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Lore and history of the South Island Maori

Otago Central

page 141

Otago Central

Anyone making a scrutiny of the location of Maori tools, etc., found in various parts of New Zealand now in the Otago and Canterbury Museums, will be astonished at the evidence which proves that the Maoris were second to no other race in being thorough explorers, even in such unpromising country (to them) as the Otago Central. Mr J. W. Hamilton, in the early days of Canterbury, recommended the Survey Department to lay out roads following as closely as possible the old Maori tracks. Intentionally and otherwise (perhaps the latter) our roads and railways generally have made little divergence from that advice. The valleys of the Molyneux, Mataura and Taieri Rivers all figure in Maori history.

The Molyneux River, where it issues from Lake Wanaka, is 990 feet above sea level. At Clyde the minimum discharge is 522,000 cubic feet per minute, and below Balclutha 1,690,000 cubic feet per minute. This river drains 7,000 square miles. At Balclutha the velocity is greater below the surface where the flow is four miles per hour, and on the surface three miles per hour. The Molyneux, the greatest river in New Zealand, was personified by the old-time Maori into a monster, and is the subject of two legends.

Some seventy years ago Mr Hanson Turton told the story of Matai (the Maori name of the Molyneux), in a short but easily understandable way. Years later the tale was enlarged out of recognition with theatrical embellishments and published in a New Zealand Government publication, and forgotten until the writer retold it in something like its original form in the Christchurch Press (February 16th, 1939).

  • "In the heart of Otago Central there once dwelt a chief who possessed a very handsome daughter named Manata. Many a young man longed to have her for his wife, but the old chief was exceptionally particular about the choice of his son-in-law. It came about that a young warrior named Matakawri, unfortunately of low degree, fell in love with Manata, and his affection was reciprocated. The old chief who was furious, kept his daughter under close observation, but a giant named Matau came and stole her away. The heart-broken father then offered Manata in marriage to the man who could bring her safe home. Strong young warriors quailed at such a task, but the love page 142that throbbed in the heart of Matakauri was so great that no obstacle could stand in the way. He went forth on a preliminary scouting, and discovered that where the giant Matau dwelt, when an east wind blew, the monster invariably went into the deepest sleep. Selecting a day with that favourable wind, Matakauri essayed forth. He found Matau fast asleep; but he also found Manata fastened to the monster by strong cords. Manata's heart throbbed with joy at the sight of her lover. Matakauri set to work with his mere to sever the bonds, but try as he could, he failed. Manata then sobbed bitterly; her tears, however, fell on the thongs. So great was the love embodied in her tears that the cords were melted away. Matakauri picked up Manata in his arms, and she was carried safely home to the old chief, who, as a reward, allowed the lovers to become man and wife. While Matau lived, no maiden was safe, so Matakauri sallied forth once more on a day with the favourable east wind. The brave warrior found the giant sound asleep as expected. Matakauri set fire to the large growth of bracken used as a bed; the giant was smothered in the flames, the fat from his body augmenting the fire, until the blaze was so fierce that it burned a hole in the land more than 1,000 feet deep. The snow on the distant hills melted, streams poured forth, and filled up the hollow; you can see it to-day—it is Lake Wakatipu."

From Lake Wakatipu and its sister lakes of Otago Central, flow rivers which join and form the Matau or Molyneux River. The other legend about Kopuwai (water swallower) has often been told, another telling will make little difference, particularly as love, quite as strong a passion as hate in Maori character, is lacking, indeed one could imagine the original home of the story was Borneo.

