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Life in Early Poverty Bay

The Maoris and the Oil Quest

The Maoris and the Oil Quest

Talking in respect of the explorations for oil in the district, Mr. Harris said that before 1868 some of the local explorers discovered the oil springs at Te Hau-o-Te-Atua (“The Wind of the Gods). The local Natives, however, wondered why they were making a fuss over them. The springs, they said, had been known to them for many generations. They were told that the pakehas would put down a pipe into the earth and from it thousands of barrels of oil would come forth. An old patriarchal Maori amongst the visitors shook his head and said: ‘Pake-has! Your work will fail. Listen to me and I will tell you why. In ancient times Rongokako stood on Mahia peninsula. When you are on the kaipuke (ship) you will notice how flat the hill is (we call it Table Cape or hill). After looking round, he stepped across the sea and placed his foot on Tapuwai (a flat hill on the Coast, this side of Whangara pa). As he moved across the Bay, a whale was spouting underneath him. He reached down and lifted him in his arms. On his next step the whale slipped out of his arms and fell on the land, where you see the oil.” If many of us had taken the advice of the old chap, we would have been freed from many disappointments. Perhaps, my friend Mr. Dalton could estimate Rongokako's height by the length of his stride!