According to legend, the Maori chief Ngahue was brought to the West Coast of the South Island around 950 AD by the canoe Tahiriangi
Archaeological evidence suggests the first Maori settlers lived a coastal existence; exploring the mountains and bush in search of pounamu (jade or greenstone).
Because of the hardness of pounamu, it was prized for making ornaments tools and weapons of warfare.
Ngati Waewae, a hapu (sub-tribe) of Ngai Tahu, claimed ownership of much of the West Coast.
In 1831 a band of invaders from the North Island defeated Poutini Ngai Tahu and briefly obtained control of the main pounamu gathering sites, including the Arahura River. They remained for a few years, but when they withdrew around 1837, Poutini Ngai Tahu regained control of the region.
The first European settlers arrived in the early 19th century however it was the discovery of gold and coal that drove the main settlement of Europeans to the West Coast in the late 19th century.
Flora and Fauna
Flora: A huge area of the West Coast remains in an almost original state. Some areas nearer the coast have been cleared for farming and mining but there remains huge areas of conifer, broadleaf and beech forests.
Fauna: Because of the large forested areas on the West Coast, the abundance of native birds is greater than in most other parts of New Zealand. Conifer and broadleaf forests tend to support larger bird populations than beech forest because it is richer in food sources.
Before the arrival of man the area was populated by an abundance of bird life. Previously as an important food source for Maori and more recently because of the introduction of cats, stoats, ferrets and weasels by the European settlers, bird numbers and varieties have been drastically reduced.
Fortunately the region hosts a number of rare and protected birds such as kea, the New Zealand falcon, rock wrens, black stilt, wrybills, and black–fronted terns and these can still be seen today.
Introduced deer, thar, and chamois can also be found here and are hunted recreationally.