Paul Tapsell's award winning book Pukaki - Te Hokinga Mai o te Auahituroa has been translated into te reo.

A blessing was held and the book was launched by translator Scotty Morrison, in the Rotorua Lakes Council galleria during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori last week.

It was a casual conversation over the school drop off that started the almost seven-year journey to translate the book.

Mr Morrison said out of the blue Mr Tapsell asked him how he'd feel about doing the translation.

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"He quickly added that he had absolutely no money to pay me with," Mr Morrison said.

Pukaki - Te Hokinga Mai o te Auahituroa. Photo/Ben Fraser
Pukaki - Te Hokinga Mai o te Auahituroa. Photo/Ben Fraser

"It was for more spiritual reasons rather than monetary gain that I just started doing it whenever I had the time."

Mr Morrison said it was hard as he was working straight from the book and had to go back to Ngati Whakaue to make sure he had the dialect correct on some of the more technical words.

"It was a definite challenge, but you could feel Pukaki's spirit was around to keep me going," he said.

Mr Tapsell said it was in the early 1990s, when he was working as a curator at the Rotorua Museum, that he wanted to learn about Pukaki.

He had grown up hearing his elders passionately fight over the carving of Pukaki and knew he would have to speak to his koro.

"I was always scared of Koro Hamuera as a kid, so eventually I got up the courage to have a conversation around Pukaki," he said.

"When he got ill it didn't really leave us much time. So on one of our conversations he was really sore but he managed to get up and reach the book on our whakapapa."

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Mr Tapsell said he knew it was important to do something with it.

"I struggled to find a way to tell this story in a book," he said.

"Then when my aunty was unwell, I went to visit her and she perked up as I came into the room. She told me 'don't you dare not write that book, our young people need that book.'

"When I got home from her tangi I started writing and it just seemed to flow out of me."

Mr Tapsell said the story was inter-generational and a resource for all of the nation.

Pukaki was an 18th-century chief of the Ngati Whakaue iwi of Te Arawa.

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He features as one of New Zealand's most famous statues and is currently exhibited in the Rotorua Museum.

The statue commemorates a major tribal war victory, which won Ngati Whakaue the land Rotorua now sits on.

Publisher Peter Dowling said despite best efforts by writers, translators and publishers to produce substantial books in te reo Maori, there was still a lack of new works for proficient adult speakers.

"You can't commercially publish te reo books in this country," he said.

"Without the support of the Ngati Whakaue Education Endowment Trust we couldn't have done it."

The carved image of Te Arawa ancestor Pukaki, when it was moved into Rotorua Museum in 2011. Photo/File
The carved image of Te Arawa ancestor Pukaki, when it was moved into Rotorua Museum in 2011. Photo/File