Atiamuri, a small village on the banks of the Waikato River, is set in vast pine plantations. The village name may have been derived from the words "turned back". According to legend, Tia, the older brother of the captain of the Arawa canoe, "turned back" here when he encountered the since-flooded Atiamuri Falls on the river. There are, however, some people who believe that the village's name may simply be expanded from the tribal name of Ngāti-a-Muri.
Towering 240 metres over the river is Mt Pohaturoa (520m), which features prominently in both Arawa and Raukawa tradition. The rock, which served as a lookout post during inter-tribal conflicts, was the scene of many a prolonged siege. One such siege took place several centuries ago when invading Raukawa forced Ngāti Kahupungapunga (possibly a surviving Moa hunter tribe) to retreat to this, their final stronghold. Lack of food finally forced the defenders to abandon their refuge and only five escaped with their lives. The cause of the conflict is said to have been the murder of a Raukawa woman who had been given in marriage to a chief of Ngāti Kahupungapunga.
Early paintings show the rock and its surrounds as almost completely devoid of cover. The pine trees date from 1927 and have been a source of controversy as an unwarranted intrusion upon the tapu (sanctity) of the rock. The rock overlooks a lake formed by the Atiamuri hydro-electric power station.
Atiamuri Hydro-Electric Power Station
This power station was built in 1958 on the Waikato River some 88 kilometres downstream from Lake Taupō. It features a concrete gravity dam founded on a dome-like formation of extremely hard volcanic rock. The powerhouse stands in the former river gorge immediately below the dam. Its lake extends about five kilometres upstream.
The Rock of Refuge of Hatupatu (Hatupatu's Rock)
Hatupatu was a legendary member of the Arawa tribe of Rotorua. Once, when he was returning to his parent's house after exploring the forested areas around Atiamuri and Mokai, he found he was being pursued by Karungaituku, a mysterious bird-woman. While trying to outrun her, he came upon a huge rock. Repeating a karakia he ordered it to open for him. "Te kōhatu nei- e matiti matata". The rock immediately split open and Hatupatu leapt inside it to hide until Karungaituku had gone.
This rock, Te kōhatu-o-Hatupatu, stands at the roadside near Atiamuri, about 26km south of Tokoroa.