at the end of the peninsula. Motuopuhi, as its name suggests, was the island close by the pa where the puhi lived. The puhi were the daughters of the rangatira and they were high class. The ordinary girls, kotiro, were allowed to have boyfriends, but the puhi had to be protected. In due course they would be married off by the elders to the sons of chiefs of other hapu or other tribes. They had to be kept as virgins, a kind of tapu which would make them more acceptable to their future husbands. And so each night the puhi were taken to their special whare puni on the little island to sleep. Their guardians were a couple of old kuia, old ladies who took good care that no young men came around that island.
Well, human nature being what it is, that island of virgins presented a challenge to some enterprising young men. It was not too long before ways were found to get to the island and get past the kuia. It soon became obvious to the elders that the tapu imposed by the kaumatua was not enough to protect them. There was a great deal of discussion and when all the whaikorero was done, it was agreed the island was much too close to the pa. It was impossible to prevent these lovers' meetings under cover of darkness.
There was only one thing to do, that is to shift the island further away. This was not the sort of job for men, however. Next day the Waitaha women were called together. At half tide they all waded out and with one stupendous heave pushed the island further away across the estuary. If you doubt this korero tara then you should go to the Waimapu Estuary at low tide. You will see the channel between Motuopuhi and Maungatapu which was gouged out when the women shifted the island. And why did the Pakeha decide to call it Rat Island when it already had a perfectly good name? Well, maybe you can think of a perfectly good explanation for that.
Other stories are are found off the article - An Introduction to this collection
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