This timeline gives key dates relating to the Waikato River.
This timeline was co-authored with Jonathan Kilgour, Research and Projects Manager, Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development.
Long ago - Creation of the Waikato River
Taupiri lives with her husband in what is now known as the Waikato region. When she falls ill, her brother Tongariro sends the healing waters of the Waikato to her aid. Ever since, the Waikato River has flowed from Tongariro to his sister Taupiri in the Waikato region.
1839 - Declaration of Independence
Pōtatau Te Wherowhero signs the Declaration of Independence, which recognises the independence of the iwi that sign the Declaration. Today, the Court recognises the Treaty of Waitangi and not the Declaration of Independence.
1858 - Kīngitanga formed
The Kīngitanga is established with Pōtatau Te Wherowhero installed as the first Māori King at Ngāruawāhia. The King Movement was formed to maintain the mana of iwi, prevent inter-tribal warfare and prevent further loss of Māori land.
1863–1965 - Raupatu/land confiscations
The Crown passes laws to confiscate land belonging to “Māori rebels”. In 1863, the Waikato people are branded rebels, and over 1.2 million acres of land are confiscated following battles between British troops and Waikato.
1870s - Catfish introduced
Catfish are introduced into the Waikato River. It is not clear why they were introduced, but they are now widespread through the Waikato River system.
1884 - Tāwhiao seeks justice
The second Māori King, Tāwhiao, travels to England to petition the Queen to return confiscated lands. He is twice refused an audience and told to petition the New Zealand Government.
1892–1896 - First regatta on the river
The first unofficial regatta is held on the river in 1892 in Ngāruawāhia and then officially in 1896.The regatta is an opportunity for Pākehā settlers and Māori to come together. The regatta is now one of New Zealand’s largest aquatic festivals.
1903–1910 - Mahuta serves in Parliament
The third Māori King, Mahuta, becomes a member of the New Zealand Parliament. His younger brother Te Wherowhero serves as King while he is in Parliament.
1913 - First hydroelectric power station
Horahora, the first hydroelectric power station built on Waikato River, is opened. It originally powers the gold mine in Waihi, but is purchased by the government in 1919 before supplying power to Cambridge and eventually the Bay of Plenty and Auckland.
1913 - Te Rata delegation to England
The fourth Māori King, Te Rata, travels to England to seek redress for confiscated lands. He is received by King George V and Queen Mary, but the British Government tells him to petition the New Zealand Government.
1928 - Confiscations considered to have been immoral
The Sim Royal Commission, led by senior Supreme Court Judge Sir William Sim, reviews historical evidence and finds the confiscation of Waikato land to have been immoral, illegal and excessive.
1930 - Native fish become extinct
The grayling (known as pokororo, upokororo, paneroro and kanae-kura), fish native to New Zealand, are found in the Waikato River especially around the mouth of the Karāpiro Stream until about 1874, when it is suspected heavy flooding wiped them out.
1946 - Tainui Māori Trust Board
Tainui accepts an offer of £6000 per year for 50 years and £5000 per year forever from the Prime Minister on the basis that it is not a full and final settlement for past confiscations. The Tainui Māori Trust Board is established to administer the payments.
1947 - Karāpiro Power Station
Karāpiro Power Station is built to replace Horahora Power Station. Lake Karāpiro is formed to power the new station and in the process submerges Horahora Power Station. Karāpiro is one of eight power stations along the Waikato River.
1956 - Addressing flooding in the river
Swamp drainage and removal of vegetation causes the Waikato-Waipā drainage system to become overloaded, and there are floods in the lower reaches of the river from the late 19th century. The Waikato Valley Authority is established to manage flooding issues.
1963 - Noxious weed found
Hornwort is discovered in the Waikato catchment at Lake Ōhakuri. It causes the closure of the Lake Ōhakuri Power Station in 1965. Hornwort does not have roots so is easily transported by the river current or on boats or fishing equipment.
1975 - Taupiri returned
Taupiri maunga is returned to Waikato-Tainui. Taupiri is sacred to Waikato-Tainui and today is a burial ground closely associated with the Kīngitanga.
1983 - Koi carp found in the river
Koi carp establish a breeding population in the river. Koi carp feed by sucking mud from stream and lake beds to filter out food, making the water very muddy and smothering aquatic animals and plants.
1987 - Claim for the river
Sir Robert Mahuta files a claim for the return of the Waikato River with the Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of himself, Waikato-Tainui, the Tainui Māori Trust Board and Ngā Marae Tōpu.
1995 - Settlement for land confiscations
The Crown and Waikato-Tainui sign a settlement for raupatu (land confiscations). The settlement excludes the Waikato River but includes a formal apology from the Queen, $170 million including the return of lands and the return of a special taonga, Korotangi.
2009 - Waikato River Settlement
The Crown and Waikato-Tainui sign a deed of settlement that recognises te mana o te awa and mana whakahaere of the river. The Waikato Raupatu River Trust and Waikato River Authority are established.