Story: Taniwha

The Kawautahi taniwha

The Kawautahi taniwha

Kawautahi is a small lake 15 kilometres up Rētāruke River, a tributary of the Whanganui. It was avoided by Māori because a ferocious taniwha was said to live in it. In 1892 a surveyor employed three Māori from Taumarunui – Wārahi, Pita Te Aitua and Piki – to assist him in his work at the lake. Despite their concerns, they agreed because of the good wages on offer. However, while there they were allegedly attacked by the taniwha, and although slightly wounded, they all survived. They later told their story to T. W. Downes, who based this image loosely on their description.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: A-076-012
Watercolour by Thomas William Downes

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Taniwha - Freshwater taniwha', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 7 December 2023)

Story by Basil Keane, published 24 Sep 2007