Okere Falls, less than half an hour’s drive from Rotorua, is a village that sits beside the Kaituna River. In its turn, the Kaituna River zooms through the narrow sides of a gorge, on and on until it reaches the Bay of Plenty. Okere means ‘place of drifting’ and I have to say that we didn’t see anything just drifting on the water of this village – manically ripping and bounding along is a better description!
A track leads along the river for about one kilometre, in a loop, from the old power house at one end (nearest the village end) to Trout Pool at the other.
Kaituna River was traditionally used as a source of food for it’s inhabitants, Ngāti Pikiao, who caught eels (tuna), freshwater crayfish (koura), and native galaxiids which we also know as whitebait. Whitebait is a term that includes inanga, kōara and three species of kokopu. Trout were introduced with the arrival of Europeans and took to their environment so well that people can now fish for these, but not the native ones. (You need a licence to fish in New Zealand rivers and lakes from Fish and Game NZ).
In 1984 the Waitangi Tribunal, set up to restore justice for Māori as per the criteria of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, ruled that Ngāti Pikiao were the official owners of the river.
I wish we’d seen a raft or couple of kayaks on the river; I’ve just been watching a video on youtube of a kayaker making a long run on the river and realised how much the river means for extreme adventure seekers. These people are collectively known around here as the River People.
And possibly we would do the raft trip after all. Oh well, too late now, how sad *giggle*
This day has shown us another great sight – and re-affirmed that wherever we go in New Zealand, we find these unexpected, tucked-away places; environments that have great meaning for groups of people who both care for and use them – once found, easy to fall in love with.