About Us

Waewae Pounamu lies within the heart of the "Greenstone Isle" – Te Waipounmau, the South Island of New Zealand.

In the iconic West Coast town of Hokitika you’ll find the home of Ngāti Waewae Pounamu Carving and our busy retail store. Here we display New Zealand’s largest range of authentic Ngāi Tahu Pounamu carvings. You can also see our carvers in action as they channel their inspiration into shaping the stone.

Authenticity

Ngāi Tahu Pounamu

Waewae Pounamu is proud to be part of the Ngāi Tahu Pounamu authentication system. The importance of this programme to our culture and our country cannot be underestimated. 

Pounamu is treasured throughout New Zealand for its strength and beauty. It has been used to make weapons, tools and adornments for hundreds of years. Regarded as having mauri (significant life force), mana (status), and to be tapu (sacred), the value of Pounamu goes far beyond mere economic measure.

The strong spiritual connection many feel with the stone is undeniable. Authentic Pounamu links the wearer to the river in which it was found, the shape into which it is reformed and the identity this shape and stone come to represent. The carver is accountable to both the wider culture and the eventual wearer in how they source the raw stone and shape it’s form.

Not is all as it seems in the marketplace of New Zealand ‘greenstone’ however – considerable quantities of greenstone sold here is carved either from stolen or imported stone. That does not stop unethical companies selling products that are marketed to give the impression it is genuine New Zealand Greenstone.

In order to protect Pounamu in a sustainable and responsible way for future generations, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu have developed an authentication system to certify products made from genuine New Zealand Greenstone. Similar systems are commonly used throughout the world in industries such as diamonds, wool and organic foods.

All authenticated Ngāi Tahu Pounamu carry a unique traceability code that identifies the origin and whakapapa (genealogy) of the raw stone, how it was extracted and processed and who the artist was that carved it. This is the only way the buyer of the stone knows it has been obtained legitimately and carved responsibly.

 

History

Ngāti Waewae

The history of the region is both dynamic and dramatic – and it’s one irrevocably linked with the guardianship of Pounamu.

Tuhuru Kokare was a chief of Ngāti Waewae, a hapu (sub-tribe) of Canterbury’s Ngāi Tahu iwi. He reached adulthood in the eighteenth century – a turbulent period in the Māori history of the South Island.

During this time Ngāi Tahu went to the source of greenstone in the Arahura and Mawhera (Grey) regions of the West Coast and fought with the local people, Ngāti Wairangi. Tuhuru led this campaign, starting at Karamea in the north and gradually working his way down the coast. The final defeat of Ngāti Wairangi took place in the Paparoa Range, after which a meeting of Tuhuru and his party was held at Rūnanga.

Tuhuru and his people then established a new pa at Mawhera and settled there. They were known as Poutini Ngāi Tahu, the Ngāi Tahu people of the West Coast. The trade in greenstone was becoming more valuable and, with it, the threat from outsiders. Tuhuru defended his land and it’s Pounamu against the Ngati Tumatakokiri, a tribe from the north, and later, the Ngati Rarua from Paturau near the Whanganui Inlet.

The local Maori community is still directed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae, the council based a short distance from the township of Hokitika in Arahura.

 

Mythology

The life of the legend

The oral tradition of Māori legend has contributed a range of Pounamu creation myths and many different regions have their own, unique interpretations of how the stone first came into this world. One such myth tells of a Taniwha named Poutini, a mystical being who guards the mauri (the life force) within the treasured stone.

The story starts with Poutini discovering a beautiful woman, Waitaki, bathing in the sea off Tuhau. Consumed by desire, he snatched Waitaki up, claimed her as his wife and fled to the South Island. Waitaki already had a husband however – a powerful chief named Tamaahua. Distressed at the loss of his wife Tamaahua threw a magic dart into the air. The dart pointed in the direction Poutini went, and the vengeful chief took up his pursuit of the Taniwha.

The chase continued down Aotearoa until Poutini took sanctuary on the West Coast of the South Island. Fearing the power of his pursuer, and realising that the mighty chief would never rest until he found his wife, Poutini decided on a dramatic course of action – one he hoped would forever keep his love close to him.

With Tamaahua camped close by, the Taniwha transformed Waitaki into his essence and slipped her lifeless body into the river. He then snuck past the sleeping chief and made his escape into the night.

When Tamaahua awoke the next morning he found his wife turned to cold green stone in the riverbed. He let out a powerful tangi – a mighty song of grief. Legend has it that travellers in the region still hear the echo of this tangi through the mountains to this day.

 

Geography

Arahura River

The Arahura River is of great significance to Pounamu in New Zealand. This flyover view looks from the Southern Alps in the east towards the river mouth. Within this landscape the settlement of Arahura Pa is one of the oldest on the West Coast. It is a place where Pounamu (greenstone) was historically collected and traded. Almost all the Pounamu found on the West Coast is done so from the boulders in the Arahura River.