Ngāi Tahu – Cultural Mapping Project

Christchurch waterways

William Anderson Taylor, c.1937

Photographer and amateur historian William Anderson Taylor (1882 – 1951) drew this rough sketch plan of Christchurch waterways for his friend and fellow historian, James Herries Beattie around 1937. It provides comprehensive information about Ngāi Tahu place names associated with the Ōtākaro (Avon River) and its tributaries. Taylor understood the Māori naming convention whereby different stretches of the same river carried distinct names. The place names he recorded are consistent with names given in oral testimony by Ngāi Tahu rangatira at various hearings and sittings of the Native Land Court in the late nineteenth century.

'The Maori name of the Avon is Otakaro, and it branches into the Haereroa (the longest stream), Waiutuutu, Waimairi or Waimaero, Wairarapa, and Waiiti. Waiiti was the most northerly branch, and long since was piped in from Bryndwr. On Deans’ Maori lease, December 6, 1846, Riccarton is Putaringamotu, and it is spelled such to the present day. Rakipaoa is Upper Riccarton, and Hereora is about a mile past the Fendalton tram terminus, and was a camping place (marked by fenced-in cabbage trees). I understand some sort of ‘karakia’ was always said here by travelers from Rapaki going to Kaiapoi.'

William Anderson Taylor to James Herries Beattie, c.1937

Map maker: William Anderson Taylor

William Anderson Taylor (1882 - 1951) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1882 and emigrated to New Zealand with his parents in 1892. He left school at the age of thirteen to commence a seven-year apprenticeship at the Christchurch Press under the tutelage of his father who was a lithographer and photographer in the newspaper’s illustration department. He subsequently worked as a photographer for several New Zealand newspapers.

Taylor attributed his life-long interest in Māori history and culture to a chance meeting with a Ngāi Tahu boy his own age, Sam Tini, at the small Ngāi Tahu kāinga of Wairewa (Little River) on Banks Peninsula in 1894. He maintained this friendship for the rest of his life and knew Tini’s grandchildren.

Taylor began compiling ‘Māori history notes’ around 1910 – a practice that led to his eventual compilation of over one hundred notebooks and scrapbooks dedicated to historical subjects. He also took thousands of photographs including many of Ngāi Tahu people and places. He had many Ngāi Tahu friends and acquaintances who knew him as Wiremu Teira. 

Taylor's sketch plan showing the tributaries of the Ōtākaro to the west of the city is roughly rendered on tracing paper. It was one of two maps he sent to his friend James Herries Beattie as a visual aid to their ongoing conversation about Christchurch waterways.


William Anderson Taylor (Wiremu Teira). W.A. Taylor photograph, Canterbury Museum  1968.213.6317

'The tracings I scribbled off as accurately as I could for your acceptance and guidance. Several of the streams do not show on the public maps, as in parts of the city they run in covered-in channels. I drew a map of the Avon and its tributaries for the Maoris of Tuahiwi about 15 years ago, giving the known Maori names, and later I published the names in the "Star" about 1934.'

W.A. Taylor to James Herries Beattie, c.1937

Ngāi Tahu informants

While Taylor obtained some place name information directly from Ngāi Tahu informants, he did not undertake formal interviews nor did he consistently record the names of his informants alongside the material he collected from them. His research (in Canterbury at least) tended to involve a combination of documentary research and discussions with Ngāi Tahu individuals. Waterways were one of his particular areas of interest and it is likely that he discussed the names of the Christchurch rivers and their tributaries with all of his local contacts including Wiremu Rehu (c.1869 - 1948) seated beside Taylor in the photograph below.


Wiremu Rehu and William Anderson Taylor (Wiremu Teira), Tuahiwi, c.1935. W.A. Taylor collection, Canterbury Museum, 1968.213.3235

'...among the documents down behind a steel grill...'

Taylor may have discussed the place names of Christchurch waterways with his Ngāi Tahu friends and acquaintances but the place names recorded on this sketch plan were almost certainly primarily derived from documentary sources. Taylor worked voluntarily at the Christchurch branch of the Lands and Survey Department in Christchurch from 1936 to 1941 classifying and ordering the records of the Canterbury Provincial Government and the Canterbury Association. In the course of this work he encountered numerous original documents including correspondence, sketches, plans, deeds, and maps dating from the earliest period of colonisation in Canterbury. He studied early survey plans and correspondence from Ngāi Tahu rangatira to determine the allocation of place names and their orthography.

Taylor noted that  the early surveyors in Canterbury including Joseph Thomas, Thomas Cass, Cyrus Davie, and Samuel Hewlings all ensured they had local Māori on their survey gangs without exception. These Ngāi Tahu men acted as guides, waka paddlers - and place name informants. Among the named survey gang chainmen were 'Pairamu' who worked with Edward Jollie on the surveys of Sumner and Christchurch in 1849-50; 'Ehi' and 'Abraham' who worked on the survey of Christchurch by Henry Cridland in April 1852; 'Teroutai' who worked on the survey of the Ihutai Estuary with Charles Torlesse in March 1851; 'Te Aika' who worked with John Cowell Boys on the survey of Christchurch to Double Corner; and 'S. Huru' who worked with Thomas Cass in January 1851.


