It’s cool to kōrero — June

June 26, 2023

Ko Taranaki tōku maunga.  — My mountain is Taranaki.

Taranaki Maunga is a dormant volcano which towers over the whole western region of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island). It is named after Rua Taranaki, the first ancestor of the Taranaki iwi, one of several iwi in the region. It was earlier named Pukehaupapa (“ice mountain”) and Pukeonaki (“hill of Naki”).


HAERE MAI, and welcome to the kōrero column for June. Maunga (mountains) are powerful features of the Aotearoa landscape and hold immense cultural importance for tangata whenua.


Whether they be the volcanoes of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island) or the towering ranges of Te Tiritiri-o-te-moana (the Southern Alps), maunga are sacred to local iwi and are often named after their ancestors.

Naming their ancestral link to a maunga is one of the ways a Māori person introduces themselves, through a speech called a pepeha. In the pepeha, they will establish their identity and links to others through reciting the names of their ancestral maunga, awa (river), waka and marae, along with their iwi and hapu.

Kupu hou (new word)
  • Maunga  (mountain) — pronounced “mow-ng (ng as in “king”) -ah”
  • Ko Taranaki tōku maunga.  — My mountain is Taranaki.

More words related to maunga:


  • pae maunga — mountain range
  • te ihoiho o ngā maunga — the sinews of the mountain (ie the tribes of that area)
  • tūpuna maunga — ancestral mountains
  • rangitoto/puia — volcano
  • puia korehāhā — extinct volcano
  • puia moe — dormant volcano
  • puia oho — active volcano
Whakataukī (proverb)

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei.
Seek the treasure you value most dearly. If you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.
(This whakataukī is about perseverance and endurance — refusing to let obstacles get in your way while striving to reach your goals.)

E mihi ana ki a Titihuia Pakeho rāua ko Mairi Lucas.



  1. Te Aka Māori Dictionary. 
Maungawhau (Mt Eden) is the highest volcano in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), and was once a massive Māori pa.



Aoraki/Mt Cook, the highest mountain in the country, is the sacred maunga of South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu. In Ngāi Tahu’s Treaty settlement with the Crown, Aoraki was to be returned to the iwi, who then proposed to gift it back to the nation as a symbol of its commitment to co-management of areas of high historic, cultural and conservation value.
The Takitimu mountain range in Southland is named after the Māori migration waka Takitimu.
An ancient volcano, Mt Pirongia is the highest maunga in Waikato and has the largest area of native forest in the area. Historically the area around the mountain was settled by iwi whose ancestors had arrived on the Tainui waka. It was named ‘Pirongia te aroaro o Kahu’ (the fragrant presence of Kahu) by a tohunga of the Tainui canoe in honour of his wife.