  • "In the vicinity of Kawarau, near the outlet of Lake Wakatipu, dwelt a veritable monster named Kopuwai. One of his captives was a Maori girl named Kaiamio. On going to sleep the monster fastened her to his leg, considering that a tug now and then would assure him that she was still secured. When the monster eventually went to sleep, she substituted a large log of wood in place of herself. Kopuwai tugged occasionally, and feeling the strain, considered all was well. The girl, however had obtained a flax raft and escaped down the river to her friends at Port Molyneux. On waking in the morning the monster was extremely angry at being duped, and his wrath was so great that he swallowed so much water from the Kawarau that for a period the river was emptied right down to its rocky bed." Kopuwai to-day can be seen as the rock called the Obelisk on the Old Man Range, while Kaiamio is the lagoon near by.

page 143

Having seen the Matau in flood, the country from Benhar to Otanomomo ( Otanemoamoa), down to Kaitangata, a surging mass of water, one can easily feel, like the Maoris of old, that there exists a destructive monster. Okura is the Maori name of the rapids at the junction of the Molyneux and Kawarau Rivers. Otakihia are rapids on the river above Cromwell, while the old-time pa on the site now occupied by Cromwell, was Wairere. Alexandra is Ka moana haehae.

The Maoris used to have a camping site on the banks of the Molyneux River, 2½ miles south of Miller's Flat, opposite to Island Block, one of the Maori ovens being at least 50 feet in length. In 1907, a thirty foot canoe was found half-way between the river and Dismal Swamp.

Lake Wakatipu, one of the sources of the great Molyneux River, is famed as a picturesque tourist resort, but long before pakeha feet trod its shores, it was the abode of the gallant Ngati Mamoe Tribe. At least one story of the tribe deals with what we are too often inclined to call the "weaker sex", and the background to it is Lake Wakatipu. On its shores near Queenstown once stood a pa called Tahuna where was born an Ngati Mamoe chief named Tu Wiri Roa who grew to manhood there, married, and had a daughter named Haki Te Kura. She grew to womanhood at Tahuna, where she saw the Ngati Mamoe women swimming in the lake. Her ambition was to excel them all. From a vantage point on the lower slopes of Ben Lomond she watched the swimmers. When she told her father of her hopes, Te Wiri Roa coached his daughter.

One day, confidence gained, and provided with a bunch of dry raupo, Haki Te Kura set forth before day-break and swam the two-and-a-half miles across the cold waters of Lake Wakatipu, using the Cecil and Walter Peaks as her guiding beacon. She landed safely at Refuge Point, and lit a fire to warm her chilled body. Te Wiri Roa observed the fire and proudly sent a canoe across to bring his daughter back. The mark of the fire at Refuge Point can still be seen, and is called Te Ahi o Haki Te Kura. The guiding peaks are Ko Kamu o Haki Te Kura. Kawarau Peninsula also bears the name of the Maori woman swimmer as Te Unuku o Haki Te Kura. Haki Te Kura figures again in the history of Taieri Ferry, which is told in another chapter. Te Kirikiri Pa used to occupy the site of the Park at Queenstown. The Ngati Mamoe had a pa near the Kawarau Falls on the north side called Oteroto, and on the south side one called Tititea. At Kingston was a pa called Takerehaka. Queenstown Peninsula is named Te Kararo; Queenstown Hill is Tapanui. Kinloch is called Totara ka wha wha; the Rees River is Puahere; the Dart River is Te Awa Wakatipu. Diamond Lake (so often photographed) is Oturu. This locality was the home of the former Waitaha Tribe. Mount Earnslaw is Te Puke rakitahi. The Humbolt page 144Range is Te Koraka and an old pa nearby was Puia, greenstone being obtained there. The island at the upper end of Lake Wakatipu is known as Wawahi waka.

Lake Wakatipu is 52 miles long and 3 miles wide at its widest part, area approximately 112 square miles, 1,242 feet in depth, and 1,016 feet above sea level. A peculiarity of Lake Wakatipu is that its overflow at Kawarau by no means accounts for the water taken in. Geologists believe its waters find an underground channel into one of the tributaries of the Mataura River which starts from huge gushing springs.

