Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1966
The spelling has varied from Kafia to Kawhia and now to Kawai which seems to have little connection with the place name Kawhia. It probably recalls the port of Kawhia in South West Auckland from which cargoes of goats, pigs, salted pork, maize and wheat were shipped to Nelson probably from Maori farms. It figures in early shipping notes, "the cutter Lively for Kawhia," or "the schooner, Lady of the Lake, for New Plymouth and Kawhia." The port was probably well known in early Nelson.