Te Maketu Falls visit

Saturday 21st November 2021 – Later Afternoon short explore around Maketu Falls, Ōpaheke. Auckland Council web page regarding Te Maketu Walk and Pa site.

Maketu falls is accessible from Maketu Pa Cemetery Reserve. There’s a gravel parking area out the front. Entry to the established designated path is to your right under some trees. Goes up steeply then down steeply. Sturdy footwear recommended. Takes around 5 minutes to get to the falls.

The ARC brochure (2003) makes mention of information signs, but there no longer appears to be any signage nor any information panels there upon revisiting the area on 12th March 2023.

Do not remove or disturb any remains (They are an important record of the history of the area and are protected by law).

Republished 26 March 2023 / Updated 29 June 2023: Removed reference of stream “bush bash” outside of the reserve in the crown hydro parcel due to an objection that was raised. Please see details further below.




I’ve been advised that the path beside the waterfall actually leads into an area deemed Sacred (Tapu). According to the last Email received from Zaelene Maxwell-Butler (who I understand is also a Cultural Liaison Advisor and Consultant acting for Ngai Tai ki Tamaki)…

“The entire area behind the falls, upstream, the vegetated areas in our view should be considered tapu (sacred)”

The header image in the ARC brochure includes a photo of children playing in the pools upstream of the falls which based on the above claim may now no longer be deemed culturally acceptable to access. The area concerned is situated in a public / crown hydro-parcel surrounded by private pastoral land.

Had revisited Te Maketu the same day as Zaelene posted her first comment / objection below, however discovered there was no signage or other advisory present to bring attention to the ordinary public that the stream area behind the falls was Sacred. Furthermore, during the visit, had observed people similarly oblivious of this (as I was on a prior visit) heading upstream of the waterfalls.

The ARC Brochure mentions the reserves themselves as Wahi Tapu but with no mention suggesting that this status extends to the wider general area (though this is certainly not to say that it isn’t). In spite of further research including consulting the Heritage New Zealand website, I have not been able to discover any further information about the area – Zaelene’s comments are the only information I have to go on so far.

I maintain that without any sort of public advisory, I feel it is not reasonable for the general public to understand the path leading up from the waterfall enters an area that is considered tapu / sacred and had suggested to Zaelene in earlier Email communication that she instead contact the Council and Ngāti Tamaoho to express her concerns and see what could be done.


Screenshot of Map from the ARC Brochure with my own additions. Red route (added) indicates pre-existing path – Avoid following this as apparently the area is deemed Waahi Taapu according to Zaelene’s comments. The stream “Bush bash” / rock scramble originally occurred at the right most red X at the end of the pre-existing path.


5 thoughts on “Te Maketu Falls visit

  1. Tēnā koe, while your pictures are beautiful, I don’t appreciate your view to “bush bash” nor to encourage people to walk into that which is a culturally significant wāhi tapu , sacred area to us, tāngata whenua. Yes colonisers have been doing it for centuries, doesn’t make it right though. There are ancient burials all through that area, pre colonial and pre the arrival of the great migration. I would appreciate people learning to be respectful of our landscape, we are still here, and will be long after you are gone. #ahikaaroa

    1. Had attempted to reach out to Zaelene Maxwell-Butler twice via Email to understand and learn more (including to apologize for any offense caused) but have yet to have the courtesy of a response.

      The “bush bash” referred to was further downstream in an untitled hydro parcel surrounded by private pastoral land and well outside the reserve itself.

      Went back to revisit Te Maketu reserve upon reading Zaelene Maxwell-Butler’s comment, but noticed there was no signage or informational panels at all there. Only the brochure mentions the reserves themselves as wahi tapu but not of any other areas within the vicinity

      This is not to say that following an existing path / navigating into that hydro parcel was “right” (culturally or otherwise) nor that the hydro parcel isn’t also deemed wahi tapu. But haven’t been able to discover any other information about the Te Maketu area and surrounds apart from a 20 year old ARC brochure that may or may not be written with consideration to the perspectives of tangata whenua.

      With that said, I would have certainly appreciated should anyone who effectively enters into another’s personal online whare (home) to lay suggestions of wrong doing to at least have the courtesy to engage in korero / conversation in order to be able to learn more. (It is with note that Zaelene her self has mentioned “would appreciate people to learn”).

  2. Zaelane kindly got back to me after I sent a third Email.

    She has advised that the entire area past the waterfalls is also wahi tapu (this would effectively include the Hydro-parcel outside of the reserve and the private pastoral land that surrounds this). At the moment, have not been able to discovered any other information pertaining to the history of the area nor confirm where the burials outside of the reserve might actually exist and to what extent geographically.

    Have nevertheless updated this post to suggest avoiding going past the top of the falls as a matter of cultural respect.

    That said, while I thank Zaelene for bringing her thoughts to my attention, I have suggested in my earlier Email communication to her that without visible signage anywhere to educate and inform the public, it is not reasonable to expect the ordinary public to know and understand the pre-existing path there ultimately leads into an area that is deemed as wahi tapu. Communication is key and would go a long way to foster understanding particularly when trying to bring awareness of cultural matters such as these and of Maori Tikanga (as it pertains to the Maori World view) to the general public.

    1. As a side note: It’s probably worth mentioning to better understand the angle Zaelene is coming from – She disagrees with what colonialists have done to her people (Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki) and her people’s land. https://g.co/kgs/JVrCUG

      “History lesson – These are the ancient tribal lands of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki…lands that were stolen by the Crown and wouldn’t give back, theft & murder without a prison sentence…”
      (Comment left for Home Bay, Motutapu island by Zaelene Maxwell-Butler)

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