On Sunday February 8th, Trudy Lane led a project in Tupare Gardens whereby voices were located in the landscape, reflecting on the many different relationships people have to the Waiwhakaiho river.
Thanks to: Dr Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, Glen Skipper, Vince Neall, Renate Verbrugge, Gary Bedford, Mary Matthews, Greg Skipper, Tom Phillips, Wayne Peters, Craig Knowles, Keith and Eve Rowlands, Myree Dravitzki, Jim Tucker, David Lean, Jason Matthews, Wayne Arthur, Jarred Hancox. Thanks to: Ian Clothier, Kura Puke, Sharmila Samant, Anand Rose, Tom Phillips, Charlotte Šunde, Alys Longley, Laurence Sunde and Deon Roodt.
In these current (left) and past maps, the changing course of the river over time has been mapped by fluvial geomorphologist Jane Richardson of Massey University. The palaeovalley refers to the changing drainage patterns of rivers.
The sound of boulders moving down the river, one form of the changing river landscape, was mentioned in an interview with a farmer whose farm was adjacent to the Waiwhakaiho.
The seismic network around the mountain is designed to detect dangerous events, which could have cataclysmic impacts on humans. So how do the authorities cope with the threat? Vince Neall talks about measures in place.
Taranaki Regional Council inspectorate and scientific staff were mobilised in early November 2013 after reports that the Waiwhakaiho River had turned bright orange in its upper and middle reaches.
In the era of social media and 24/7 internet news coverage, it was clear to the Council that the reports had substance – even before officers arrived on the scene.
But a crime scene it wasn’t. A quick investigative helicopter flight up the river to its headwaters high on Mt Taranaki confirmed what the old hands had already suspected: the culprit was naturally occurring iron oxide.
The source of the discoloration was the Kokowai Stream, a tributary of the Waiwhakaiho River near the Boomerang slip on Mount Taranaki. The name Kokowai means ‘red ochre’.
The entire stream was indeed flowing bright orange when Council officers flew over the area, with a significant rust-coloured flow of water and sediment at the source of the stream.
Subsequent checks revealed a landslip had resulted in pent-up groundwater with high iron levels being suddenly released into the stream.
Iron is a common element in Taranaki’s water and volcanic rock and soils, and rust-coloured deposits or cloudy orange water often occur naturally in Taranaki waterways, though seldom to this extent. The iron reacts with atmospheric oxygen or dissolved oxygen in surface water to form rust-coloured iron oxide which precipitates out and can also give a waterway a cloudy appearance.
Such discoloration is sometimes mistaken as pollution when it is sighted in the lower reaches of waterways. But iron oxide deposits occur naturally and although unsightly, they are not toxic to fish or other aquatic life, and they are not an environmental health risk.
The fast-flowing Waiwhakaiho River cleared quickly. This truly was a one-day wonder, but it gave headline writers an opportunity to exercise their sense of humour in the next morning’s front-page banner: ‘Ore inspiring’.
The Kokowai Cluster relates to the source of the Waiwhakaiho. This also implies origins and beginnings. The river sometimes runs red with ochre, so connected to this page you will find information about iron oxide – its’ significance, role and place in Māori culture. Then there is the geology of rivers. The Waiwhakaiho is also a source of andesite – which is highly valued by sculptors, uniting geology and creativity.
Kokowai is the name given to a stream that is a tributary of the Waiwhakaiho, high up on the mountain. Kokowai is also the name of a naturally occurring colour of the Earth, and is significant to Māori.
The cultural significance of red ochre
Since the mid 1600s, Taranaki weaving was famed for its rich colours, particularly the kokowai hues in taniko (twined geometric patterned borders) of cloaks. These were highly sought after. There are instances of a cloak from here being exchanged for waka, or large quantities of taonga.
Within Aotearoa, Pasifika and many indigenous nations this ochre the hue named kokowai is a significant material in visual and performative culture. For Māori, its significance is that the ochre is the blood of Rangi and Papa when they were separated – they had been in an embrace for so long they had become entwined. Tane had to cut through sinews etc., to separate them. This is a metaphorical narrative on many levels in regards to cosmology, and also the pain/suffering/sacrifice these parents undertook to allow their offspring to develop and transform.
In Māori culture, to apply kokowai to a structure, particularly in visual culture is to render the object, artefact, structure or body ‘tapu’ i.e. charged with energy (which originates in the intangible , higher realms of reality of Te Po) therefore requiring significant attention to restriction, boundaries and respect.
Te Po is the primary reality, it is the potentiality of life (it is where Rangi and Papa reside: their expansiveness outwards – created Te Ao Marama – the realm we reside in; it is an outcome of the potential of Te Po.
Te Ao Marama is a constant reminder that we are here to develop, to acquire wisdom towards enlightenment. Kokowai reminds us of this: it is a layered, rich viscous material. To apply ochre to an artefact or structure is called kura.
Kura means ‘prized possession.’ One of the most prized taonga is knowledge (hence its association to school). Red ochre signifies an artefact is ‘taonga’. This can be seen in many instances of Māori visual culture. This remains relevant and resonates deeply in the Maori aesthetic and conceptual continuum.
It is also a customary understanding that ‘wai’ as water is first and foremost understood as of the cosmic stream of energies, i.e. it has a spiritual quality first. Wai as water is a manifestation for this realm ‘Te Ao marama,’ its essence is intangible.