West Coast

Pounamu

Pounamu, NZ Jade or greenstone, is more than a souvenir - it has a treasured spiritual significance.

Pounamu is found only in the South Island. Because of this, the South island was originally named Te Wāhi Pounamu (the place of pounamu), but over time this name changed to Te Wai Pounamu (the greenstone waters).

Traditionally, the pounamu in the Arahura River has been most important for Poutini Ngāi Tahu (Ngāi Tahu people on the West Coast), with the junction of this river and Waitaiki (Olderog) Stream being particularly important. Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand

The Legend of Poutini

Poutini, the guardian of Pounamu and a taniwha (a giant water being), snatched a beautiful Māori woman, Waitaiki, from the North Island.

He brought her south eventually to the Arahura River but her husband Tamaahua gave chase.

Fearing Tamaahua's strength and determination, Poutini decided that if he could not have Waitaiki, no-one would.

He transformed her into his likeness, Pounamu, and laid her in the cold waters of the river.

The jade fragments that break off and roll down the river to the sea are known as Waitaiki’s children.

Buying and fossicking Pounamu

Pounamu is a strong stone known for its beauty.

Māori and local artisans have been drawn to its power over the centuries and it is widely used in making jewellery and sculptures.

There are 5 main types of Pounamu:

  • Kawakawa
  • Kahurangi
  • Inanga
  • Kokopu
  • Tangiwai.

Each type has their own unique look and features.

Many arts and crafts stores on the West Coast, have working carvers who are happy to tell you about the stone, where it came from and the design they are carving.

A piece of Pounamu is a beautiful and meaningful memory of your time on the West Coast.

Westland Greenstone
Pounamu is a strong stone known for its beauty.
Hokitika Beach
Finding pounamu on the beach

For those who like to fossick there is still the chance you can find a piece of your own to take home.

It’s not uncommon to find small pieces on the beach that have been washed down in a storm.

The outer skin of the stone can be grey to milky in colour and has a "soapy" feel to it.

Sometimes you might find a green piece already smoothed by natural processes.

Please note that any Pounamu found elsewhere cannot be taken — you can only fossick on the beach.

Hokitika
$189 - $355

Arahura Greenstone Tours

This unique and original tour will lead you on a journey of discovery along the Arahura River - known as one of the richest sources of Pounamu (Green…

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Grey District
$30 - $10,000

Garth Wilson Jade

If you want a special piece of authentic Māori pounamu (jade, greenstone) then come and visit Garth in his studio/gallery.

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Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers & Glacier Country
Prices start at $75 per piece.

Te Koha Gallery

Carve your own studio.

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Westland Greenstone

Westland Greenstone specialises in the design and manufacture of quality New Zealand jade jewellery, sculptures and ornaments.

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Grey District

Shades of Jade

Here at Shades of Jade we are proud to showcase Pounamu that is 100% genuine West Coast Pounamu.

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