Kawatiri (Buller) River and its tributaries (northern portion)
For centuries, the Kawatiri has been, and continues to be, an important mahinga kai, its pure water abundant in fish such as kōkopu, tuna, inanga, kahawai, kekewai and kōura. It was also a rich source of birds such as kākā, kererū, kākāpō, kiwi and weka.
The Kawatiri sat within a complex series of pathways and trails and a number of Ngāti Apa pā, cultivations, mahinga kai, and urupā were located on the river. The tīpuna Takapau and Tamahau were born and died here. Takapau was kaitiaki of the gardens at Kawatiri, as stated: “Nōna i whakamara ngā mahinga kai o te hapū whānau o Ngāti Apa”.
Pou-o-te-Rangi and Tureia, descendants of Takapau, lived and died at Kawatiri.
Kawatiri was also a residence of the tīpuna Te Rato (also known as Te Kōtuku, the White Heron), Te Whare Kiore (who was killed here during the northern invasions), Mahuika, and the high-born woman Mata Nohinohi. Mata Nohinohi was the mother of Kehu, the famous Ngāti Apa/Tūmatakōkiri guide and kaitiaki of the inland trails and Mahuika. The tipuna Pūaha Te Rangi, a participant in the 1860 Arahura Purchase, was another rangatira associated with Kawatiri. The tipuna Kuneoterangi is buried there.
A kāinga on the river was re-occupied by Ngāti Apa after peace was established in the mid-1840s. Its leader was Mahuika, half-brother of Kehu and son of Mata Nohinohi.