The oral tradition of Māori legend has contributed a range of Pounamu creation myths with different regions having their own, unique interpretations of how Pounamu came into this world.

One such myth tells of a Taniwha named Poutini who guards the mauri (the life force) within the treasured stone. One day, as Poutini rested in the warm waters off Tuhau he chanced upon a woman of immense beauty, Waitaiki, bathing in the sea. Poutini’s heart was consumed by desire for Waitaiki and he snatched her for his wife, fleeing to the South Island. Waitaiki was already married however, to a powerful and spiritual chief named Tamaahua who grieved for the loss of his wife. He threw his tekateka -  a magic dart into the air which pointed in the direction Poutini had taken his wife and so endeavoured to pursue Poutini to reclaim her.

The chase continued across Aotearoa until Poutini and Waitaiki took sanctuary on the West Coast of the South Island. As Tamaahua closed in, Poutini began to fear his strength and power. Realising that Tamaahua would not rest until he reclaimed Waitaiki, Poutini decided the only way to keep Waitaiki forever was to turn her into his essence, Pounamu and laid her into the cold riverbeds of the Arahura River and slipped downstream past the waiting Tamaahua. When the chief rose for battle the following morning he discovered his cold, lifeless wife turned to stone into the riverbed and let out a tangi, a song of grief, that echoes through the mountains to this day.

River bed photo