The story of Te Waihora
The story of Te Waihora/Te Waihora pūrākau has been gifted by Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki, Taumutu.
Following the wreckage of Te Waka o Aoraki and the waka and its occupants being turned to stone, Ranginui sent his three mokopuna, Tūterakiwhānoa, Marokura and Kahukura from the heavens to transform the broken waka.
Tūterakiwhānoa’s job was to gather together the pieces and carve the keel of the upturned waka into mountains and valleys. Raking together and piling the waka pieces was hard work and to stabilise himself, Tūterakiwhānoa dug in his heel and it created a permanent indentation in the land, an indentation which was soon to fill with water. This shallow expanse of water was to become known as Te Waihora and the raked pile of waka pieces became known as Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū, the Banks Peninsula.
Tūterakiwhānoa’s job was done. Kahukura set about foresting the bare landscape and filling it with animals. Marokura carved bays, inlets and estuaries and populated them with fish of many varieties. When their work was done the three mokopuna had created a land fit for human occupation.
In time the first migration of people known as Waitaha arrived in Te Waipounamu, the South Island, on the Uruao waka that was captained by Rākaihautū. Rākaihautū set out to explore the new land. He handed command to the waka to his son, Te Rakihouia, who went about charting the eastern coastline.
In his travels, Te Rakihouia came upon a hāpua (a shallow, brackish coastal lake-lagoon) with extensive wetlands that was teeming with fish and birds. He claimed the coastline naming it ‘Kā Poupou a Te Rakihouia’ meaning the Eel Weirs of Te Rakihouia and when he reunited with his father, Te Rakihouia took him to the hāpua. So, taken by the abundance of mahinga kai (food and resource), Rākaihautū claimed it naming the hāpua Te Kete Ika a Rākaihautū, meaning the Fish Basket of Rākaihautū.
To this day the mauri (spiritual essence) of Tūterakiwhānoa still resides as the Atua Tiaki of Te Waihora, near Whakamātakiuru, at Taumutu. This mauri reminds Ngāi Tahu of their responsibility as the tangata tiaki of Te Waihora and the surrounding area.