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  • An interactive showing the lower Waikato River. Use the zoom-in feature to find some cultural and geographical connections to the river. Listen to iwi talking about what the river means to them.

    Rights: University of Waikato Published 19 March 2014 Referencing Hub media


    Iwi video

    Cultural notes

    Geographical notes

    Turangi Barclay-Kerr

    We’ve sort of grown up on the river, right from a real young age. We’ve been doing everything like waka ama, waka taua, kōpapa, everything, so the river sort of the lifeline, the life source for us. Not only us but even for all our friends and stuff from kura who have become affiliated with us, the same thing. Right from when we were little, right on the river, day in day out, making use of our awa.

    The river’s been around for a while, for a long time, and it’s something that our tūpuna used in their daily lives. Coming up and down the awa doing all their things, and you know I guess that’s something that has transferred in today. Same river, different time, but you know, some of the things we see or have seen on the river, it’s stuff that our tūpuna could have seen or have seen.

    Tipa Mahuta

    I really trust in our mātauranga because it’s modern science that will catch it up. For example, all the science around the river about trees and all of that, well, I’m pretty clear we observed that, before scientists told us.

    If we are true kaitiaki of this area, then we must have a regard. In this area, it is the river that dominates our whole economic base – not just for Tainui but for this region. Every farmer, and the farmer needs our river. Every probably major industry in this rohe needs the river – they can’t live without it.

    Rangitiaho Mahuta

    As long as I believe or Waikato believes in the power and the healing in the water, my river will never die.

    Whitebaiting, going to get harakeke, pick kiekie and all the rest of it, because it’s within those activities that lie your tikanga. It’s in there. If you lose the activity, you have no more use for the tikanga. So that would be my biggest concern is that we no longer participate in those activities, whatever they may be.

    It’s not just about the fishing. Even if you’re just going to get kaimoana, if we don’t bother and just go to the shop and buy it, well, we lose that tikanga too. So when you lose your tikanga, you lose a part of who you are, your culture. You lose a big chunk of yourself.

    If you can find yourself an activity – whether it be waka ama, rowing, whatever – take it up, go out on the water, experience it, live it, and then I think when you start to live it and experience it, you start to understand.

    Rawerawe Herangi

    I au e kī ake nei i tēnei wā, kei ki te au i ā tātou mokopuna e haere ana ki te awa. Ngāmahi e mahia nei e rātou, tūturu nei ki te whakarite I a rātou. Ko tētehi kei te karanga mai, “Hey, kaare koe i whakarite i a koe.” Ēnei āhuatanga e kite nei e au, e kite ana au kia mātou nei. Ka ora taku ngākau i a rātou e pērā nei. E whakatika atu ana i a rātou hoa, “Kaare koe i hanga, i whakarite i a koe,” ka mea tonu atu tērā nē. Koinei tētehi wāhi pai i kite au. Ki te mōhio rātou ki te pērā, ki te hanga i a rātou, ki te karakia, kei ngētehi e karakia ana, “Paimārire,” ērā āhuatanga nē. Ki te mōhio rātou ki tēnei āhua, I think he pai noa iho te ako i a tātou tamariki ki ēnei āhuatanga.


    I am overjoyed and inspired by our young people as I watch them carry on our traditions. The young ones bless themselves with the water and also encourage their friends to follow suit, it’s great. It is awesome to see this happening. I am very positive about the future when I see the young ones bless and pray by the river. If this continues, I have no worries about our traditions being lost.


    He maimai aroha tēnei mō Rawerawe Herangi, he wahine maia, he wahine rangatira. I kuraina nei ia i ngā rā o nehe, ā i tū ia hei pou mā tātou hei ako i ngā mahi raranga, i ngā mātauranga e pā ana ki te Awa o Waikato hoki. E kui, mōu tai ata, mō mātou anō tai ahiahi. E moe tonu i roto o te aroha o te Ariki. Moe mai, moe mai. He mihi hoki tēnei ki tōna whānau, nā rātou i whakaae mai mā mātou tēnei rauemi e whakaatu atu.

    Rahui Papa

    Ko te whakaaro ki roto i a mātou o Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, ehara i te mea he awa, he wai noa iho te rere nei, ēngari he tāonga i tuku iho mai ē ō tātou maatua, i ō tātou tūpuna, ā, he tāonga hoki i hōmai ai ē ā tātou mokopuna mā tātou hei tiaki mō rātou. Ka mutu, titiro whakamuri, titiro whakamua, kei te rite tonu. Me manaaki tonu, me tiaki tonu, me tautoko tonu i tō tātou tūpuna a Waikato. Ko ngā wai o Waikato, kei te mirimiri i ngā tauwhenua kia haumako ai. Kia riro anō mai he kai. Ko ngā wai o Waikato i aua wā ko te tuna, ko te kāeo, ko te aha, ko te aha, i riro mai hei kai mā ōku mātua, mā mātou hoki i aua wā rā, koia tērā. Ko te whakapūmau i te whakaaro. Kia tupu mai ko te kōingo a ō mātou tamariki mokopuna ki tō rātou awa.


    For Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, the river is not just water, it is a treasure handed down to us by our ancestors that we must care for, for the future generations. If we look to the past and the future, it is all about caring for our river. It’s more than a river. This is our ancestor. It gives us sustenance from the land. In the past, the river sustained our people with food, tuna, kaeo and much more. The river sustained our people in those days. I hope this inspires the hearts of our future generations to embrace the importance of our river.

