Culturally iconic

Te Waiariki Ngawha Springs are iconic to the Ngapuhi iwi. They are culturally significant to the whole iwi and have a rich social, environmental and political history. The Parahirahi Ngawha Waiariki Trust as kaitiaki has a responsibility to ensure that the springs are maintained and developed so that future generations can enjoy their healing waters.

Waiariki means chiefly waters. Ngawha means thermal hot pools

Whakatauki (proverbs)


Ngawha is the eye of the taonga, but its heart, its lifegiving power, lies beneath (the surface)

Our tupuna (ancestors) recognised that the ngawha (hot springs) derived from a source deep within Papatuanuku (earth mother) and that the underground resource and the pools above were connected.

Ko Moi te maunga

Ko Ngawha te tangata
He aroaro wahine
He ara mahana

Moi is the mountain
Ngawha is the person
The passage to the womb of the
women is a warm passage

This whakatauki talks about two key associations: the first is the association of warmth with the most vital part of the female body and thus with the source of human life itself, that is the Ngawha waters are life giving and healing; and second, for the association of the waters with a source deep within the Earth Mother, Papatuanuku.

Brief History

Maori history tells how these hot springs are connected to the volcanoes in Hawaii thus supporting the genealogical Polynesian connections throughout the Pacific.

Historical accounts tell of Kareariki, an ancestress of the local Maori, who discovered the hot springs in the late 1600s. Kareariki lived with her husband, Uenuku-kuare, and their children in the area which at that time was  overed in bush and rich in bird life. 

Kareariki later killed some of her female slaves who thereupon became taniwha in a nearby lake, collectively taking the form of a kauri log known to this day by the name Takauere. After Kareariki lost her pet dog Kaipahau (killed for food), she kept hearing his spirit barking night and day.

He becomes another minder of the pools. It is asserted that only ancestors of exceptional mana can create or summon and control taniwha.

Both Kaipahau and Takauere and other mokaikai (minders) have changed the whole characteristics of the pools in the eyes of Ngapuhi to more than pools of medicinal and personal value, indeed to objects of esoteric protection over the mana, tapu and wairua of the Ngapuhi people.

Healing waters

The Ngawha Waiariki are healing waters. They heal physically and they have the ability to give sustenance to our wairua.

When Kareariki came upon the springs, she discovered their curative powers, particularly those giving relief to  others with post-parturition pains.

There is an account describing how a major conflict between two warring tribes took place on the West Coast. After the fight the two opposing forces came here to these hot springs to recover. Together these foes rested and bathed peacefully together.

The springs unique properties soothed more than just the battle weary bodies.

The Ngapuhi warrior leader, Hone Heke recognised the remedial value of the pools, bringing his wounded here for treatment after the British assault on his fortified Pa at Ohaeawai.

From time immemorial it is said, the hapu of Ngapuhi and beyond have attended the springs of Ngawha to partake of their healing powers. The first European came to these pools in 1842. They also considered the pools to have healing properties. In 1876 they erected a bathhouse in the area. This before there was any properly formed access to the springs.

Doctor Ngawha Springs Hot Pools

A Story of Landloss and Struggle to Retain Ownership

Parahirahi Ngawha Waiariki Trust owns the one acre block upon which approximately half of the current Ngawha hot-pools complex sits and leases the other side (4 acres).
This is however, only a small portion of the original Parahirahi block (5,097 acres) which was aggressively targeted by the Crown for acquisition on behalf of settlers in the latter part of the 19th century. This process was encouraged by prospecting Europeans interested in exploiting mineral resources [mining, spa development, energy] and obtaining land. The five acres which had the hot springs on it was originally reserved from sale.
So when the 4 acres (that is currently leased) was partitioned out, the original landowners did not believe they had sold that 4 acres. A number of unsuccessful petitions were made to seek the return of the 4 acres.

By August 1935 nine of the 12 original owners 8 in the one acre (Parahirahi C1) were dead and not succeeded to. In order to protect the 1 acre, that they still held, from further alienation rather than appoint successors a committee of management was appointed to represent the original owners that retained the one acre – the Parahirahi C1 Trust. This is now the Parahirahi Ngawha Waiariki Trust.


It is asserted that only ancestors of exceptional mana can create or summon and control taniwha. Kupe, Nukutawhiti and Ruanui all had such powers. Taniwha-creating mana came down to Kareariki and possibly to her daughter Maikuku. Kareariki's actions in despatching her slaves, whence Takauere, are significant. Her dog, Kaipahau, is also significant. He becomes another minder of the pools.

Both Kaipahau and Takauere and other mokaikai (minders) have changed the whole characteristics of the pools in the eyes of Ngapuhi to more than pools of medicinal and personal value, indeed to objects of esoteric protection over the mana, tapu and wairua of  the Ngapuhi people.



Kaitiaki are the guardians of the Maori world. The kaitiaki for Ngawha and some of the waterways of Ngapuhi is a taniwha named Takauere. The springs, streams, rivers and lakes are all a part of his body; Lake Omapere being his heart and belly, Ngawha his eye and head, with his major limbs being the Waitangi River to the east and the Utakura and Waima rivers to the west. The numerous springs throughout the north are regarded also as indications of his presence. 

……The Utakura and Orukiruki waters find their way to the Hokianga…and the Waipapa waters find their way to Waitangi – and wherever the waters flow, the relationship of tangata to whenua and of tangata to tangata is is implicit. Thus the presence of Takauere unifies nga hapu of Ngapuhi-nui-tonu.

There is interconnectedness between not just water bodies above and below the earth’s surface, but also between ancestors and the people of today. Kaitiaki responsibilities do not solely reside with Takauere. There are complementary roles held by tangata whenua. Kareariki’s descendants are also kaitiaki (guardians) of this tribal taonga (treasure) now represented through the Parahirahi Ngawha Waiariki Trust. They along with Takauere, a spiritual being, ensure that the pools are here for the benefit of all.

Exercise of kaitiakitanga

The Trust has exercised its responsibilities on multiple occasions across multiple forums, for example:

  • The 1992 Waitangi Tribunal Report details the Trust’s response to the intention to establish a power station at Ngawha click here.
  • The objection to the application from Top Energy to increase its power generation and subsequent negotiation of strong environmental monitoring conditions through the consent hearing process 
  • The submission of evidence to the 2015 Waitangi Tribunal Hearings details the continued endeavour to recognise their kaitiakitanga and advocate for the return of land.

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