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Extract from “A Thematic Māori Heritage Study For Dunedin”, prepared by KTKO Ltd Consultancy with Tahu Pōtiki



This is a very localised tradition and it relates to a guardian taniwha known as Matamata.  Matamata himself appears in many traditions in the South Island from as far north as Marlborough to the Hokonui Hills.  He is an ancestor of the Kāti Māmoe tribe and the local chief Karetai was his descendant.  Below is an account recorded by the Rev. Thomas Pybus:


Regarding their legends, the Māori people of Ōtākou used to speak about taniwhas and fabulous monsters which performed extraordinary deeds. Hoani Karetai, the paramount chief of Ōtākou, used to speak about a taniwha which was the guardian of the spirit of a famous Kāti Māmoe chief. This taniwha lost its master and set out in search of him. From Silverstream near the base of Whare Flat, it journeyed as far as the present Mosgiel. Then it took its course down the Taieri River and wriggling, caused all the sharp bends and twists in the river. The same taniwha scooped out the Otago Harbour. The monster now lies solidified in the Saddle Hill. The humps of the hill are named Pukemakamaka and Turimakamaka.[1]


Kaikarae/Kaikorai Estuary

Kaikorai was occupied in the archaic phase of New Zealand pre-history. Burnt moa bones, adzes, blades, small stone statues, fish hooks, obsidian and nephrite flakes have been recovered from this area. Much of this excavated material is now housed in the Otago Museum. Settlement was centred around sand-dunes on the north side of the Kaikorai stream. Māori in the area lived off shellfish and moa. This area was not occupied at the time of European arrival.


The significance of Kaikarae as a place of mahika kai is referred to above in the Waitaha Rākaihautu traditions.  Since that time the area was the site of seasonal and semi-permanent camps. Kāi Tahu utilised the Kaikarae area to supplement their seasonal food supplies, the mouth of the estuary being the favoured camping site. The mahika kai resources included eels, waterfowl, birds and kaimoana.

From the Kā Huru Manu Ngāi Tahu Atlas:


Kaikarae/Kaikorai Estuary

Kaikarae, now mistakenly known as Kaikorai, was a well-known freshwater stream and lagoon used by local Kāi Tahu as a traditional mahinga kai, particularly for tuna (eel) and pātiki (flounder). Kaikarae was dug by the Waitaha explorer Rākaihautū with his kō (Polynesian digging stick) named Tūwhakaroria. Upon arriving at Whakatū (Nelson) in the Uruao waka, Rākaihautū divided his people into two groups. His son, Rakihouia, took one party to explore the coastline, and Rākaihautū led the other party through the interior of Te Waipounamu and down to Murihiku (Southland), using his kō to dig out most of the fresh-water lakes of Te Waipounamu. While travelling back up the island, Rākaihautū and his party stopped at the mouth of a stream to eat, and their food was a recently-killed seabird known as karae. This particular location and stream was named Kaikarae.[2]



Pakaru is the traditional Māori name for the Kaikorai Lagoon, near the mouth of Kaikarae (the Kaikorai Stream). Along with Kaikarae, Pakaru was an important kāinga mahinga kai (food-gathering place) for local Kāi Tahu. During the 1879 Smith-Nairn Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Ngāi Tahu land claims, local Ngāi Tahu kaumātua recorded Pakaru as a kāinga mahinga kai where tuna (eel) and pātiki (flounder) were gathered.

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