Our Unique Place

Ko wai tātou? Who are we? The simplest answer is that we’re a primary school in the Tainui suburb of Dunedin City in Aotearoa New Zealand. However, we gain a much deeper and more meaningful understanding of our unique identity by connecting with the history of mana whenua - local Māori who began living here long before pākehā, and learning about their interactions with the whenua (land) and their ways of being.



Composed and gifted by Komene Cassidy

The idea for the haka was sourced from the use of the Tainui area in pre-European times. Tainui School is very close to an old shortcut that tākata whenua (local people) from Ōtākou used when they were travelling south, either to the abundant food gathering sites in the swamps of the Taiari or down to the Mata-au (Clutha River) to travel inland to gather precious pounamu (greenstone). It was often easier to come up the harbour and drag their waka over land to the beach at Tomahawk or St Kilda, than to come around the dangerous waters of Cape Saunders. The Tainui area itself was also a rich area for gathering kai (food).

Our haka links the actions of takata whenua in pre-European times, journeying to gather kai and tools to give sustenance to their people, to modern times of people journeying in life, gathering knowledge so that they may sustain themselves and their whānau (families). The haka urges Tainui School to continue the tradition of creating pathways for people to succeed in life.



Our tamariki belong to whānau groups that meet regularly throughout the year.

Each group's name is based on an important aspect of Tainui for mana whenua.







Cormorant / Shag: rest on the cliff seen from Shore Street and were an important food source.


Pathway: used by mana whenua to head towards Tainui from the harbour in search of kai.

Octopus live in the harbour and were an important source of food, just as they are today.


Cliff: a shelter for birds and it stands between the harbour and the settlement of Tainui.


Barracuda continue to live in the harbour and were a source of kai for mana whenua.


Landing place: waka, carrying mana whenua would stop at the landing place, bringing people to Tainui.



Pūrākau is the term used to describe the collection of traditional oral narratives that describe the origins of time through atua Māori (Māori gods) and the historic travel sites visited by many tīpuna (ancestors) including Rakinui (Sky Father), Tāwhirimātea (God of the winds), Kupe and Māui.


The famous Ngāti  Mamoe Rangatira, Te Rakitauneke had his own personal taniwha, Matamata who followed him in his journeys from Kaikōura to Murihiku. There are numerous stories relating to Matamata and this is just one of them.

In 2007, tamariki retold the story and created Matamata. This collaborative artwork formed part of the Kai Tahu Exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa - The Musuem of New Zealand, in Wellington the following year. Matatma now lives in Hukatai - our school library.



Waitaha were the first people of Te Waipounamu (South Island), followed by the migrations of Kāti Māmoe and finally Kāi Tahu. The traditions and histories of Waitaha, Māmoe, and Tahu were woven into a single world view, uniting Kāi Tahu as mana whenua. Kāi Tahu rangatira signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi at Ōnuku, Ōtākou, and Ruapuke Island. At the time, it was seen as a convenient arrangement between equals.

A Kāi Tahu individual stands within their whānau, and that whānau lives within a hapū. The various hapū come together and unite as an iwi.  Kāi Tahu consists of 18  Papatipu Rūnaka spread throughout Te Waipounamu and they each uphold the mana of their people over the land, sea and natural resources. Ōtākou is the Papatipu Rūnaka we are connected to. Therefore, we prioritise and uphold te reo (language), tikaka (protocol), pūrakau (traditional stories including creation stories), waiata (song), and kawa (marae protocol) of Kāi Tahu.

The vision Kāi Tahu has for education is that it "enables the success and well-being of Kāi Tahu whānau in all aspects of their lives". We bring this vision to life at Tainui School.

Mō tātou, a, mō kā uri a muri ake nei
For us, and our children after us

To discover more about the history and pūrakau of Ōtākou, visit this part of their website .

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