Story: West Coast region

Poutini and Waitaiki

Poutini and Waitaiki

Poutini is the name of the taniwha that, according to legend, swims up and down the West Coast, protecting both the people and the mauri (life force) of pounamu (greenstone) that is characteristic of the region.

In the tradition of Poutini Ngāi Tahu, the West Coast iwi, Poutini saw a young woman, Waitaiki, bathing near Tūhua (Mayor Island) in the North Island, as pictured in this image. He abducted her and fled south, pursued by her husband. When they were in danger of capture, Poutini hid Waitaiki in the bed of the Arahura River, and changed her into pounamu before fleeing to the sea. Waitaiki became the mother lode of all pounamu found around the Arahura River.

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New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa
Artwork by Cliff Whiting

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How to cite this page:

Simon Nathan, 'West Coast region - Māori exploration and settlement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 6 December 2022)

Story by Simon Nathan, updated 1 Sep 2016