Story: Marlborough region

Lagoons and waterways, lower Wairau River

This map of canals in the lower Wairau River was attached to a 1903 report on them by C. W. Adams, chief surveyor of Marlborough. Adams described the canals as being the result of years of work by groups of Māori, and said they had a total length of more than 12 miles (19 kilometres). Many were around 3 metres wide, and 60 or 90 centimetres deep. Māori at Wairau Pā thought that the canals were started four or five generations earlier, in the time of ancestors Whatakōiro and Patiti, and completed around the end of the 18th century. The channels were probably intended for capturing waterfowl during the moulting season, when the birds could not fly and so could be herded or handled. The two biggest canals were Ōhine-anau-mate, which started in the raupō swamp at left and cut cross-country, then between two lagoons; and Ōrua (known in 1902 as Morgan Creek), which went from the Ōpawa River to the Big Lagoon.

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Reference: Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1903, C-1

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How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Marlborough region - Early Māori history', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/zoomify/31752/lagoons-and-waterways-lower-wairau-river (accessed 16 February 2019)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, updated 16 Nov 2016