THE WAIRARAPAThe Plain of the Ruamahunga, opening into Palliser Bay near Wellington. Hand-coloured lithograph from original watercolour - Samuel Brees, 1810–1865 - Alexander Turnbull Library The Wairarapa is a large and bountiful region with a long and complex history. Maori oral tradition tells us the area is a part of the huge fish ‘Te Ika a Maui’, hooked and caught by Maui – a Polynesian tupua (super hero).
The fish is the North Island of New Zealand. Te Karu o Te Ika a Maui, the eye of the fish, is Lake Wairarapa (Wairarapa Moana) and its mouth, Te Waha o Te Ika a Maui,is Palliser Bay. The geographically distinctive Wairarapa valley, bounded by the Remutaka (Rimutaka) and Tararua mountain ranges on the western side and the large hills of the eastern coastline, has been shaped by a system of northeast trending faults, which are still very active today. The valley was once covered in giant podocarp forest, of Totara, Miro and Matai in the north and a mixture of forest, fernland, shrubland, some grassland, swamp and lake in the south.