Hatupatu was a boy who lived on Mokoia Island with his family. One day he went inland hunting birds with his brothers. In the depths of the woods near the Waikato River he was captured by a terrifying female creature, Kurangaituku —“Kura-of-the-Claws”— who was feathered like a bird, and armed with very long sharp talons.
Hatupatu was taken to a cave near the top of a rocky mountain above the Waikato River, where Kurangaituku lived with her pet lizards and birds. One day when Kurangaituku was out in search of food he killed her lizards, freed the birds and fled from the cave.
One of her birds, however, flew off in search of its mistress, crying, “O Kura’, O Kura’, Hatupatu has gone!” The witch heard the bird and quickly raced back to her cave. Seeing what Hatupatu had done, she set out in a fury to get her revenge. It wasn’t long before the birdwoman caught up to the fleeing Hatupatu but before she could sink her claws into him he repeated a chant, taught to him by his elders and the great Arawa chief Ngtoroirangi, “Matiti, Matata!”. A great boulder in front of him split open.
Hatupatu leaped in and the rock closed behind him. Kurangaituku was just a split second too late and left tearing at the boulder with her claws. He was safe…for now.
When Hatupatu finally emerged from his rock shelter, Kurangaituku was keeping a watchful eye. He fled northward over the plains and hills toward Lake Rotorua. Just at the foot of Pohaturoa hill, which makes a green background for the steam clouds from the geysers and hot springs of Whakarewarewa, Hatupatu came to a great boiling pool of white churning mud, called Whangapipiro. He leapt across it safely and went racing on.
But Kurangaituku, not realising the hot pools were there until it was too late, tried to wade through the mud and down she sank – the boiling, heaving mud closing over her fierce feathered head. The gleeful Hatupatu went on to Sulphur Point on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua. He rested and decorated his head with a wreath of leaves, before plunging into the lake and swimming toward his home on Mokoia Island.
As he landed he threw down his wreath, which took root and became pohutukawa trees on the shore of the island.