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An abundant food gathering region with historical significance and centuries of traditions all intertwined with the life force of the Mataura River – this is Māruawai.

Māruawai is the traditional name for Gore, Southland’s second largest town. But Māruawai is so much more than a name – it also encapsulates the rich history and cultural identity of the region.

Meaning ‘the Valley of Water’, Māruawai speaks of a bountiful food basket that awaited weary travellers coming through these areas, with koura (freshwater crayfish), kākahi (freshwater mussels), native trout, weka, and so much more able to be caught or harvested across different mahinga kai (food gathering sites), making it the ideal spot for travellers to rest, refuel and move onwards on their journeys.

A network of walking trails through the valley allowed for tangata whenua (people of the land) to walk through the region as they navigated between coasts.

Early Māori appreciated and were the kaitiaki (guardians) over the valley – knowing it provided for them in its plentiful way. These stories have passed down through the generations and is now forming part of the historical basis for the Māruawai Centre, a new addition as part of the redevelopment of Gore’s Heritage Precinct.

The redevelopment is being led by the Gore District Council, in partnership with Hokonui Rūnanga.

The new Māruawai Centre will celebrate the many centuries of human occupation of the Mataura Valley, and the stories that shape the history of the region. Stories, myths and legends of early Māori life and ways in the Mataura Valley, the area’s reputation as the World’s Brown Trout Fishing Capital, and the District’s national significance in the agricultural sector will all be strongly represented.

The design of the centre includes an opportunity for six local artists, including three from Ngāi Tahu, who will recapture the essence of a journey through the Mataura Valley, with the art representing six themes of flora and fauna native to the region.

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