Nga Taniwha o Whanganui-ā-Tara

Once long ago there lived two brothers that lived in a special lake that they called their own. Their names were Ngāke and Whātaitai. Ngāke was red, big and fierce! He would zoom around the lake a lot trying to be faster than his brother, because he was the youngest. Whātaitai did not care who was the fastest he just wanted to lay around and go to sleep all day. Whātaitai was the oldest, he had a long green scaly back and had light blue eyes.
Sometimes Whātaitai and Ngāke would often go down to the south side of the lake. There stood a cliff, the water would crash up on the cliff and pieces of earth would fall down. As birds flew over the cliff Ngāke and Whātaitai would yell, “Birds tell us what is behind this cliff?”
The birds would call back, “I am a bird, when I cross the sea, I see fishes splashing about, all kinds of fishes, there is space for everyone in the sea”.
Then Ngāke and Whātaitai would go back down to the lake and swim around the shores. Ngāke longed to explore the wide open seas outside of the lake.
While Ngāke was thinking about escaping from the lake, Whātaitai was just daydreaming .
One day Ngāke coiled his tail and sprung across the lake forming the river Te Awa Kairangi. The impact caused the cliff to collapse into the sea. He created a pathway between the sea and the lake it is now called Te Whanganui ā Tara. When Ngāke emerged from the big crash and swam into the sea
Whātaitai tried to do the same, but he ended up the shallow waters. The little trickle of water kept Whātaitai s skin moist and the tides swept in fish for Whātaitai to eat.
Whātaitai lived in that spot for many generations until there was a mighty earthquake that lifted Whātaitai up onto dry land.
There Whātaitai took his last breath and died. Whātaitai soon became hills by the entrance to Whanganui-ā-Tara/Wellington Harbour. There is now a suburb on these hills named after Whātaitai. The suburb is called Haitaitai.
Nobody knows what happened to Ngāke, but some people think that Ngāke roams in Wellington harbour sometimes going out to the warm currents of Cook Strait to play and catch fish

Rewritten by Ngaire-Leigh and Arie

Te tuhi tohutoro mō tēnei whārangi: Basil Keane. 'Taniwha - Taniwha ki te wai tai', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09

Read the story of Ngāke and Whātaitai in Māori on Te Kete Ipurangi