Rua taniwha

In: Place names, Stories, Taniwha, Traditional stories

During the early 1800s the northern most village in the Wairarapa valley was called Rua taniwha. Here is the story of how the village recevieved this name.

It was during the 1830s that the people of the village were going about their normal tasks when quite suddenly the earth began to shake. The ground rattled beneath them for more than a week so that they wondered what they had done to be so badly punished by the atua.

They lay on the ground reciting karakia in the hope that the atua would save them. The young ones asked what had happened. In reply the old people said that a taniwha had dove into the ground at Wairoa and did not resurface until he reached the Te Waipounamu. His exertions beneath the earths surface had caused the land to shake.

As the ground continued to tremble and shudder so violently half of the hill called Rerenga fell downwards into the Ruamahanga river below. So many trees and so much soil became lodged in the river that it blocked. It did not take long before the water backed up creating a large lake.

To the south of the great bank of debri the river dried up. After the frightening time of the shaking there was reason to rejoice because eels were plentiful and easy to catch.

One day a group from Te Ore Ore had gone to catch eels at Opaki when they heard a deafening din. As they looked northwards towards the noise all they saw was a massive water of water, stones and trees coming straight towards them. In order to save their lived they clambered into the nearest trees where they stayed for several days until the flood waters receded.

There were said to be signs of the flood for many years afterwards with rubbish lodged in trees 8 feet above the ground.

In order to commemorate the blocking of the Ruamahanga by the taniwha the survivors of the village across the river from Rerenga hill became known as Rua taniwha.