Story: Taniwha

Page 3. Freshwater taniwha

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Taniwha were also believed to inhabit lakes, rivers and other freshwater areas.

Lake Roto-a-Tara

Te Tau-a-Porirua was a taniwha from Heretaunga (Hastings), said to live on the Ruataniwha plains. A chief named Tara was responsible for capturing this taniwha, which had killed many people. Tara made a giant hīnaki (eel pot), put in 200 dogs as bait and set the pot in the Roto-a-Tara lake. Lured by the dogs, the taniwha entered the trap. Tara then dragged the creature ashore and killed it. When it was cut open, more than 200 victims were found inside. They were buried, and the taniwha was eaten by Tara and his people.

Te Rēinga waterfall

Hine-kōrako was a female taniwha who married a human named Tāne-kino. They had a child named Taurenga. Some of Tāne-kino’s relatives insulted Hine-kōrako, so she left and went to live under Te Rēinga waterfall in Wairoa. But she remembered her ties to the community when the Wairoa River was in flood, threatening the lives of some. An old man called out to her as a canoe was being swept towards the falls. She managed to slow the canoe and then push it upstream so that those on board were saved.

Waipapa waterhole

In the 1870s, Mohi Tūrei, an elder of Ngāti Porou, sent a letter in to the Māori language newspaper Te Waka Maori o Niu Tirani. He described the case of a girl who was said to have been killed by a taniwha.

On 20 December 1876, four young girls had gone to bathe in a waterhole at Waipapa. This spot was renowned as the lair of a taniwha named Tāminamina. While three of the girls began to bathe, the fourth, Mereana, swam to the other side of the waterhole, climbed out onto the rocks, and began sucking nectar from the red flowers of the sacred rātā tree. Suddenly, she slipped back into the water. Her friend Rāhera tried to grab her, but failed. The two other girls screamed, because they saw the water whirling near where she had fallen, and knew it to be the taniwha named Tāminamina who had got their friend.

Rāhera dived to find her, but could not. Rāhera swam to shallow waters and then saw the water was rising into waves. Days later Mereana was found, back on the rock where she had slipped. But when a group came to get her body, she had once again disappeared. An elder believed she had been taken by the taniwha as punishment for sucking the flowers of the sacred rātā tree.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Taniwha - Freshwater taniwha', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/taniwha/page-3 (accessed 21 June 2019)

Story by Basil Keane, published 24 Sep 2007