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Tupua te Kawa

Te Awa Tupua is now defined at law by Tupua Te Kawa.

Tupua te Kawa is the natural law and value system of Te Awa Tupua. Te Awa Tupua is driven by four kawa, or four universal truths or principles that convey our relationship as indigenous peoples with nature. Tupua te Kawa is conveyed through the dictates of our tribe’s tikanga, or practical, day to day expressions of connection with our River.


The values of Tupua te Kawa logically guide all interactions in relation to the health and wellbeing of the Whanganui River and its tributaries for the future.

The River is the source of spiritual and physical sustenance.

It supports and sustains the life and natural resources through the length of the river. It also sustains our people who trace their descent back to some 143 marae that were located along the awa.

I am the River and the River is me.

The iwi and hapū of the river have an inalienable interconnection with, and responsibility to, Te Awa Tupua and its health and wellbeing. We often represent this in the words “Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au. I am the River and the River is me.”

The great River flows from

the mountains to the sea.

Te Awa Tupua is an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the

sea. It incorporates the river and all of its physical and metaphysical elements.

The small and large streams that flow into one another form one River.

Te Awa Tupua is a singular entity comprised of many elements and communities, working together for the common purpose of the health and wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua.

“Kaua e kōrero mō te Awa, me kōrero ki te Awa”

The Whanganui hapū and iwi relationship with the Whanganui River might be best summed up by the edict of our old people - relate to the River and seek its guidance in all things.

“Do not merely speak of the River, speak instead to the River.”

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