Taniwha-Based Transport Policy

According to Māori mythology, Taniwha are supernatural creatures – some terrifying, others protective – that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea. Apparently, they also have views on public roading strategy.

In 2002 Ngāti Naho, a Māori tribe from the Meremere district, successfully halted and eventually caused the redevelopment of part of the country’s major highway, State Highway 1, to be rerouted in order to protect the abode of their legendary protector. This taniwha was said to have the appearance of large white eel, and Ngāti Naho argued that it must not be removed but rather move on of its own accord; to remove the taniwha would be to invite trouble.

Being deeply respectful of all cultures, peoples and beings – imagined or otherwise – Kiwis considered it only fair that the Taniwha’s voice be heard on this matter. Transit New Zealand, the government agency in charge of public roads, eventually negotiated a deal with Ngati Naho under which “concessions have been put in place to ensure that the taniwha are respected”.

In 2001, the views of a Northland Taniwha were also taken into consideration, at the site of a proposed new prison at Ngawha. It can only be assumed the Taniwha approved, as construction went ahead as planned.