3D Video of Waitangi Treaty Grounds courtesy of CyArk
Early Māori to arrive in Central Otago were thought to have voyaged from the South Pacific in the eleventh century. New Zealand was the largest land mass settled by Polynesians and the most remote from their homelands. These early Māori are thought to be the Waitaha tribe of the South Island. The name refers to all those who were here prior to the Ngati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu migrations. It is thought the Waitaha arrived on the waka Uruao. They named the Mata Au (now Clutha River) after their landing point at the mouth of this river.
As a sea-going race of expert navigators Māori settled on or near to the coast, especially in the cooler South Island of New Zealand. Coastal settlement provided ready access to food sources, building materials, access to the sea and other settlements. The Southern Māori explored the interior of the lower half of the South Island and established trading routes for the valuable pounamu (greenstone) and other minerals, desired by the Northern tribes. Southern Māori hunted the giant moa and there is much evidence of hunting practices throughout Central Otago as the discovery of the Hawksburn moa site with ovens and moa bones reveals. Moa were extinct by the sixteenth century as was the Haast Eagle, a giant raptor that also preyed upon the moa.
Māori developed a number of routes through Central Otago such as the Nevis Valley which provided the easiest way from the valley basin systems to the Southland plains and Te Anau and Manapouri.