    Karaitiana Ripaki-Tamatea

    The history of Ngāti Koroki Kahukura with the river and their relationships with the living species within the river showed the importance of us to play an important role in looking after the health of the river but also the experience of knowing what locations to look for the eels. And also, most of my uncles and my aunties own a lot of land around Karapiro, so it was a bit more passive for us to access these specific lands.

    From stories that I’ve been told, the river was a means of resource for kai, also a side of socialising as well. So I guess in a way, the river has looked after us and our ancestors back in the days, and I guess it’s our turn to return the favour to the river.

    Wiremu Puke

    I used to hear the old people talk about this river as almost like one’s pito. That pito is like an emotional bond as a mother with its child – the same bond I would have with my aunty and with any members of my family. You can’t break that bond, but that bond can only be strengthened when one becomes more aware of the importance of a river like this.

    When I think of the river – Waikato Taniwharau, he piko he taniwha, on every bend of the Waikato river is a chief – that really talks about the kaitiakitanga of each other’s tūpuna that they had over this river, and being able to provide kai, to host and to celebrate their mana. Not all of it was always happy, but that comes with the territory. At the time, there was a lot of competition over kai, over māra kai were particularly the most prized.

    Taroi Rawiri

    The whole big thing about kaitiaki, it’s not about issuing them the right to go get a kai, it’s about managing the area by knowing what’s there, what’s going out, and if one area is getting hard to take from, they can rest that place, send them somewhere else, so that would rebuild. And that’s that whole, I guess, that’s the mana in that role about them taking, that’s their responsibility for that area.

    And the best way to help them is by going to see them, talk to them, get your permits, and then they’ll know where the kai’s good, where the kai’s a little bit scarce, and then once you get that sort of buy-in for that, hopefully they’re keen to help.

    Norman Hill

    My kaumātua once told me that they recognised whānau from other iwi when they came to Huntly by the smell of their skin, because the smell of their skin represents the smell of their river, so when they came to Huntly, the Waikato River was on their skin. And I asked what was the smell of the river, and he said the smell of the river was one of aroha. I asked him, “What does aroha smell like?” He goes, “You’ll find out one day.”

    Cheri van Schravendijk-Goodman

    I can’t see a separation between human and nature – I find it really difficult – and the other thing that really gets my goat is, you know, this kind of lazy approach to, oh, it’s in decline, it’s dead, it’s degraded. I think those statements – apart from dead – degraded and declining are correct, but I think when you keep bashing those at people for too long, their subconscious kicks in, and they start just being negative about it in return, so they kind of give up.

    And the thing for me, I want to be able to show them that, despite all those labels, there’s still all this amazing life that still exists out there. And although we’ve got these pest plants, our animals and our birds and our insects have adapted to them, not perfectly, but they’ve adapted to them so they’re still there.

    And the interaction of the people with the river, you know, Waikato-Tainui have a long-standing tradition of, you know, waka ama, going to the regattas down at the point in Ngāruawāhia, waka peke, which was canoe hurdles – cracked me up – chasing the bride and, you know, going out and fishing, collecting their harakeke as whānau units.

    All those things, that’s life, you know, and it’s worth fighting for. And I have three children, and I want to make sure there’s a good place for them to grow up and that their connections with the environment are not going to be compromised because of a really bad decision I might have made as someone in the role that I do. So yeah, I’m very passionate about the environment, I love this river to death, and I love the people that have, you know, that affiliate to her, they’re amazing people.


    British forces first invaded Waikato in 1863, at Mangatāwhiri. The Crown declared Waikato-Tainui rebels and sought to confiscate land. In 1928, the Sim Commission found the confiscations to have been immoral, illegal and excessive. In 1987, the Waitangi Tribunal found that Waikato-Tainui had been incorrectly branded as rebels. The 1995 Settlement and apology was signed to address the past wrongs.

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
    Redmayne, Thomas, fl 1880s-1890s. Redmayne, Thomas, fl 1880s-1890s: Attack on the Maori Pah at Rangiriri. [1863]. Cassell's picturesque Australasia, edited by E. E. Morris. London, Cassell & Co, 1890. Ref: PUBL-0046-4-39.


    Taupiri is sacred to Waikato-Tainui and today is a burial ground closely associated with the Kīngitanga. In 1975, Taupiri was returned to Waikato-Tainui.

    Jennifer Poutney

    Tūrangawaewae Marae

    Tūrangawaewae in Ngāruawāhia is an important marae for Waikato-Tainui. The Kīngitanga is based here. It is also the site where the Tūrangawaewae Regatta is held.

    Brett Stirling

    Te Ahurei o Waikato

    This sculpture, created by Lyonel Grant, celebrates 1000 years of occupation of the Tainui people on their land. Te Ahurei o Waikato represents tribal identity and derives its name from the time of the arrival of the ancestral canoes.

    University of Waikato


    The Tūrangawaewae Regatta is held here. The regatta is one of New Zealand’s largest aquatic events.

    Easegill, Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

    Karapiro Stream

    The grayling (known as pokororo, upokororo, paneroro and kanae-kura), fish native to New Zealand, were found in the Waikato River especially around the mouth of the Karapiro Stream. They were sighted in the Waikato River and its tributaries until about 1874, when it is suspected heavy flooding wiped them out.

    New Zealand Grayling After Hector
    Drawing by J. Buchanan
    Tuatara: Journal of the Biological Society of Victoria University of Wellington

    Karapiro Dam

    Lake Karapiro is the site of Horahora Power Station, the first large-scale power station in New Zealand built in 1913. In 1947, Karapiro Power Station was built as a replacement. Lake Karapiro was formed to power the new station and in the process submerged the old Horahora Power Station.

    Jan Conayne

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