Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana
Image: Nir Ketraru | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


A stunning new Glacier Country visitor attraction will be unveiled at a ceremony near Fox Glacier/Wekeka township this morning.

Date:  09 December 2022

Ngāti Māhaki from Te Makaawhio Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio conceived, designed and carved Te Kopikopiko o Te Waka in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the support of the community.

Te Kopikopiko o Te Waka is a new Tohu Whenua site, celebrating the area’s significant cultural heritage. Its development was funded by the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) to enrich Glacier Country’s visitor attractions.

DOC South Westland Operations Manager Wayne Costello says the site is an easy access viewpoint with unsurpassed views of Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana peaks. “Most importantly, it gives voice to the stories of Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio.”

Kopikopiko o te Waka translates as 'the capsized canoe' and is in direct reference to the Ngāi Tahu creation stories. Specifically, it refers to the creation of the Southern Alps and the South Island itself, or Te Waka o Aoraki (Aoraki's canoe), says Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio chairman Paul Madgwick.

"Today the South Island is known widely as Te Waipounamu, but a much older name is Te Waka o Aoraki.

"In Ngāi Tahu mythology, Aoraki and his brothers – all sons of Ranginui the god of the sky – made a voyage from the heavens intending to meet their father's new wife, Papatūānuku, the god of the earth. However, they found only a vast ocean so they began their return to the sky but Aoraki, as the eldest and leader, forgot the karakia at the vital moment and the waka crashed back into the sea, where it remains, capsized on its side with Aoraki and his brothers all petrified as New Zealand's tallest mountains."

It is a treasured story throughout Ngāi Tahu but it is no better illustrated than at Wekeka, Fox Glacier, Paul Madgwick says.

"Here, at Te Kopikopiko o te Waka, the whole story unfolds right before you, being so close to Aoraki and his brother mountains.”

Te Kopikopiko o Te Waka is the first Tohu Whenua site in the South Island that represents an iwi story and the first time a site was nominated by mana whenua.

"This is a great new addition to the South Westland tourist trail. As both a Tohu Whenua and a linkage in the future Pounamu Pathway that's being created the length of the West Coast, it is another reason to stop and interpret the beauty of Fox Glacier," says Paul Madgwick.

The back story to the development is the severe storm which washed out the access road to Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe in 2019, Wayne Costello says.

“We were confronted with what could have been a disaster for local tourism. DOC, Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio and the community came together to find solutions to sustain tourism and build the Glacier Country’s economic resilience in a changing climate.

“We worked collaboratively to develop a range of alternative attractions to continue to draw visitors to this area. That done, we then successfully secured $3.9 million from the IVL, administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, to enable the work to be done.”

Te Kopikopiko o Te Waka is the last of seven visitor levy-funded projects DOC has overseen in Glacier Country. These have included the development of day walks, new glacier valley experiences, expanded cycling opportunities and improved visitor information.

Background information

Tohu Whenua is a visitor programme that connects New Zealanders with their heritage and enhances their sense of national identity by promoting significant historical and cultural sites. 

The programme is a partnership between Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Hīkina Whakatukituki and Te Puni Kokiri Ministry of Māori Development.

View all Tohu Whenua sites


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