The following story was originally published in the November 2013 Nati Link.
As a young boy growing up in Waima, Jack Chambers lived in one of the many houses nestled alongside the edges of the Whangaroa stream.
Back in the day, Jack recalls many whanau relied on the stream as their main drinking source, and it was treated accordingly with the utmost respect and reverence. “The stream wasn’t polluted with effluent or rubbish. If us kids wanted to go and have a swim, we were told to go to the beach. There wasn’t running water in the houses back then, so the old people used to take their buckets down to the stream to draw water. They did their washing down by the creek in the small pools, but used big tubs to collect the water.”
Although many of the old homes are now long gone, the stream carries on. Meandering its way from a small puna, found high amongst the craggy cliff formations of the Tawhiti blocks, down to the sea.
“This carried on until the late 1960s/ early 1970s when power first came to Waima. Once the power came on, then everything changed. The homes got hot water cylinders and water ran freely from the tap. There was no need to go down to the creek to get water or do the washing. People started to use the stream as a swimming hole.”
Jack says he can also recall that the Whangaroa stream was one of the main tributaries in Waima where eels spawned at certain times of the year. “As a kid I witnessed this event only twice. From time to time the eels travelled up the river from the sea. There they would have their babies, and then travel back down again to the sea. When they ready to die they would travel back up the river and end up dying where they were born. It’s like the cycle of life.”
“Eels are the only food source that I can remember that the creek provided. However when I was younger I used to see the old people take sugar bags full of kina down to the river, and leave them over night to wash the seawater salt out. There were also some smaller drains that fed into the main stream. The old people used these drains to ferment kanga kopiro.”