Marae hosts hui on traditional Waitaki place names

South Canterbury’s Waihao Marae was a fitting location for a special meeting to better understand the history and importance of local Māori place names, organised by two local water zone committees in June 2019.

More than 40 people came together at the marae, hosted by Te Rūnanga o Waihao, to listen to the kōrero on how to research and understand information on traditional places, using Kā Huru Manu, the Ngāi Tahu Digital Atlas.

This talk was organised to give context to the history of the local land and waterways of the Waitaki area and help inform knowledge for restoring mahinga kai (natural resource gathering) and re-establishing native wetlands.

Members of the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee and the Lower Waitaki South Coastal Canterbury Water Zone Committee joined members of the public and local rūnanga at the presentation, given by Sean Bragg from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Waitaki – “food gathering highway” for Ngāi Tahu

Sean explained that much of the Waitaki area was traditionally a “food gathering highway” for Ngāi Tahu, who walked up the Waitaki to gather mahinga kai, and then used mōkihi (raft like vessel, constructed from raupō reeds) to transport the resources back down the awa,

“Sharing this information with Ngāi Tahu whānui and the general public is a way to keep this history and knowledge alive,” he said.

The chairs of the water zone committees both spoke of how excited they were to have the chance to attend the special briefing.

Kate White (Lower Waitaki South Coastal Canterbury) said Te Reo was a beautiful language and she encouraged everyone to have a go at good pronunciation of local places.

“I often remind people that the ‘Haka’ in Hakataramea should rhyme with what’s performed at the start of an All Blacks game.”

Simon Cameron (Upper Waitaki) shared some of his own recollections of special places in the region, including finding rare Māori tuhituhi neherā rock art while exploring as a child.

“There are so many special sites linked to our waterways, particularly close to areas where the Waitaki can be crossed,” he said.

The Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project

Kā Huru Manu (The Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project) is dedicated to recording and mapping the traditional Māori place names and associated histories in the Ngāi Tahu rohe (tribal area).

Ngāi Tahu has collected thousands of place names to make this traditional knowledge accessible to whānau and the wider public.

Find out more about the mapping project

Water zone committees recommend actions and tactics to councils and other organisations involved in water management. They oversee and champion the implementation of these recommendations by Environment Canterbury and other Canterbury Water Management Strategy partners.

Water zone committees are made up of people with a wide range of interests in water who have a strong connection to the zone and include community members, council representatives and local rūnanga.

Local Māori place names

Here are some examples of traditional places discussed at the event, with information provided by Kā Huru Manu:


Wainono Lagoon is a renowned kāinga mahinga kai (food-gathering place). A variety of native fish including tuna (eels) and inaka (whitebait) were gathered from the lagoon and its many tributaries.

For instance, 2,500 eels were harvested from Wainono and sent overseas to Māori soldiers during World War II. Large quantities of ducks, including pūtakitaki (paradise ducks), pārera (grey duck) and teal, were also harvested from the lagoon.

The name Wainono – “Oozing Water” – was applied to the lagoon on account of the numerous springs located throughout the lagoon.

Te Houriri

Te Houriri was part of the extensive network of kāinga mahinga kai (food-gathering places) located along Kā Poupou-a-Rakihouia (the South Canterbury Coastline).

In 1868, the Native Land Court established a 10-acre fishery easement at the lagoon. Nowadays, Te Houriri is a remnant of its former self, the land just a small patch, slightly damper than the surrounding area. It can no longer be used as a fishery.


Lake Tekapō, which is now incorrectly known as Lake Tekapo, is the second-largest of three roughly parallel lakes running north-east along the north edge of Te Manahuna (Mackenzie Basin).

Along with the adjoining lakes of Takamana (Lake Alexandrina) and Whakarukumoana (Lake McGregor), the wider Takapō area was an important part of the extensive food gathering area of Te Manahuna that was tribally renowned for tuna (eels) and weka.