Balmoral and Sandringham are overlooked by two of Tamaki’s large volcanic cones, namely, Oairaka (Mt Albert) and Maungawhau (Mt Eden).
Along with the other Auckland mountains, these are said to have resulted from the efforts of powerful Tohunga from Waitakere to destroy a war party from Hunua, provoked by the illicit love affair between a girl of their people, Hinemairangi, and Tamaireia of Waitakere.
This released the volcanic forces of the earth, controlled by the unborn God Child Raaumoko, restless within the womb of his earth mother Papauanuku.
An alternative explanation for their formation is that the efforts of powerful Tohunga threw them off the Waitakere coast to land in Tamaki.
A further suggestion is that their creation was due to the efforts of Mahuika, Goddess of fire, who was called upon by Mataaho, the giant to warm him.
This history reflects tribal cosmological beliefs and explains the environment that Maori ancestors and their descendants had encountered. They link ancestral names and events to landscapes and provide an unbroken association with the formation of Tamaki Makaurau and its many generations of on-going human occupation.
They also reflect the spiritual nature of the mountains associated with the actions of the Gods themselves. The body of our earth parent Maungawhau (the Mountain of the Whau plant) is one of Tamaki’s tapu places. Its impressive crater is known as Te Kapua Kai a Mataaho, the food bowl of Mataaho.
It was here that ceremonies were held to placate him and prevent the renewed release of the volcanic forces he could influence.
Maungawhau was the father of Hua Kaiwaka, the grandfather of Kiwi Tamaki. He consolidated the descendant groups of the Isthmus, indicated by his identification as the ‘waka eater,’ a metaphor for his gathering together tribes and thus bequeathed his successor a united Waiohua alliance “as numerous as ants.”
Te Kawau of Ngati Whatua gifted most of Auckland from the summit of Maungawhau to the Crown to establish Auckland City. He hoped for on-going prosperity and peace for all people; however, he became landless and was nearly annihilated by the modern city.
In recent years, his descendants have recovered and are active participants in the economic and civic life of Auckland.
The great escape
Originally Owairaka, Mt Albert was known as Oruarangi, in honour of the chief Ruarangi. Besieged by his brother Ohomatakamokamo at Owairaka, Ruarangi and his people fled through the lava cave Te Aratomo a Ruarangi. Some sources say that the these people excavated the caves, emerging near Western Springs. Here they threw rocks into the sea forming a long reef, Te Arawhakapekapeka a Ruarangi, ‘the jagged pathway of Ruarangi Tokaroa/Meola Reef,’ which enabled them to cross safely to the North Shore.
Another early korero relating to Owairaka maunga, which introduces its contemporary name, involves a resident woman named Wairaka. Although married to Tamatea o Te Ra, who lived in the volcanic cones of Tamaki and was a cause of seismic activity, Hauauru (the West Wind) of Waitakere yearned for her. One day, when Tamatea was away, he sent sweet sounds and words across the isthmus, designed to make Wairaka fall in love with him, which she did.
They eloped as far as Westport in Te Wai Pounamu but Tamatea caught up with Wairaka there and she allowed herself to drown in the sea, reappearing as a rock pillar which bears her name today.
Extensive swampland was once present around Balmoral and Sandringham. Where water ran into underground caverns known in the colonial era as Cabbage Tree Swamp and today as Gribblehirst and Eden Parks, was then called Nga Anawai (The Watery Caves).
Further wetlands are recalled to the South and West of Fowlds Park in the headwaters of the Waitatiko, creek of the mud snail (Meola Creek).
Archeologicsl studies have attested the use of these freshwater bodies and their resources (tuna for instance), by Maori.
Source: Auckland City Council (2009)