After leaving Hamilton’s Gap we decided to take a run out to Port Waikatō.
But first we made a stop in Tuakau for lunch, driving through the fertile lands around Pukekohe with it’s acres of market gardens both sides of the road. We also noted all the new housing in newly developed subdivisions. I hope they don’t take all that fertile land for housing.
The Waikatō River is the longest in New Zealand at 425 kilometres. Flowing out of Lake Taupō at its north eastern edge, it meanders through the farmland and towns of the Waikatō plains to flow out into the Tasman sea here at Port Waikatō.
The river widens as it nears the coast and we come to the small settlement of Port Waikatō.
There is a motor camp here and we considered staying a night but decided against it, instead visiting Sylvia’s Cafe, a popular place around these parts.
There has been quite severe erosion of the coast here and you can see the road has broken away at Sunset Beach.
It’s fitting I think to mention here the significance of the Waikato River today and historically.
It has wide recreational use throughout its length and on its lakes today.
But there’s much more.
There are nine power stations and eight dams on the river between Taupō and Karapiro, all contributing significantly to the national grid. All the lakes in this stretch are manmade except Lake Taupō itself.
It’s also a significant river historically for Māori, and since the confiscation of lands following the New Zealand wars of the 1860s, Māori have sought to re-establish their links to the river.
Translated, Waikatō means flowing water. The Tainui iwi (tribe) regard the river as a source of their mana or pride, and the well known and respected Turangawaewae Marae, home of the Kingitanga, sits on it’s banks in Ngaruawahia.
Currently Waikatō-Tainui have joint management of the river with the Waikatō Regional Council, following an out of court settlement between Waikatō-Tainui and the Crown in 2008.
A fairly large part of my life has been spent around the Waikatō. We’ve lived in Hamilton, Te Awamutu and Taupō, and currently own a property in Putaruru.
So it’s part of our story too, the mighty Waikatō River.