Our local waterway has had several names over its history and many know it today as Henderson Creek. However its original name is Te Wai o Pareira, or The Water of Pareira. But who is Pareira, and why does the awa carry her name? In what ways was the awa important to Māori before the arrival of Europeans?
Te Wai o Pareira is named for Pareira, the niece of important early navigator Toitehuatahi. She settled in the bay stretching where the Westhaven Marina is located. Her name was given to this bay and also the tidal estuary that meets the Waitemata Harbour at this point. From here, Te Wai o Pareira extends inland acting as a catchment for a number of smaller streams that flow from the Waitakere Ranges. Two of these are the Opanuku stream and the Oratia Stream.
Wai o Panuku (Opanuku) and the nearby Parekura stream get their names from the ancestral figures of Panuku and his wife Parekura. In the Tūrehu story, Parekura is kidnapped and plucks a trail of white feathers from her cloak so that her husband can follow. Panuku follows the trail, kills her kidnapper and proves his dedication to Parekura. The stream bearing his name Opanuku flows from the foothills of the Ranges and meets Te Wai o Pareira at Te Kōpua, known as Falls Park in Henderson.
Located at the head of Te Wai o Pareira, Te Kōpua was a strategic position as it was a landing place for waka that connected to walking routes that extended into the valleys from this point. For this reason, a small pā was built at this location, later destroyed as Henderson developed.
For pre-European Māori, Te Wai o Pareira was an important source of food, fresh water, and resources for weaving. The area was home to various types of shellfish, which attracted marine birds such as the kuaka. This natural abundance, combined with the makeup of the soil in the area led to the creation of two settlements on Te Atatū Peninsula near the mouth of Te Wai o Pareira, Ōrukuwai and Ōrangihina- the place of Te Kawerau ā Maki ancestors Rukuwai, and Rangihina. Orukuwai, located at the tip of the peninsula relied on the swampy edges of the shoreline for gardening. This settlement remained occupied right up until the time of European influence.
Te Wai o Pareira has been providing and sustaining life along its shores for generations and it will remain long after we do. This is our moment to act to restore the awa to the health it once enjoyed.
Note: This content is pending review by local iwi.
Citation: This content has been adapted from the book "Henderson: Heart of the West" by Vivien Burgess, Gai Bishop and Grant Cole. Edited by Paul Moon. Published 2017. Grant Cole is understood to be the author of section above.