Taniwha road gets all clear

4.00pm

Roadworks stopped by the belief the home of a taniwha would be disrupted are to restart after authorities and local Maori agreed on a way of protecting the mythical creature's lair.


Transit New Zealand was forced to stop work in November on a 100-metre section of State Highway One (SH1) in the Waikato after Ngati Naho, a hapu of the Tainui iwi, complained the new road went straight over the swamp home of Karu Tahi, the one-eyed taniwha.

Ngati Naho believe Kahu Tahi's lair is a small area about 1km south of the Meremere power station beside SH1, surrounded by a grove of protected kahikatea trees, lush grass and raucous cicadas - and right in the middle of the new Meremere expressway.

Transit regional project manager Chris Allen said a 30-metre rock fill would be built next to the swamp "lair", creating a steeper than originally planned embankment along the edge of the new northbound lanes.

Had the embankment not been steepened, it would have occupied more of the swampland believed to house the taniwha.

Drainage would also be redirected to ensure water is not unnecessarily drained from the swampland, where Ngati Naho say the taniwha lives for six months of the year.

They say it has a second home in the Waikato River.

Mr Allen said the change in plans, which would cost an extra $15,000 to $20,000, allows the expressway to continue without any impact on the four lanes or motorist safety.

No payments or compensation had been made to Ngati Naho.

"This solution may cost a little more but as a result was are able to preserve a site which has both environmental and cultural value," said Mr Allen.

Ngati Naho spokesman Rima Herbert said he was pleased with the outcome of the discussions which finished late last year.

"This is a significant cultural site for us and we have got Transit to agree to a modification to their design, which preserves most of the site."

Mr Allen said work would hopefully start on the Meremere site sometime in the first half of this year.

- HERALD STAFF

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