A new book on Wairarapa Moana is hoped to highlight the fraught history of the lakes and the importance of taking care of them.
Wairarapa Moana: The Lake and Its People, published by Wairarapa Archives and Fraser Books, covers everything from the Maori myths to current environmental issues of the North Island's third-largest lake.
More than 100 people, including the book's 13 contributors, poured into Featherston's Anzac Hall on Sunday to launch the 324-page full-colour book.
The book's editor, Ian Grant, told the Wairarapa Times-Age the book was about promoting an awareness of "what's there, and why it's important to keep it".
South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples said after centuries of breathing life into the land and providing food, Lake Wairarapa had suffered years of degradation which now needed addressing," the mayor said.
"It's very important that all those with influence on the quality of the lake do as much as we can to make Wairarapa Moana the best it can be so it remains intrinsically important to our district."
Lake Wairarapa, Lake Onoke and the surrounding wetlands, collectively Wairarapa Moana, are in the top 10 most polluted waterways in New Zealand.
Greater Wellington chairwoman Fran Wilde said restoration work, helped this year by a $1 million boost from the Fresh Start for Freshwater fund, would take a long time and the book demonstrated the long-term benefits of collaboration.
The dispossession and ill-treatment of Maori following the "gifting" of the land from iwi to the Crown may come as a shock to some Pakeha, said historian Gareth Winter.
Wairarapa Moana Incorporation director Arawhetu Gray said it was an amazing gift to have the history of division and dissent compiled in the book.
"The relocation and separation as a people from the lake and from each other and that needs to be acknowledged. It's not about grievance, it's about acceptance of our history ..." Ms Gray said.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the lake was the heart of the region. Acknowledging the pain and hurt caused to Maori was important for the future of the lake's peoples, to ensure it doesn't happen again.