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The Great Reversal 

Around half a million years ago, the Kyeburn flowed South through what is now the Upper Taieri/Taiari into the Clutha River system.

The rising of the Lammermoor range cut off the river and reversed it. The newly-formed Taieri/Taiari cut a gorge through basement schist rock at Hyde.

The Taniwha's Tail

Today the Upper Taieri/Taiari is one of the most unique land-forms in the southern hemisphere. The river forms in the tussock country of the Lammermoor and Rock and Pillar Ranges, moving through once-great upland wetlands before emerging onto the Maniototo/Māniatoto Plain.


Here, it meanders across a wide, flat floodplain to form spectacular scrolls. It is the only land-form like this in New Zealand.


In Māori mythology, the Taieri/Taiari awa (river) was formed by the serpentine movement of the taniwha (monster) called Matamata through this landscape.


The scroll plain was formed with a flick of his tail. 

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Photo Credit:  Will Nelson (CODC)

Photo Credit: 

Mahika Kai

The Upper Taieri/Taiari was a crucially important food-gathering area for coastal iwi, who would make seasonal trips inland to harvest birds including weka, ducks and swans. Another important food source was kouka, or cabbage tree, which was planted in the region and harvested in the summer.

Birds, fish and kouka would be loaded onto rafts called mōkihi and transported down river to sustain the people through the long, cold months of winter.

Farming for the Future

The Maniototo/Māniatoto region today plays host to a range of farming activities including sheep, beef, deer and dairy farming.

Irrigation has allowed intensive farming on the plains, but this presents challenges for the river catchment.

Tiaki Maniototo supports efforts to fence off waterways and riparian planting, which helps filter contaminants and nutrients from entering streams and rivers in the catchment.

Photo Credit: Natalie Willis

Photo Credit: 

A Land of Plenty  

For hundreds of years, coastal Māori ventured into the upper reaches of the Taieri/Taiari to harvest mahika kai, or wild foods, from the rivers and wetlands.


The Taieri/Taiari scrolls would have teemed with waterfowl like native ducks and swans, while the waters were full of kanakana (lamprey) and tuna (eels). Weka and other birds were also plentiful.


Māori also harvested kouka, or cabbage tree, from these upland plains. Moving with the seasons to follow the migrations of lamprey and tuna, Māori would pack the harvested food in kelp bags called poha, and transport it down the Taieri/Taiari on rafts called mōkihi.

Visit the Taiari

Watch the video here ..

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