Early in the fighting between the Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe Tribes, a taua of the former, 300 strong, set out from Temuka, in Canterbury, under Te Mahika to destroy the Tititea Pa at Kawarau Falls. The force journeyed south via Omarama, Omaka (Lindis), Albertown, over the Crown Range (Haumatiketike), down the Arrow to Tititea. The Ngai Tahu found the taking of the pa beyond their power, and had to retreat, burning the grass behind them to hinder pursuit. An incoming fog also assisted the Ngai Tahu in making a safe get-away to Canterbury.

That Lake Wakatipu was long known to the Maoris is shown by the fact that greenstone adzes and chisels were discovered several feet down in the soil near Lake Wakatipu during October 1876. About 1710 A.D. a war party of the Ngai Tahu Tribe led by Weka, a son of Te Rangitamau of Taumutu and grandson of Tutekawa of Waikakahi, Canterbury, attacked the Ngati Mamoe of Lake Wanaka. The folk of Lake Wanaka were closely related, but that did not deter Weka from slaying his uncle Potiki tautahi and other relations. Kaweriri, a son of Turakautahi the founder of Kaiapohia Pa, North Canterbury, later journeyed with a taua via the Mackenzie Plains to Lake Wanaka to put some finishing touches.

The pa at Pembroke, Lake Wanaka, was called Para karehu. The Tautahi Mountains are named after the slain Ngati Mamoe chief. Lake Wanaka is 928 feet above sea level, is 14 by 12 miles, and the area is 75 square miles. Pigeon Island on Lake Wakatipu has for its Maori name Te Mou a Hou and its tiny lakelet is Moutimu. Crescent Island is Motutapu.

The early European settlers of the sixties record large clearings being found up the Matukituki River at the head of Lake Wanaka. Three miles up the Matukituki River there once stood a pa called Nehenehe, where Te Puoho captured the Ngai Tahu chief Te Mohene during the famous raid by the northerners on Tuturau near Mataura in 1837. Three of Te Puoho's party were slain at Lake Wanaka. Matetapu Creek is an old burial place. Taki karara Pa was situated on the peninsula between Roy and Dublin Bays. At Makarora, where the river enters Lake Wanaka, Te Puoho page break








page 145 took several Ngai Tahu as prisoners. Makarora is considered as two days' journey from the West Coast, and when the track over Haast Pass is formed into a motor road, the time taken will be considerably less.

The Matukituki River is named after an old-time chief. The summit of Haast Pass is Toripatea, and Mount Brewster is called Hau mai tiketike (wind blowing from the heights). Wakanui is the locality at the base of the Minarets. Ote whakariki, the Minarets Burn. Ote kotihake near Rambling Burn on the western side. Kotorepi is south of Buchanan's Creek. Parakarehu is the peninsula at Stevenson's Arm. Pokeinamu is an island in Stevenson's Arm. Teuhaha is near Isthmus Inlet; Orokotewhata, a saddle near Isthmus Inlet. Oterahere is near Teat Ridge. Otuawhiti is near Steepburn; Te Marara is near the Young River. Paekai is the creek and bush at the homestead at the head of Lake Wanaka and Oturaki is near-by. Ote pitoko is at Rayburn; Toakarora near Estuary Burn. Oewraki and Parapatea are at the head of Lake Wanaka. Te wai a takaia is the vicinity of Mount Barker. Lake Hawea is l,062 feet above sea level, is 12 miles long by 2 miles wide and has an area of 48 square miles.

Te Puoho's northern raiders in 1837 captured a few of an eeling party of Ngai Tahu at Lake Hawea, a better result than Kaweriri obtained a few generations previously in endeavouring to wipe out the Ngati Mamoe of that district. Manuhaia is a lagoon near Pekerakitahi at the Isthmus, Lake Hawea, and was the site of an eeling kianga. Uretawa is the vicinity of Craig Creek, Otemamaku the localty west of the Hawea River, and Upoko tauia is the site of a one time native village up the Hunter River. Taumakuokuhare is on the north-west side of Lake Hawea, Huri popoiarua is by the East Burn, and Terahaka o te awe awe is a range at the upper end of Lake Hawea. Te Wai rere are falls at Isthmus Inlet, Turihuka is nearby, Haumai is north of Fraser's Creek, Tike tike is on the east side of Lake Hawea and Poitarariki represents the outlet of Lake Hawea.

