Te Waipounamu

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This article is about the alternative name for the South Island. For the World Heritage Site, see Te Wahipounamu.

Te Waipounamu is the official Māori name for New Zealand's South Island which is also sometimes referred to as Te Waka a Maui (The canoe of Maui), from mythology.[1]

Ngāi Tahu, the principal Māori iwi (tribe) of the southern region of New Zealand, utilised the very hard greenstone (jade) to make adzes and other implements, as well as ornaments. Particularly valued was a paler nephrite which the Māori called inanga, gathered in a remote area near what is now called the Dart Valley. Māori named the district wāhi pounamu, meaning "place of greenstone", and the South Island came to be called Te Wāhi Pounamu. This somehow evolved into Te Wai Pounamu which means "the water(s) of greenstone" but bears no relation to the original meaning.

The New Zealand Geographic Board found that, along with the North Island, the South Island had no official name. The Minister decided to formalise two names; the South Island or Te Waipounamu.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williamson, Maurice (10 October 2013). "Names of NZ’s two main islands formalised" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 
  2. ^ "NZ Geographic Board Welcomes Minister’s Decision On Islands’ Names". LINZ. 10 October 2013. 
  • Evison, Harry C, "The Ngai Tahu Deeds, A Window on New Zealand History," (Canterbury University Press, [2006]). ISBN 1-877257-39-7