Tūwharetoa kura offer traditional prayers of healing for Lake Taupō

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Students and families of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Whakarewa i Te Reo Ki Tūwharetoa who gathered at eight sites around Lake Taupō believe prayer, chant and song can heal its waters.

Students and whānau believe the health to their ancestral waters will be restored through their ancestral customs.

“The lake is important to us,” said Rerehau Wineera.

“We, of Tūwharetoa are people of the water, so practicing our traditions and customs is important.”

Wairau Wall said, “It is right for us to return our love to our ancestor (Lake Taupō) who is unwell at this time."

Both locals and tourists alike are saddened at the discovery of the toxic algae bloom in the pristine waters by the Waikato Regional Council earlier this week due to the heat surge this summer.

“Mamae (hurt), cause our tamariki can't go swimming like you know when they get hot,” said Naomi Thorne (Ngāti Tūwharetoa). “It's just sad cause this is what we do every summer.”

Mother Val Thorne (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) said, “Not very good. A lot of the locals, a lot of tourists come here and it's an everyday thing. As we look at the carparks we see it's empty and the first thing we go is wow, where are they all?”

In 2015 Te KKMāori o Whakarewa i Te Reo Ki Tūwharetoa led a petition from Tūrangi to Wellington for the government of the day to make every waterway in New Zealand swimmable.

“The government needs to implement our petition, they must improve water quality and allocate funding to make our rivers and natural waters healthy again,” said teacher Ruby Pitiroi.

“According to our elders from their recollections, this is the first time this has happened to the water,” said student Kahumako Rameka.

“So, we believe that despite the heat our lake is filled with toxic chemicals and pollution. Due to this these toxins are flourishing.”

The local Medical Officer of Health has issued a warning to the public not to paddle, wade, swim at six main areas around the lake.