The Waitotara River in New Zealand's North Island stretches approximately 100 km in length from its headwaters in the Matemateaonga Ranges to its mouth on the South Taranaki Bight. The river takes in significant tributaries such as the Ngutuwera, Makakaho, Pokeka, Omaru and Totara Streams.
Settlements and access
The river catchment and its tributaries are accessed via the Waitotara Valley Road and Ngutuwera Road, and associated side-roads. The village of Waitotara is the predominant settlement of the catchment, located at the junction of the Waitotara Valley Road and State Highway 3. The viability of the Waitotara settlement has recently been challenged by a number of devastating flood events, while the Waitotara School has undergone complete refurbishment.
Along the Waitotara River lie the localities of Rangitatau, Puau, Orangimea, Tawhiwhi, Makakaho Junction, Ngamatapouri and Taumatatahi. Ngutuwera catchment localities include Ngutuwera, Mangawhio, Waikare and the Omata Valley. Located in the upper reaches of the Makakaho Stream is the locality of Makakaho. The upper valley localities are particularly isolated, Ngamatapouri Primary School being 47 km from Waitotara village.
Traditional Māori land use
The Waitotara River is the home to Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi, a local Māori iwi. Hapu include Ngaa Ariki (Waipapa Marae), Ngaati Pourua (Takirau Marae), Ngaati Hine Waiatarua (Parehungahunga Marae), Te Ihupuku Marae, and Ngaati Hou Tipua (Whare Tapapa, Kaipo Marae). The Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi headquarters are based in Wanganui.
The river was traditionally utilised as a means of transport. Food traditionally gathered from the Waitotara River include kakahi (fresh water mussels), tuna (eels), whitebait, smelt, flounder, and sole.
Contemporary land use
The lower catchment (together with the Ngutuwera, Makakahoe and Pokeke catchments) is largely reliant upon sheep and beef pastoral farming. The upper catchment (including the Omaru and Totara tributaries) remains as pristine forest, and is managed by DOC as the Waitotara Conservation Area. “Remote Adventures” operates a tourism service in Taumatatahi, 57 km from Waitotara village.
- Ngamatapouri School, accessed 30 May 2007
- South Taranaki District Council, STATUTORY AREAS - NGAA RAURU KIITAHI CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT, accessed 30 May 2007
- Department of Conservation, Waitotara Conservation Area, accessed 30 May 2007
- Remote Adventures New Zealand, accessed 30 May 2007
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