Culturally Significant Lakes and Their History

Lakes and reservoirs in Australia and New Zealand have played important roles in ancient and recent cultural history. Aboriginal and Maori settlements have focused around lakes and rivers. The arid interior of Australia also hosted large populations of aboriginals who relied on rock holes and native wells for water. These formations were typically fed by groundwater, and many rock holes could best be described as windows to the groundwater via limestone tunnels. The culture of Maori is inextricably linked with 'wai' (water) to such an extent that in addressing someone in Maori with 'ko wai to ingoa' (what is your name) the reference to wai equates to the essence of their existence. According to Maori, lakes and rivers contain a taniwha (serpent) that acts as a guardian for the mauri (spiritual life force) of the waterbody. If the taniwha departs the waterbody as a result of contamination then the mauri may be stolen.

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