Mokoia Island

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Mokoia under stormy skies, seen from the south

Mokoia Island (38°4′52.52″S 176°17′3.89″E / 38.0812556°S 176.2844139°E / -38.0812556; 176.2844139 (Mokoia Island)) is located in Lake Rotorua in New Zealand. It has an area of 1.35 square kilometres. The uninhabited[1] island is a rhyolite lava dome, rising to 180 metres above the lake surface. It was formed after the Rotorua caldera collapsed and rhyolitic magma was pushed through the cracks. One of the cracks was below where Mokoia island is today. The foreshores of the island have geothermal springs with hot spring water forming the Hinemoa pool, known to locals as Waikimihia. It also has very rich volcanic soil, which was why the local Māori grew kūmara on it. The stone statue of Matuatonga on the island protected the island's kūmara crop, and tohunga would bring seed kūmara to touch the statue.[2] It was also a very good strategic location, which was why it was often fought over.

Mokoia Island is privately owned by local Māori iwi, who run it in conjunction with the New Zealand Department of Conservation. It is a bird sanctuary and access is limited to tour parties only. It is home to several rare species, including the North Island kokako, the North Island brown kiwi, and a breeding population of the endangered North Island saddleback.[3]

The island is also the location of regular Mau rākau training camps in the Maori martial art of taiaha.

Hinemoa and Tūtānekai[edit]

The island is sacred to Māori of the Te Arawa iwi, and is the location of one of the most famous legends of New Zealand, that of Hinemoa and Tūtānekai, which has parallels with the classical Greek tale of Hero and Leander.[4][5]

According to legend, the two lovers were forbidden to marry, and Hinemoa's father Umukaria, a chief from the shores of the lake, ordered that she not be allowed to travel by canoe to Tūtānekai's tribal village on the island. Hinemoa decided to swim 3.2 kilometres across the lake to the island, guided by the sound of Tūtānekai's flute-playing. For flotation she wrapped rushes (a type of reed) around her and swam her way to the island.[6][7] According to another version, she made a flotation device from gourds.[8][9][10]

The Te Arawa version of the widely known traditional Maori love song "Pokarekare Ana" references the story of Hinemoa and Tūtānekai. The lyrics imply Hinemoa's crossing the lake to reach Tūtānekai.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Population by meshblock (2013 Census)". Stats NZ. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Kumaras and Kumara Magic". Te Ao Hou: 36–39. December 1962.
  3. ^ "Conservation on Mokoia Island". Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  4. ^ "Jottings of journeyings in the North Island". Wellington Independent. 2 April 1872. p. 3.
  5. ^ "The legend of Hinemoa". Clutha Leader. 30 March 1883. p. 3.
  6. ^ "Legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai". Dunstan Times. 7 May 1875. p. 4.
  7. ^ The legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai at Archived 7 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Lake lore. No. 2.—The legend of Hinemoa". Observer. 28 July 1883. p. 11.
  9. ^ Grey, Sir George (1865). "The Story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai". Polynesian Mythology. National Library of New Zealand.
  10. ^ Wilson, J. M. (6 July 2003). "Hinemoa and Tutanekai". Retrieved 19 July 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°05′S 176°18′E / 38.083°S 176.300°E / -38.083; 176.300