Today ''the Neck'' is known to most as not much more
than a couple of steep bends on State Highway 6 between Wanaka
and the West Coast. But this isthmus between Lakes Hawea and
Wanaka has always been a sacred place to southern Maori and, as
Mark Price reports, it is scheduled to be accorded again the
prominence it once had.
Looking across Lake Hawea to the Neck. Photo by Mark Price.
Two hundred years ago, a visitor to the Lake Hawea side of
the Neck, north of the Lake Hawea township, would have found
a Maori village called Manuhaea.
It had, perhaps, 20 houses surrounded by gardens of potato,
turnip and other vegetables and had easy access to a
There was an abundance of weka, kakapo, kiwi, kea and kaka,
and the streams were full of ''tuna'' or eels.
A place rich in such resources is termed ''mahinga kai'' in
Maori. But Manuhaea had greater significance than most
mahinga kai. It was central to an extensive network of
walking trails linked to all the major settlements and
resources of the South - to the West Coast via what is known
today as the Haast Pass and to the east and south coasts via
the Clutha, Waitaki and Mataura Rivers.
As Ngai Tahu historian Takerei Norton wrote in 2003:
''Manuhaea means much more than mahinga kai.
''It is the centre point of all the mahinga kai trails, a
place used to defend the mana whenua [the exercise of
traditional authority over an area of land] and a spiritual
The area is also regarded as sacred to Waitaha and and Ngati
What happened to the ownership of the land at the Neck after
the arrival of European settlers - and the lengths to which
Maori have gone to regain some influence over it - is
contained in volumes of material presented during the tenure
reviews of Glen Dene Station.
The tenure reviews concluded in 2006 and as a result the land
at the Neck - between the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea -
has become a conservation area administered by the Department
A department spokeswoman said it was now working with Ngai
Tahu on ways to ''celebrate Ngai Tahu values'' in relation to
the landscape and a spokeswoman for Ngai Tahu confirmed it
was working with the department on ''how best to recognise
Iwi relations manager [pou tairangahau] for the department in
Otago and Southland Dave Taylor told the Otago Daily
Times ways to make the story of the area available to the
public were being examined.
''It's an iconic site and there's a desire to tell that
''There's been some initial thinking, but it's very much in
the early days.
''It's probably way too early to say just what might happen
on the site.''
Nothing visible remains of Manuhaea.
In 1966 University of Otago anthropologist the late Prof
Peter Gathercole recorded that 20 ''saucer-like'' depressions
thought to be house sites were seen in 1938.
However, by 1956 they had been ''ploughed out'' and since
then the raising of Lake Hawea for hydro generation has
flooded the site of Manuhaea and the lagoon.