In Māori tradition, Ngātoro-i-rangi is the name of a tohunga prominent during the settling of Aotearoa by the Māori people, who came from the traditional homeland Hawaiki. Ngātoro-i-rangi was raised at Te Vaitoa in Rangiātea, he was descended from the Ngāti Ohomairangi tribe and was direct successor to the high priest of Taputapuatea marae at Rangiātea. He had ancestral connections to Aitutaki, Rangiātea and other islands in the area. Puha-o-rangi, the father of Ohomairangi, was the progenitor of all of the Te Arawa people, he was trained at Taputapuātea marae as a priest and navigator and was renowned for his skills and status. He made a number of journeys around the islands of Hawaiki and rose to become a powerful high priest with the mana to carry the most powerful of deities; the people of Ngāti Ohomairangi formed two divisions. After the various battles in Hawaiki these two divisions decided to participate in the migration to Aotearoa, set about building the two great waka Tainui and Arawa.

When the Tainui waka and Te Arawa waka were constructed it was intended that Ngātoro-i-rangi should command the Tainui canoe in its journey from Hawaiki to New Zealand. The two waka were anchored together for the initial sea tests before launching. However, Ngātoro-i-rangi was persuaded by Tama-te-kapua to come aboard Te Arawa with his wife to perform the final rituals that would allow the waka to make for open water. While this was happening Tama-te-kapua ordered his crew to head for open water, thus Ngātoro-i-rangi and his wife were kidnapped. During the course of the voyage, the wife of Ngātoro-i-rangi, had been insulted by Tama-te-kapua. So, Ngātoro-i-rangi called upon a storm to drive the Arawa into Te Korokoro o Te Parata, a mid-ocean whirlpool, it was only when the shrieks of the women and children moved his heart with pity that he Ngātoro-i-rangi relented, let the canoe emerge safely. Upon reaching Aotearoa Ngātoro-i-rangi headed inland; as he went about, springs of water appeared. These springs are stills seen all over the area, such as around the Rotorua Lakes district, through to Tokaanu.

He placed patupaiarehe on the hills. As he was crossing the plains near Tarawera, Ngātoro-i-rangi came across a strange figure named Te Tama-hoi, he was a demon, directing evil spells towards Ngātoro-i-rangi. Ngātoro-i-rangi struggled against the demon and overcame him. Ngātoro-i-rangi stamped his foot opening a chasm in the mountain; the chasm became the volcanic rent of Mount Tarawera. Ngātoro-i-rangi arrived at Taupō-nui-ā-Tia, looking southward, decided to climb the mountain nearest to him and looked out across Taupō-nui-ā-Tia to claim the land he saw, he reached and began to climb the first mountain along with his slave Ngāuruhoe, travelling with him, named the mountain Tongariro, whereupon the two were overcome by a blizzard carried by the cold south wind. Near death, Ngātoro-i-rangi called back to his two sisters and Haungaroa, who had come from Hawaiki but remained upon Whakaari to send him sacred fire which they had brought from Hawaiki; this they did, sending the geothermal fire in the form of two taniwha named Te Pupu and Te Haeata, by a subterranean passage to the top of Tongariro.

The tracks of these two taniwha formed the line of geothermal fire which extends from the Pacific Ocean and beneath the Taupō Volcanic Zone, is seen in the many volcanoes and hot-springs extending from Whakaari to Tokaanu and up to the Tongariro massif. The fire arrived just in time to save Ngātoro-i-rangi from freezing to death, but Ngāuruhoe was dead by the time Ngātoro-i-rangi turned to give him the fire, thus Ngāuruhoe remains frozen there as the volcanic cone we see today. Ngātoro-i-rangi named a large number of places in the Central Plateau of the North Island in order to claim the area on behalf of his descendants, who would return under the mantle of the tribe Ngāti Tūwharetoa. Due to the clouds that swarmed around the mountains Pihanga, Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe, the Desert Road side was unknown to Ngātoro-i-rangi at this time, why the borderlines of Ngati Tuwharetoa are only one side of Mount Ruapehu, the other side being part of the Whanganui tribal area. Ngātoroirangi left the Central North Island and returned to Maketu to conduct the rituals to bring Te Arawa waka to rest, before settling at Motiti Island.

However, on account of a curse uttered by his brother-in-law Manaia, Ngātoro-i-rangi led an expedition to Hawaiki, defeated Manaia in the battle of Ihumoto-motokia. Ngātororiangi left a son at Tongareva Island. Ngātoro-i-rangi returned to Aotearoa and fortified Motiti Island, where he was attacked by Manaia, with all his host, perished when by mighty spells Ngātoro-i-rangi raised a huge storm called Te Aputahi-ā-Pawa, it is said that as an old man Ngātoro-i-rangi attempted to travel to Kawhia to visit his cousin Hoturoa who had taken command of the Tainui waka, but he never arrived. Many years his bones were recovered from the Waikato River with his tāmoko still identifiable, it is uncertain where his remains were buried with both Kawhia and Motiti island being possible sites. Ngāti Tūwharetoa academic Hemopereki Simon wrote that the mana in particular the mana whenua and mana motuhake of Ngāti Tūwharetoa is derived from the arrival of Ngātoro-i-rangi and

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