The Native Land Court, under Chief Judge F. D. Fenton, sitting at Dunedin in 1868, granted the Maoris a reserve at Hawea of 100 acres at the site of the old time kainga of Manuhaia. The literal translations of the names Wanaka and Hawea respectively are "legend" and "doubt".

The Taieri River takes its rise in the Taieri Lake, alas through gold mining in its vicinity, now merely a muddy lagoon. The old Maori name of this place of "mahinga kai" was Tuna hekataka, and over eeling rights a small fracas once occurred there. A Maori track used to go from the Kyeburn to Dansey Pass. Waipiata is translated as "glistening water" and the well-known Maniatoto Plain is "plain of blood". The Maniatoto Plain was a place of food getting, and some other reason page 146must be ascribed for the wording. The Manuherekia valley was also a food-gathering place, and the name implies that birds caught there were tied together. A desolate place it appears to-day with dredge tailings and rusting machinery!

Along the course of the Pou-mahaka (posts to which snares are attached), one of the principal feeders of the Molyneux, can be observed downs on which perhaps the best sheep in New Zealand graze, especially near Waikoi koi (cool cool water).

On the Poumahaka River below Conical Hill there are falls. These are called Opurere (flying mist) and were frequented by Maoris taking lampreys. The show locality for modern visitors to the towns of Tapanui, Kelso and Heriot is the Leithen Gorge with all its rugged beauty. The Maori name of which is Oreheke. The Tapanui, or better-known Blue Mountains Range separates the Poumahaka River from the Molyneux River. On the summit of the Blue Mountains Maori implements have been found, and also on the popular approaches such as Black Gully and Whisky Gully. Bird and other life no doubt abounded. The dried skeletons of ancient forest perhaps produced firewood for the Maori ovens.

Tapanui has been translated "sacred ground", "a weaving pattern", "mussel", "great edge". The last mentioned can be taken as correctly descriptive, as the summit of the mountain is a long saucer depression with an edge, breaks in which allow streams like the Rankleburn and Blackcleugh to pass out to join the main rivers. There is reason to believe that the correct name of the Tapanui Range is Tapu wae nuku (foot-steps of the Rainbow God), like that of the Kaikoura Mountains of Marlborough.

Some of the territory covered in this chapter figures in the fourteen or so traditional journeys of Tamatea, the great explorer of the South Island of New Zealand of six hundred years ago. Tamatea is credited with having trekked from the mouth of the Waitaki River up to Lake Hawea. On Lake Hawea he canoed to Manuhaia, tramped to Lake Wanaka, canoed up that lake to Makarora, and travelled over Haast Pass on foot to the coast. Another tradition says he also journeyed to the West Coast via the Matukituki River, and over the saddle down to Jackson's Bay.

Not long before the white man first saw Lake Hawea it boasted a "floating island". The Maoris' looked upon the island as being the handwork of a taniwha, a fabled water monster. The narration says that when a Maori named Taki was fishing on the shore of the lake, the section on which he stood broke adrift and floated about from place to place with the wind. To the pakeha it is quite understandable, especially if he has heard of or seen the "floating island" on the lakelet at Glen Wye, near the Lewis Pass route to the west coast of Nelson.

A former generation believed that a curious animal some-page 147thing like a beaver lived at Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, and the Maoris called it a "kaurahe". However it is now looked on as mythical. The name Wakatipu has been translated as "crooked lake". A peculiarity of the water of Lake Wakatipu is that it rises and falls three inches at intervals of five minutes, just in some respects like the beat of the human heart. A satisfactory explanation has never been given. Would it be too much to believe that Matau (or even Kopuwai) still lives, and it is only after all the heart beats of a giant?