History of Waikoropupu Springs

What is the history of Te Waikoropupu?

Te Waikoropupū Springs, affectionately known as Pupu Springs, are not only the largest freshwater springs in the country but also hold the record as the largest cold water springs in the southern hemisphere. 

But what is the history of The Waikoropupu?

The history of Te Waikoropupu dates back thousands of years. Māori people first arrived in the area around 700 years ago, and then the European settlers came to Te Waikoropupu and disturbed the peacefulness of the Maori way of life.

The Māori Legends of Te Waikoropupū Springs

The history of Te Waikoropupū Springs, also known as Pupu Springs, is richly intertwined with both Māori tradition and European exploration.

In Māori tradition, Te Waikoropupū Springs are considered wairou, the purest form of water, which is the wairua (spiritual) and physical source of life. The springs are steeped in Māori legends and mythology.

One such story tells of Huriawa, a taniwha (water spirit), who brought the healing waters to the springs. Another legend speaks of the journey of two young lovers, Ruru and Kōkōmuka.

When Ruru fell ill, Kōkōmuka sought the healing waters of the springs to cure his beloved, symbolising their spiritual significance.

The Arrival of European Settlers 

The serenity of Waikoropupū Springs was first disrupted by European explorers in the 1830s. Attracted by the area’s natural resources, the settlers initially focused on shipbuilding and mining gold, coal, and lime.

The beauty of the springs made them a popular destination for picnics among Europeans, a tradition that has been well-documented in family histories since 1880.

The late 1850s saw another wave of arrivals, this time gold prospectors, both European and Chinese. The gold rush significantly altered the landscape around the springs, with the quiet tranquility replaced by the bustling activity of mining.

Despite these disturbances, the Māori continued to hold the springs in high esteem. 

Commercialization and Conservation

Over time, the springs became a major tourist attraction in Golden Bay due to their crystal-clear waters. In addition to tourism, the springs’ waters have also been exploited for bottling. 

However, this raised concerns about the impact on the springs’ ecosystem and the Māori cultural values associated with them. 

In 1979, the Campbell family sold the springs to the government, leading to their designation as a scenic reserve. Today, efforts are being made to protect and preserve these springs, ensuring they continue to enchant visitors for generations to come.