Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


Pirongia (3,156 ft) is a prominent, rugged mountain standing high above the surrounding hill country west of Waipa River. It is the highest and most extensive of a series of ancient volcanic vents that erupted along a line that runs south-east from Karioi Mountain to Tokanui Hill. The precipitous bush-clad slopes of Pirongia are deeply eroded remnants of a much larger volcano that spread its basalt and olivine-andesite lava flows as far as Kawhia Harbour. King Tawhiao's Maori supporters used the eastern foothills of the mountain as a retreat between skirmishes during the Waikato Wars. Pirongia (the name means “like a bad smell”) and the neighbouring, distinctively shaped, lesser peak of Kakepuku (1,478 ft) figure in Maori folklore.

Pirongia is one of the mountains associated in Maori lore with the patupairehe who were white-skinned “little people” (fairies), usually feared, for they were dangerous to mortals. The patupairehe were supposed to inhabit large fortified villages in the cloudy summits of the hills, and frequented certain localities throughout New Zealand, even as far south as Foveaux Strait. At times their presence was revealed in the ghostly piping of flutes and the sound of fairy songs heard in the misty forest heights.

by Leslie Owen Kermode, B.A., Geological Survey Station, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Otahuhu.

  • Treasury of Maori Folklore, Reed, A. W. (1963).

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