I am the River. The river is me.

Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au

The river flows from the mountain to the sea, I am the river, the river is me.

The river gives to you and you give to the river by keeping it healthy.

The Whanganui River is the 3rd longest river in New Zealand, running from Mount Tongariro to the sea and is sacred to the regions Māori people.

Due to it’s importance the awa ‘river’ was granted its own legal identity in 2017, giving it the rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person.

Manu Bennett  explains in a Radio New Zealand interview that this agreement makes it recognisable to those people that weren’t brought up with the river.

European settlers called it Petre (after Lord Petre an officer of the New Zealand Company) however the name reverted back to the rightful original name.

Every bend and rapid has a kaitiaki ‘guardian’, who maintains the mauri ‘life force’ of the awa ‘river’.

These waters are navigated by the historical restored Waimārie Paddle Steamer offering guests a leisurely river cruise. She is New Zealand’s last steam-powered and coal-fired passenger paddle steamer.            Wai – water      Mārie – fortunate, peaceful, quiet
nz new zealand whanganui wanganui river maoriculture awa waimarie steam boat

Named one of the country’s top 10 swimming holes by the AA’s Directions magazine in 2015,  Mosquito Point welcomes river travellers keen for a quick a thrill. Also accessible by road the mōrere ‘swing’ is a popular place for picnicking and swimming, even though Māori legend tells of a taniwha in the waters, which is a warning to swimmers of the dangerous rapids that can form at the river bend.

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Rotokawau aka Virginia Lake

Being new to Whanganui I was wondering why this 4.5 hectare public space was more commonly known as Virginia Lake and not by its Maori name of Rotokawau. The answer to which I found in very small print on a rather large plaque hidden in a corner of the front entrance of the neighbouring Winter Garden.

Unfortunately the land was purchased for development by white settlers in the mid 1800’s. The Māori legend of the lakes origin can be found written on the plaque beneath a bronze sculpture of the beautiful Tainui.

The legend explains that the lake was formed from the tears of the grief stricken Tainui and the rain from the angry gods over the murder of Turere, Tainui’s love. Turere had been strangled by the jealous suitor Ranginui. Notice her tears as she gazes out towards the lake.

Rotokawau means ‘roto’ – Lake and ‘kawau’ – blag shag

Walking around the lake, the kids disappeared down a bamboo bush tunnel. Waiting at the end of the track I could hear a weird rather loud chattering. It sounded almost aggressive. I looked across the lake but couldn’t see the cause. The kids soon gathered around me and joined in the search for the sounds source. Then we looked up, and there in the trees were several nests with kawau fledglings. We watched as they continued their persistent squawks, calling out to their parents.

The lake offers a rich habitat for many bird species. Take your time and open your eyes

The rather large metal lily fountain sculpture was donated in 1970 by Mr Henry Higginbottom, a local philanthropist.

Don’t forget to spot the rather odd Peter Pan sculpture, who my kids found quite entertaining as it looked like he was peeing, complete with a puddle beneath him.

virginia lake rotokawau whanganui wanganui nz metal bronze peter pan sculpture

Maunga not mountain

Living in the Coromandel Coast town of Tairua we had an amazing view of the harbour and on to Mount Paaku. Having jumped across New Zealand to the west coast our view is so very similar, but now we get to admire the sunset surrounding Mount Karioi every night.

 

When we found our slice of paradise in Tairua we really thought that we would be in that house forever, but as it turned out we were nearly there. We were just on the wrong coast. Blessed with a husband who is a keen surfer, our place of residence was always influenced by the call of the sea. We have spent years calling Muriwai Beach and Gisborne home, but now we feel that Raglan is our final destination (maybe). And as it turns out many others end their journey, searching for the perfect place, here in Raglan. After all the Maori name Whāingaroa means ‘the long pursuit’, which refers to the lengthy search of the Tainui waka ‘canoe’ for a final destination.

Most commonly known as a thoroughfare to the rest of the Coromandel, Tairua which means ‘two tides’ also hosts an awesome surf break when the swells right. Tairua should be known more for its Polynesian fishing lure, which was found during an  archaeological excavation in 1964. The lure is made from a black lipped pearl shell Pinctada margaritifera which is not native to New Zealand. The lure is highly significant because it was made in East Polynesia and brought here, on a waka, with the Polynesian settlers of Aotearoa. It now lives at the Auckland Museum.

 

I always find it interesting that many people call themselves locals of a particular place and yet they know nothing of its history. The double cone volcanic peak that dominates the landscape of Tairua and neighbouring Pauanui ‘large abalone’ is known as Mt Paku, when we should actually be referring to it as Maunga Paku. And paku, which means ‘particle, dried, little and small’ should be pronounced Pakū indicating a long vowel, giving a more fitting meaning for a volcano, of ‘ to make a sudden sound’. Pāku as it’s commonly referred to isn’t even in Maori dictionaries. I was told that it was originally named Paaku which is the Maori name of the fairy’s that lived on the mountain.

In the glorious town of Raglan Whāingaroa Maunga Karioi is a 2.4 million year old extinct volcano, the earliest of a line of 6 calcalkalic volcanoes. The profile of Karioi from Raglan is likened to a ‘Sleeping Lady’ Wahine Moe. Karioi which means ‘to loiter or idle’ could humourously depict the laid back nature of the surfing culture which is evident.

The nearby township of Te Uku is where our children attend school. As if preparing you for your entry into Whāingaroa, Te Uku Roast Office is located beside the school, offering Raglan Roast daily ground coffee! I’d love to learn more about Te Uku and the white clay that it is named after. It would be amazing to use a locally source material in my sculptural work.

Living in Raglan we are surrounded by like-minded people, valuing a laid back lifestyle and appreciating nature. There is a strong awareness and appreciation of the environment and many inhabitants are willing to make a difference.

hari ahau i