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Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao by Debbie McCauley


Mauao stands guard at the entrance to Te Awanui, the Tauranga Harbour. The history of Mauao, commonly referred to as Mount Maunganui, along with the legend, is one of heartbreak and struggle, but it is also a story of endurance, strength and unity.


This collaboration between Tauranga author and historian Debbie McCauley, illustrator Debbie Tipuna, te reo Māori translator Tamati Waaka, and book designer Sarah Elworthy tells the legend of Mauao.


Created with the blessing of local kaumatua, the book commemorates the return of Mauao to Tauranga iwi in 2008, the creation of joint management under Ngā Poutiriao ō Mauao in 2013, the recognition of Mauao as wāhi tapu in 2014, and the signing of the Mauao Historic Reserve Management Plan last year.


McCauley said over the years the mountain has been subjected to vandalism, graffiti and arson attacks.


“My hope is that if we tell the story of Mauao to a wider audience, then people will have a greater understanding and appreciation of him. That may translate into how they walk upon Mauao, take their rubbish with them, and help to look after the wildlife that choose to make their home upon his slopes. He is a taonga and deserves our love and respect.”


Her passion and respect for Mauao is similarly matched by Tipuna, who began working on the illustrations a year before the book was published.


She first crafted a three dimensional sculpture in modelling clay, before using watercolour and gouache to finish the illustrations. They are deceptively simple, but have such great meaning and are deeply moving and emotive.

The bilingual picture book features both te reo Māori and English on the same page, with correct macrons in both languages.


The book also includes a glossary and pronunciation guide, Mauao facts, a timeline, map, oral traditions, and activities for children. These additions are so well thought-out, they really elevate the book to being so much more than a picture book. It is a reference book, history book, and text book all in one.


A big book version makes it a wonderful addition to a classroom or kura kaupapa environment.


Ko Mauao Te Maunga is a simply stunning picture book. It will not only help educate our younger generation – and some of the older generation too – about this taonga – but will help children connect with their surroundings, while developing and sense of place and pride.


While it will hold immense appeal to readers within the Tauranga area, it is an incredibly informative and assessible homage to Mauao for all New Zealanders.


Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Mauao Publishing, RRP $35.95

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