Topic: Mount Putauaki

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Mount Putauaki or Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano which became dormant about 1000 years ago, towers above the township of Kawerau.

 Right on Kawerau’s doorstep is Putauaki or Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano which became dormant about 1000 years ago. The oldest ash on its slopes is that from the Kaharoa eruption of 700 years ago. It is a young volcano whose cone was built of viscous lava (andesite) which during its active life only covered the present cone and was not very violent. Close up the surface is broken by clefts and caves left by the cooling lava, but from a distance it looks like a smooth cone.

On its summit are two craters which are steep sided and clad in bush. The western crater contains a lake of brackish water which rises and falls slightly with the seasons. A narrow ridge separates it from another crater to the east, which is deep and dry and believed to be the younger of the pair. On its western side lower down, there are two more craters from which lava was also erupted. On the mountain’s northern side and also on the lower slopes is another small cone which is a incipient volcano. Here the lava pushed up the cone but never erupted. At the foot of the mountain is Lake Pupuwharau which is a crater caused by hydrothermal explosions. Another similar one is slightly further along towards Lake Tahuna. Both are much older than the mountain itself.

Romantic Putauaki

Many centuries ago Putauaki had his fair share of romantic exploits and one such love was the maiden mountain Tarawera. They lived together and their special bond was that they were fire mountains. To them a son was born, Ko Putauaki. Years passed and Putauaki cast longing eyes at a girl mountain called Whakaari, White Island. She responded and Putauaki, unable to contain himself any longer, fled one night to the girl Whakaari. His huge bulk carved out the Tarawera valley, but to his surprise he found his small son, Ko Putauaki, beside him. Tarawera awoke, rumbled and grumbled, and in her distress called for his return. Putauaki was at a loss of what best to do. Return to Tarawera who was by now becoming dangerously active or go to his new love. He decided to stay and that is where he is today. Ko Putauaki stayed with him and is seen as the much smaller hill close to his father but on the south west side. Forever and a day the Tarawera flows past them, near to her husband and son.

Attempts to translate the name Putauaki have come up with the following possibilities:

Puta  -  stack  -  Auaki  -  smoke.

This may refer to low cloud often seen around the summit of the mountain. Another translation is:

Pu   -   mound   -   auaki   -   higher than most.

Mount Putauaki

Other named features on the mountain are:

TE TATAU O TE RANGI: Meaning the door of heaven. This is the eastern peak, the location of the Fire Lookout and trig.

TE MATAPIHI A REHUA: Meaning the window of Sirius, this is the western peak and overlooks the town of Kawerau. As from the learned Hamiora Pio.

Ref:  Kawerau Its History and Background – Kenneth W. Moore 1990; Pages 2, 3, 10 & 11.