Stewart Island - Our Heritage
From the 13th century the Island’s rich resources of native flora and birds, seafood and the Titi (sooty shearwater/muttonbird) provided a bountiful harvest for Maori.
Early in the 19th century explorers, sealers, missionaries, miners and settlers from all corners of the world made their mark on the Island. Marriage with local Maori women created strong family and cultural links to Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Sawmillers, boat builders, sealers and fishermen followed. The Island’s population grew, stabilised and settled, mainly around the edges of Paterson Inlet and the heads of Halfmoon and Horseshoe Bays, and in short-lived ventures at Port William, Port Pegasus and Maori Beach.
In the 1920s new arrivals came from Norway as part of the Rosshavet whaling enterprise. Those who chose to stay permanently added another thread to the interesting tapestry of nationalities living on Stewart Island.
Today, little remains of those wider, scattered settlements and the enterprises which fostered their establishments. Fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation are the main pursuits which now support the Island’s population of approximately 390 people. This affirms the natural attributes of the Island qualities which first attracted Maori and Europeans to its shores.
The original name for Stewart Island in Maori lore is Te Punga o te Waka a Maui, translated as ‘The Anchor of Maui’s Canoe’ it refers to the part played by this Island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe (South Island of New Zealand) raised the great fish (the North Island of New Zealand).
"Stewart Island anchors more than Maui’s canoe. It anchors in its rocks, rivers and rugged shores and in its garnishment of plants and animals, the hope of generations unborn that places like this will always exist."
Neville Peat, 1992