Book traces Waikato River history

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The Waikato: A History of New Zealand’s Greatest River

Reviewed by Dr Graeme Woodfield

When I travelled on the recent St Stephen’s Church tour of the sites known to be important in the life of Wiremu Tamihana, I took with me this book by Prof Paul Moon, The Waikato: A History of New Zealand’s Greatest River

It is a splendid book, tracing the story of the river from its source to the sea and in doing so, giving details of the many communities that formed along  its hinterland.

There was great deal in the book I did not know about. In the Tamahere section there are many details regarding the life and activities of Wiremu Tamihana, a peacemaker who did his best to create good relationships between colonial settlers and Maori. He was a paramount chief  and there are many memorials to him in the Waikato including a beautiful stained glass window in Matamata’s All Saints Church.

The Waikato: a history of New Zealand's greatest river

New Zealand history is not always celebrated or recognised very competently. Paul Moon’s book helps to fill that gap and it is a good read for anybody who wants to understand more of the unique history of the Waikato.

Aspects of the history of Hamilton (Kirikiriroa) are well covered  and the story of its bridges is particularly interesting.  Included are many historical and evocative pictures of places and events, giving  an extra  depth to the book. There are even extracts of verse relevant to the Waikato and an extensive reference list, which gives leads to other possible reading.

The book was published in 2018 so it is up-to-date, although I surmise it will need to be reviewed in its content in the future as new data constantly is being discovered.

The 425 kilometres of the river has been a centrepiece of the history of the Waikato and it is so good to have this book to understand in greater depth its significance to our lives.

The book is highly recommended, is not dull to read and each of us will find aspects that will inform and delight. It is a major contribution to our knowledge of our history.

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