Hokitika means ‘return directly’ which embraces the story of a battle of control of the pounamu source. Invading Ngāi Tahu and three of its chiefs from Kaiapoi were devastatingly defeated at Lake Mahinapua by local tribe Ngāti Wairangi. The sole surviving chief Hikatūtae turned back here and ‘returned directly’ to Kaiapoi. Several battles later Ngāi Tahu won, but at a truly heavy price.
Today Poutini Ngāi Tahu carry this sense of continuity, honouring their role as rangatira, carvers and traders of this revered stone. Wander the varied artisan stores of this pounamu capital, from woodwork to copper and glass, and return home with your own taonga – you may even discover a pounamu pebble on the beach.
Gateway to gold
The West Coast’s 1864-67 gold rushes, many led by Māori, attracted gold-seekers to a rainforest wilderness barricaded between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. Ships brought 37,000 seekers into Hokitika Port through its shipwrecking and moving river mouth. A town that rapidly replaced a forest, it grew from ‘Crooked Mile’ Revell Street on the dunes to a wide-streeted goldfields capital.
Explore Hokitika through restored sites and replica ships, picture ‘The Luminaries’ Hokitika-inspired novel, see the statue of New Zealand’s longest-serving leader Richard John Seddon, and realise the energy this governing town had as the most valued port of its time.
Today the centre of a new gold, Hokitika is the Air New Zealand gateway to our wondrous West Coast. Farewell a driftwood-silhouetted sunset, and let gratefulness override as it once did for our ancestors.