A mighty tohunga (expert or skilled person) was the master of seven giant whales.
The names of the whales were Tahutoria, Takitaki, Korito, Onepoto, Iwitea, Tuhara and the youngest, Hikunui. It was their duty to be out in the ocean by dawn to feed, and to collect information from the all the fish in the sea.
Every day the whales would travel to many different parts of the ocean but each one had its favourite. Tahutoria talked to other whales. Takitaki chatted with the dolphins. Korito loved to speak with the sharks. Onepoto played with the sword fish. Iwitea liked to listen to the groper and John Dory. Tuhara questioned the snapper. And baby Hikunui just lazily floated around in shallows with the stingray and paua.
Each evening, after returning to the Tohunga to recite their news, they went their beds at Waiatai. One evening, Hikinui, having relaxed so much during the day, couldn’t get to sleep. He kept jumping up and down and being as loud as ever. This made the other whales angry so they told to be quiet and go to sleep. Finally, he went to sleep - just as the other whales were getting ready to leave for the day.
The other whales, eventually realising that Hikunui had not joined them, turned to collect him just as dawn was breaking. But the voice of the Tohunga suddenly thundered across the lagoon, cursing the whales for neglecting their duties, and instantly transforming them into hills.
Today, you can see them east of Wairoa - with Hikunui is still fast asleep.
This legend is detailed in a book available for purchase:
The Legend of the Seven Whales of Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti - Retold and illustrated by Mere Whaanga