The stories of the Waipa, once known only to a few, are now being heard and appreciated thanks to Te Ara Wai Journeys, a free self-guided tour of culturally significant sites throughout the district.
Central to Te Ara Wai Journeys is a website where you can access the stories online and on your mobile phone as you visit six zones of historical and cultural significance. These include the key sites of the 1863-64 New Zealand Land Wars, in which the British Army invaded the region and confiscated 1.2 million acres of land.
At each stop along the way, you can watch a selection of short video and audio interviews with local experts giving different perspectives on what happened at each site. Storytellers include iwi leaders with direct links to the battles, as well as historians, writers, military experts, archaeologists and more.
With markers at each site, there is also signage providing information, and brochures are available from Te Awamutu i-SITE and Te Awamutu Museum where there is also a permanent Te Ara Wai Journeys exhibition featuring taonga relating to the sites.
Te Ara Wai Journeys was developed by Waipa District Council and Te Awamutu Museum in partnership with mana whenua to bring the history of the Waipa and New Zealand to life.
In total there are 169 stories covering the six Waipā sites told in English or Te Reo Māori; all are bite-sized and readily accessed on your mobile phone.
Also featured are user-friendly itinerary suggestions, each one with a different theme and including sites and other relevant destinations in the region. A three-day itinerary takes in all of the sites. Other itineraries are geared towards nature and ecology, war or agriculture.
The Te Ara Wai Journeys sites include:
- Rangiaowhia-O-Rākau - a 10-minute drive from Te Awamutu. In the 1830s the local Māori and European settlers worked collaboratively to develop farming in this area that is today one of New Zealand’s most important agricultural regions. Some three decades later, the close relationships were destroyed by war with major battles being fought, including in nearby Kihikihi.
- Kakepuku - about 10 minutes from Te Awamutu, where the maunga (mountain) that rises above the Waipa plains has great cultural, historical and ecological significance. Here you can learn about conservation projects and climb through the native forest to the summit of Kakepuku, the site of an ancient pā.
- Karāpiro - the hydroelectric lake on the Waikato River, has continued to be a source of physical and spiritual sustenance from the time of the earliest tūpuna (Māori ancestors).
- Pirongia - 30 minutes’ drive from Hamilton, has a turbulent history. The township and the nearby waterways, Mount Pirongia and the forests have major connections to the Māori King and the Kīngitanga movement.
- Ngā Roto - the lake just north of Te Awamutu, is important culturally and for the foreshore and wetland conservation work that is continuing. The Battle of Hingkākā took place here, involving warriors drawn from many tribes across the North Island.
- Cambridge - where Horotiu Pā, a huge Māori settlement, once occupied what is today the central business district of the town. Following the conflicts, the European township was established, initially as a British Army encampment, and later a busy market town and the base for the Native Land Court.