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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 6 (September 1, 1937.)

Lake Manapouri, Or Moturau

Lake Manapouri, Or Moturau.

In Mr. Ernest E. Bush's excellent article on the Southern Lakes in last month's “Railways Magazine,” a reference (p. 45) to my writings on Lake Manapouri calls for a slight correction. I did not give “Lake of a Hundred Islands” as the translation of the name Manapouri. The ancient and original name of the Lake, as I have frequently explained, was Moturau, which I translated as above (motu = island; rau = a hundred, or many). Manapouri, of course, does not bear any such interpretation.

When I obtained the original name from the old men of blended Ngai-Tahu and Ngati-Mamoe in Southland in 1903, they explained that Manapouri was a pakeha corruption of Manawapopore, meaning the violent throbbing of the heart, as after great exertion or under intense emotion. Moreover, the name, they said, did not rightly belong to the lake at all, it was mistakenly transferred to Moturau by an early surveyor from the North Mavora Lake, lying in the mountains between Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau. Manawa-popore was in the first place the name of an ancestor, and was given to that hill-girt lake in ancient times. Some of the pioneer surveyors misunderstood the Maoris they questioned.

Many of the names of lakes and mountains in the South Island were really personal names in the beginning, and are not descriptive of the places. Moturau is one of the exceptions. It should be kept in mind as a supplementary name to Manapouri, which for all its garbled construction is a name of music and beauty, perhaps the most euphonious lake name in New Zealand.

I gave up the effort to tally the islands in Manapouri, but I believe the number is thirty-four, besides half-a-dozen which are really only rocks.

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