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Hero image for Great New Zealand River Journeys: The Whanganui River with Sam Hunt

Great New Zealand River Journeys: The Whanganui River with Sam Hunt

Television (Full Length Episode) – 1992

In this series exploring New Zealand's iconic rivers, poet Sam Hunt investigates the rich history of the Whanganui River, which was an important highway for Māori and Pākehā alike. Before colonisation, generations of Māori knew and named every bend and rapid. Hunt talks to local historians about the heyday of riverboats and steamboats, and to families who've farmed in the area for generations. Historian Arthur Bates explains the history behind the mysterious Bridge to Nowhere. As Hunt travels the river, he breaks into verse  especially at Jerusalem (aka Hiruhārama) where his friend James K Baxter is buried. 

Every bend and rapid of the river has a guardian, or kaitiaki, who maintains the mauri (life force) of that stretch of the river. Whanganui hapū (sub-tribes) were renowned for their canoeing skills and maintained extensive networks of weirs and fishing traps along the river until the arrival of riverboats forced changes to customary practices.
– Excerpt from a history of the Whanganui River, Department of Conservation website