Scoop Review of Books

Release: Legend of Mauao

New children’s book tells the Legend of Mauao

Media Release: 16 June 2018

mauao_bookMatariki Tauranga Moana heralds the release of a new bilingual children’s book retelling the Legend of Mauao to commemorate 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 on 11 June 2018.

‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ is a collaboration between Tauranga author and historian Debbie McCauley, illustrator Debbie Tipuna, te reo Māori translator Tamati Waaka, and book designer Sarah Elworthy, and has the blessing of local kaumatua.

Debbie, a former children’s librarian and now a heritage specialist at Tauranga City Library, was committed to making the legend more accessible to tamariki. “In 2012 I rewrote the legend for children, printed it with colour images, and stapled it together so we would have something to read aloud during class visits to the library,” she said. “Since then I have been working towards publishing it properly so it is available to a wider audience.” The story has been used many times at the library alongside a play in which children dress up and re-enact the journey of Mauao. “The book itself has been a labour of love for Mauao, who I see from my kitchen window each morning,” says Debbie, who has published the book through her own indie publishing business, Mauao Publishing.

Debbie was on the organising committee for the 2014 Battle of Gate Pā sesquicentennial, and is well known for her beautifully produced stories from Tauranga Moana which include; ‘Taratoa and the Code of Conduct: A Story from the Battle of Gate Pā’ (finalist in the LIANZA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards), ‘Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill: A Story from the Rena Disaster’ (Best Non-Fiction category winner,  NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults & a White Raven selected by the International Youth Library in Munich) and ‘The Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga: Te Tiriti o Waitangi ki Tauranga Moana’ which was launched at The Elms earlier this year.

On the back cover of ‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ the thoughtfully crafted blurb reads; The history of Mauao, along with the legend, is one of heartbreak and struggle, but also one of endurance, strength and unity. Mauao stands guard at the entrance to Te Awanui, the Tauranga Harbour. At over two million years old, he is a tipuna and sacred taonga, manifesting both the past and the present, as well as giving us hope for the future.’

Over the years Mauao has been subjected to vandalism, graffiti and devastating fires as a result of 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,” says Debbie, “and 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.”

‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ is available as a hardback picture book with extra educational pages added; a glossary and pronunciation guide, Mauao facts, a Mauao timeline, important places on Mauao, oral traditions and activities for children. There is also a big book version ideal for reading aloud in the classroom and kura kaupapa (Māori-language schools). “I’m passionate about telling stories from our own backyard,” says Debbie, “not only to educate and improve children’s literacy, but to help them connect and develop a sense of place, and a sense of pride, in their surroundings.”

Illustrator Debbie Tipuna works from her home studio in Maungatapu, and started the illustrations for ‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ in August 2017. She firstly devised the character of Mauao and created a three dimensional sculpture in modelling clay. “I had to find Mauao, he had to come out in a format that would speak to local tamariki and engage them in their story,” said Debbie. She then developed a storyboard of sketches that fitted the text for each page, and once it felt right, used watercolour and gouache to finish the illustrations which are both vibrant and emotive.

The time and effort invested by author and illustrator in this particular project has resulted in a quality production, a well-thought-out, attractive book, that pays homage to Mauao. Designed as a read-aloud for teachers, librarians, parents and children, the attention to detail in ‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ will see the book become a treasure in many homes, libraries and classrooms for years to come.

Author Debbie is on the Māori Events Team at Tauranga City Libraries which organises the Matariki Tauranga Moana festival each year. The blessing and launch of ‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ is just one of the events on offer during Matariki, and will be held at the Tauranga Yacht Club on Thursday the 28th of June. The book blessing will take place at 10am for kaumatua and adults, and at 1pm a child-friendly book launch will be held to which schools and preschools are invited to book themselves into by making contact with Tauranga City Libraries.

Copies of ‘Ko Mauao te Maunga: Legend of Mauao’ are available from bookshops throughout Aotearoa, and through Mauao Publishing’s online shop ( The author and publisher gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Creative New Zealand.