Our Local History
These two legends are based in our local area and are acknowledged deeply within in our school curriculum as they form a vital part of our local history. Our centennial carving is based on Kupe and the Giant Wheke.
Ngati Toa And How Porirua Got Its Name
There is a tributary of the Wairoa River, called Ruangarara, which flows into the main stream from behind the Minden. As the name of this stream suggests, this story is about two ngarara, or taniwha.
Some way up the Ruangarara is a waterfall with a cave behind it. Inside this cave lived a taniwha called Poripori who was well known all round the district of Tauranga Moana. Poripori was a very large taniwha, with a big body nearly three metres long, and huge webbed feet. He also had big bat wings and could fly. Some said he was a maero, a monster. He had a long lizard tail too, like a tuatara, but much, much bigger. His skin was rough and prickly, like the prickly leaves of the rimu.
Not only was Poripori hideous to look at, he also behaved badly, and everyone in Tauranga Moana was afraid of him. When people came up the stream, the Ruangarara, in search of koura, Poripori would rush out and carry them off in his claws back to his cave behind the waterfall. Sometimes he would hide in the bush, and leap out and take the men who went there to snare birds. Sometimes, he would come out into the kumara fields and carry off the women while they were digging the kumara.
One day, Poripori seized a couple of people from Te Pura, the pa now called Wairoa, who were searching for koura. Word of this got back to their guardian taniwha who was known as Te Pura too. This taniwha lived in a deep hole in the Wairoa River just upstream from the pa. Te Pura was very angry that Poripori should be so bold as to take people from his pa.
Te Pura set off upstream, up the Wairoa, up the Ruangarara, to the cave behind the waterfall. "Hey Poripori, you tutua. Who are you to take people from my pa?" Poripori was very angry when he heard this taniwha of Te Pura insulting him. He swooped out of his cave and attacked. The two taniwha tore at each other with their great bat wings. They slashed at each other with their beaks which were sharp like those of a giant kaka. All the creatures of the forest fled; the birds of the forest trees shrieked; the rats and the lizards of the forest floor scuttled for cover. They cowered in the dense bush of the high ranges, as the battle went on in the valley below. The hills and gorges shuddered with the sounds of conflict, the great fight between the two taniwha.
Poripori was getting the worst of the fight. Soon he retreated from the flailing claws of Te Pura. Poripori turned and fled downstream, down the Ruangarara, down the Wairoa. In a flurry of heaving waters he plunged out into Tauranga Moana, closely followed by Te Pura. He was chased on out into the open sea, past Maunganui, north along the coast, past Moehau and into Waitemata. Still Te Pura pursued him, over the isthmus of Tamaki Makaurau, into the waters of Manukau and out into the western seas. Still Te Pura came on after him south past Kawhia and Taranaki. Poripori slipped in behind Mana Island to hide and catch his breath again. He saw an inlet on the mainland and made for it and burrowed a channel inland and hid there. When Te Pura reached the inlet, Poripori dived across to the other channel at Pauatahanui behind Paremata. Te Pura decided he had chased Poripori far enough away. It was unlikely he would come back and make a nuisance of himself in Tauranga Moana. Te Pura returned to his home in the Wairoa River and remained there as the rangatira taniwha and guardian of the people of Wairoa.
Meanwhile, Poripori with all his burrowing of channels to hide in had caused great earthquakes. The earth thrown out of the channels was piled up into mountains. The local people, Ngati Toa, clung to the manuka during all this upheaval. When the shaking was all over and everything was calm again they looked around at the new channels and inlets. They saw the taniwha that had caused the commotion. "Where are you from? Are you a taniwha from Waikato?" Poripori would have liked to have been able to say he was a rangatira taniwha of Waikato. He had heard of the saying Waikato taniwharau, he piko he taniwha, he piko he taniwha, for there were many chiefly taniwha on the many bends of the Waikato River. However, he had just been beaten in battle and he had to be honest. "No," he said "I am not from Waikato. I am a tutua, a nobody, from Tauranga Moana. My name is Poripori."
The Ngati Toa were very relieved that this taniwha was not a rangatira taniwha who was likely to attack them. They laughed at his name - Pori two times, or Porirua, they said. They decided the new harbour Poripori had dug up should also have a name and they called it Porirua. The word rua means a food storage pit as well as two. And they laughed at the joke about the meanings of the words Poripori and Porirua. And so Poripori stayed in Porirua. He felt too whakama, too ashamed to ever return to Tauranga Moana. But his name is still there on the Poripori Block, in the hill country behind the Minden.