The mighty Hokonui Hills. This one mountain range features heavily into many different historical stories for the region, intrinsically woven deep into the stories of the Gore region and its inception.
Whether it was providing an abundance of kai (food) for local Māori or settlers; creating shelter and direction for travellers as they moved through the area; or being part of the illicit bootlegger trade that has made the word Hokonui synonymous with moonshine whisky.
The Hokonui Hills are more than 1200 kilometres squared and sit 600 metres above sea level, overlooking the Southland plains. The hills stand proud into the horizon behind Gore and are the most dominant natural feature of the area.
The hills create a border to different districts, with the hills sitting among a triangle formed by the towns of Gore to the east, Lumsden to the north and Winton to the south.
With a name that is so much more than just a landmark, it is also used within the title of many organisations and products for the area. This includes the Hokonui Rūnanga, and of course, the illicit homemade whisky-style spirit that was illegally produced in the hills from the late 1800s. Often called just ‘Hokonui’ it has entered the annals of New Zealand folklore.
Māori legend tells of how the hills gained their recognisable shape, with the profile of these great mountains formed by the Kati Mamoe chief Te Rakitauneke’s taniwha (dragon) named Matamata. Discover Matamata’s story here.