Our Lake

Te Roto o Wairewa

Wairewa Lake

Te Roto o Wairewa was probably named after the fluctuations in water levels due to the tides. It is presently one of only two customary lakes in Aotearoa - the other being Lake Horowhenua in Te Ika a Māui. In 1986 the tuna (eel) fishery was designated as being exclusively for Ngāi Tahu whānui.

When Makō claimed the land, foreshore and lake he was also referring to the resources available in the takiwā (area) which would prove vital to the well-being of his people. Tuna from Te Roto o Wairewa allowed our people to sustain themselves comfortably through bitter winters and became sought-after treats for guests. Barter between neighbours and relations for goods and services was common, mahinga kai was only one of many early industrial enterprises available to us.

Early European visitors to Wairewa reported sleepless nights because of the bird noise. But the spectacular ancient tōtara and pine forests which grew down to the water’s edge were removed to make way for settlers and farms and the birds had no home. Our taniwha (water spirits) and the last of the ancient mythical people who inhabited Horomaka left us as indigenous ecosystems and the natural environment (their home) were destroyed. Indigenous ecosystems became destabilised through introduced unsustainable practices, degradation became impossible to ignore but nobody wanted to take responsibility. But for over a decade now, the Wairewa Rūnanga has led the grass roots effort with regard to planning and initiatives in addressing what can only be described as 150 years of neglect. Furthermore, we are working alongside several government entities and community groups to address the concerns of all stakeholders in an effort to find positive outcomes.

This page was written on behalf of Wairewa Rūnanga by George Haremate in consultation with the executive. Due to ongoing consultation with whānau this page is likely to evolve. If you would like to make a comment or share information please send feedback to Wairewa@ngaitahu.iwi.nz

Hui to discuss this kaupapa has been proposed for 2015. Whānau will be notified when dates have been set.