Lands and Survey Department library, 1930s. W.A. Taylor photograph, Canterbury Museum 

'I have been employed for some time [at the Lands and Survey Department] among the documents down behind a steel grill and steel door in the vaults below the street...I am scribbling all day from 8am by electric light...Weeks go by and I am on my own...'

William Anderson Taylor to James Herries Beattie, 24 May 1939

'I have always sought to gain firsthand knowledge of places and have cycled and walked the banks of these Avon streams.'

W.A. Taylor to James Herries Beattie, c.1937

A distinguishing feature of Taylor's approach to place name research was his knowledge of physical geography gleaned from personal experience in the field. A tramper and cyclist, he was a familiar figure around Christchurch from the 1920s to the 1940s carrying his camera and tripod. He spent years exploring and documenting rivers and their tributaries throughout Canterbury and Otago.

In Christchurch he walked the length of all the tributaries he mapped on his Christchurch waterways sketch plan. He spent much of his life living in Avonside in close proximity to the Ōtākaro which was a favoured subject of his photography. Over many years, he photographed Christchurch waterways at numerous locations.

William Anderson Taylor crossing a river, c.1900. W.A. Taylor photograph, Canterbury Museum 1968.213.1148

View a selection of Taylor's Christchurch waterways photographs from the 1920s in the gallery below.

<p><span>Rakipaoa is the name for the southern tributary of the Upper Avon River and for a mahinga kai site in the area. It is recorded that tuna (eels), āruhe (fernroot), whinau (berry), kanakana (blind eel), pokaka (sp: tree) and korari (stem of flower flax) were gathered there.&nbsp;</span></p>
<p>Hereora (also recorded on Taylor's map) was a permanent settlement and food production site located at the headwaters of the Ōtākaro where kāuru (cabbage tree root), āruhe, whitebait, tuna and kiore (rat) were gathered.&nbsp;This photograph of the upper reaches of the Ōtākaro at Avonhead was taken by W.A. Taylor in the 1920s.</p>
<div id="main-page">
<div id="jimu-layout-manager" class="PlateauTheme black">
<div id="map" class="map" data-zoom="15" data-scale="18055.954822" data-loaded="">
<div id="map_root" class="esriMapContainer">
<div class="esriPopup esriPopupVisible">
<div class="esriPopupWrapper">
<div class="sizer content">
<div class="contentPane">
<div id="esri_dijit__PopupRenderer_1" class="esriViewPopup">
<div class="mainSection"><em>W.A. Taylor photograph, Canterbury Museum 1968.214.5451</em></div>

Christchurch waterways: Photographs by W.A. Taylor

View gallery

Christchurch waterways and mahinga kai

The attraction of the Christchurch area to Ngāi Tahu was the interconnected network of wetlands, streams and tributaries which were highly treasured as an invaluable source of mahinga kai (food and resource gathering). 

The Canterbury Purchase of 1848 had devastating consequences for Ngāi Tahu. The Ngāi Tahu rangatira (chiefs) who signed the agreement believed that their mahinga kai would be set apart for them as stated in the Māori text of the purchase deed. However the meaning of the term ‘mahinga kai’ was interpreted differently in the English and Māori versions: Ngāi Tahu interpreted mahinga kai to mean all places from which food and resources were gathered whereas the English translation narrowly defined mahinga kai as 'cultivations'.

Twenty years later, in 1868 the Native Land Court met in Canterbury and specific claims were made by Ngāi Tahu to key locations within Christchurch City including several sites along the Ōtākaro. All of these claims were dismissed by the Crown. In 1880 Aperahama Te Aika and Matene Rehu reasserted their claim to Whakaomariki during the Middle Island Native Land Claims Commission of Inquiry into Ngāi Tahu land grievances.

The documents below are part of the wealth of evidence presented to the commission. The papers exemplify the longstanding assertions by Ngāi Tahu of their rights to access mahinga kai associated with Christchurch waterways. 

Ko Ōtākaro te ingoa o te awa nei. Nāku tēnei whenua. He kainga mahinga tuna maku. [Ōtakaro is the name of the Avon. The land belongs to me. It is the place where I used to obtain eels.]

Wiremu Te Uki, 3 April 1880

<p>This map features the&nbsp;Whakaomaraki tributary of the Ōtākaro, <a rel="noopener" href="{df32ee6d-4052-e311-8212-005056970030}" target="_blank" title="Waikakariki">Waikākariki</a> (Horseshoe Lake) and associated land parcels.&nbsp;It was part of the evidence presented by Ngāi Tahu to&nbsp;the Middle Island Native Land Claims Commission (Smith Nairn Commission) in 1879 - 80 and was a reassertion of an&nbsp;earlier unsuccessful claim to the area by Teone Pere and Aperahama Te Aika in the Native Land Court in 1868. The 1868 claim had been dismissed by the Court on account of the failure of the claimants to provide a map of the area.&nbsp;</p>
<p>Archives New Zealand,&nbsp;R12726415</p>

Claim of Aperahama Te Aika and Matene Rehu to Waikākariki, Whakaomaraki, and Pohoareare

View gallery