Story: Waterfalls

Page 3. Māori and waterfalls

All images & media in this story

Mythology

North Island falls are rich in Māori tradition, and there are many stories about their origins. The lower part of the Āniwaniwa Falls, near Lake Waikaremoana, is called Te Tangi-o-Hinerau. This refers to the story of Hinerau, a beautiful Tūhoe woman, who was trapped by a violent earthquake. In her grief she began to cry (tangi), and her tears falling over the rocks of a nearby chasm formed the waterfall.

Taniwha

Māori often believed that taniwha (water monsters) lived beneath or behind waterfalls. The Ngāti Hine Hika people of inland Gisborne say that their ancestor, Hinekōrako, lives beneath Te Rēinga Falls and watches over the interests of the tribe. She is said to have saved some canoes that were rushing towards the falls during a raging torrent.

The Ōkere Falls between Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti are another well-known home of taniwha.

A hot shower

The thermally heated Kākahi Falls near Rotorua were once used by warriors to wash their wounds after battle. The full name of the falls is ‘Te mimi o te Kākahi’ – ‘the urine of Kākahi’. This refers to the fact that urine was used as a disinfectant for cuts and wounds.

Other uses

Some waterfalls were important to Māori identity, such as the Wairere Falls in the centre of Whakatāne. They were said to be a landmark given to Toroa, captain of the Mataatua canoe, to mark his destination.

Te Rere a Kāpuni Falls on Mt Taranaki, known to Europeans as Victoria Falls, were a noted source of inspiration to Māori tohunga (priests). T. W. Rātana, founder of the Rātana Church, visited them frequently to meditate and renew his inspiration.

How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Waterfalls - Māori and waterfalls', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/waterfalls/page-3 (accessed 24 May 2019)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 24 Sep 2007