Discovery Zone

DISCOVER - Hatupatu The Conservationist Te Arawa Tupuna

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Venue: Fun at Home!

Long before conservation greats like Sir David Attenborough, Steve Irwin the Crocodile Man and even before New Zealand’s famous Bug Man - Ruud Kleinpaste, there was Hatupatu.

This famous Te Arawa ancestor well known for outwitting Kurungaituku the Birdwoman was also a noted lover of nature. A fact that is not well known today.

Hatupatu often wore a tūpare, a garland wreath, on his head that sometimes was decorated with the flowers and twigs of the Pōhutukawa tree. At a place called Ngaukawakawa near the Ōhau channel were a row of these trees that were said to come from the clippings from Hatupatu’s tūpare.

Wherever Hatupatu went, if he liked a place, he would plant one of the twigs. A row of Pōhutukawa trees seen on Mokoia Island were said to have the same origins.

These are some of that things that Hatupatu tried in order to encourage nature to grow and flourish:

  • He carried plants from one place to another. A pūriri tree that once stood on the western side of Mokoia Island was said to have brought as a seed by him from Katikati

  • A totara tree planted by Hatupatu called Te Pare a Hatupatu was brought from Haroharo near Lake Rotoiti and planted on Mokoia Island. It is said to still be there today

  • Hatupatu tried to introduce eels into Lake Rotorua. This was not successful but he had better luck with Koaro, a small inanga like fish which prospered until the 1800s when trout were introduced to the lakes. The trout saw them as a food source so ate them out of existence.

  • Hatupatu had a very ambitious plan of transporting snapper from Maketū. He and other men carried over 70 fish in a huge container full of saltwater to Rotorua to stock the lakes. Along the way men were stationed with containers of water to top up the larger one if any water had spilled out. This was not successful as only one snapper survived. It is said that when the snapper was put into Lake Rotorua, it swam out to Mokoia Island then back to shore, beached itself and died soon after.

  • Another similar attempt of introducing koura or crayfish from the coast to the lakes was also unsuccessful.

Despite these failures Hatupatu is still a much talked about Te Arawa ancestor. So now that you know more about him have a go at this activity.

For students Year 1 – 4

Make a head band crown or tūpare like Hatupatu wore here

For students Year 5-8

Use this resource here

Courtesy of


Note: Like in all other languages words can be said or spelt differently by people from different places. In the case of tūpare, this is the way it is used in the Rotorua area.  In other places in Aotearoa you might see or hear it as tipare.


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