Māori Language Week: The Legend of Poutini

Tourism West Coast
Sept. 14, 2018

To celebrate Māori Language Week, we want to share with you the legend of Poutini, which is why Hokitika is known today as Pounamu/Jade Country:

Ka noho te taniwha nei, a Poutini ki the hauauru o te waka a Maui, hei kaitiaki mo te iwi me the mauri o te pounamu.

E ai ki ngā korero i tutaki a Poutini i tetahi wahine i a ia e kaukau ana ki ngā tai ki te raki o te moana o Toi. Ka whakawaea te taniwha e te wahine ataahua nei, ka tahaetia a Waitiaki e ia, ka herea atu ki te tonga hei taonga mōna.

Katahi ka kitea e te tane o Waitiaki, e te rangatira a Tamaahua, i te ngaro ia. 

Ka whaia a Poutini rāua ko Waitiaki e Tamaahua me tana tekateka. I te rerenga whakatetonga ka kaangia e Poutini he ahi hei whakamahana ia a Waitiaki ki i a wāhi i noho ai rāua. I waenganui i ngā pugarehu o ia ahi, ka kitea e Tamaahua he māpihi pounamu.

He aumangea, he māro tana whai i tana whaiaipo. Ka wehi a Poutini i te kaha o tona hoariri, ka noho haumaru ia ki te hauauru o te waka a Maui, na whai rā ka tau ki Piopiotahi.

I te maramtanga, ka kore a Tamaahua e okioki kia whakahokia rā anō a Waitaiki, ka mōhio a Poutini kotahi anake te huarahi hei pupuri i a ia ara, kia huri ai a Waitiaki kia rite ki tōna ake ahua. I hurihia a Waitiaki ki te ponamu e te taniwha, ka takotoria ki te whakatakere o te Arahura, ka rere ki waho o te awa o Waitahua, ka hipa atu i a Tamaahua i te tatari rā.


Arahura River

English translation

Poutini the taniwha swims up and down the west coast of the South Island, protecting both the people and the mauri of Pounamu.

Many of the oral histories of Pounamu revolve around Poutini coming across a woman bathing in the northern seas of the Bay Of Plenty. This beautiful woman, Waitaiki, enchanted the taniwha, who kidnapped her and fled south with his prize.

Waitaiki’s husband, the chief Tamaahua, discovered she was missing. Aided by a tekateka he tracked them south. During Poutini’s flight the taniwha lit fires to keep Waitaiki warm. Amidst the charred remains of each fire, Tamaahua found precious stone.

The continued pursuit of his love was determined and unrelenting. Fearing the strength of his pursuer the taniwha took sanctuary on the West Coast of the South Island, eventually stopping in Milford Sound.

Realising that Tamaahua would not rest until he reclaimed Waitaiki, Poutini decided the only way to keep her forever was to turn the woman into his essence. 

The taniwha transformed Waitaiki into Pounamu, laid her in down within the riverbeds of the Arahura River and slipped downstream past the waiting Tamaahua. 

When the chief discovered his wife turned to stone in the riverbed he let out a tangi - a tremendous song of grief. If you listen closely in New Zealand’s deep south you may still hear it echo through the mountains.