Value to Māori

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Ō Tū Wharekai was an important kainga for Māori. Mahinga kai and natural resources were gathered.

The significance of water to Māori

  • wai (comes from Papatūānuku and Ranginui)
  • it gives tangata whenua life and food
  • awa stand for the tūpuna of the tangata whenua
  • water and rivers have their own mana
  • water also has its own mauri and spirit
  • spiritual qualities can be badly affected by the misuse of water.

Value of Ō Tū Wharekai to Ngāi Tahu

Wetlands all over New Zealand were used for the following:

  • mahinga kai
  • harekeke for clothing, mats, kete and rope, raupō for thatching houses and dried moss for bedding
  • feathers of wetland birds were used to decorate clothing
  • some wetland plants were used for medicine
  • waterways between the wetlands provided canoe routes
  • hiding precious taonga
  • preserving timber artefacts and waka
  • a place of safety in times of war.

Māori gathered the following food and resources at Ō Tū Wharekai:

  • tuna/eels
  • weka
  • kākā
  • wood pigeons/kererū
  • tūī
  • pūkeko
  • freshwater mussels/kākahi
  • fern root/aruhe
  • rats/kiore
  • native trout/kōkupu
  • mountain daisy/tikumu
  • cabbage tree/ti kōuka
  • carex secta/makura/pūrei.

The area was also part of the pounamu trails and an ara (way) to Poutini (West Coast).



Audio Maori keywords: 

Values: Use this page as a starting point to look at your own values about water and wetlands.

The Importance of Wetlands

Wetland Treasures


Māori have a spiritual connection with water. Image: LEARNZ.

Wetlands were an excellent place to gather natural resources and traditional food. Can you name any of these? Image: LEARNZ.

How can preserving wetlands also help to preserve Māori culture? Image: LEARNZ.

This is a flax kete used to gather freshwater mussels. How were these mussels used by Māori? Image: LEARNZ.

This is a piece of pounamu. Māori passed through Ō Tū Wharekai on the way to the West Coast to collect pounamu. Image: LEARNZ.