Back to Programmes

Te wai o rona

Te Wai o Rona is a trial of lifestyle change among Maori which was a trial under the national Diabetes research strategy.

New Zealand has identified diabetes and heart disease a major public health problem and health priority areas in the NewZealand Health Strategy.

The Health Research Council and Ministry of Health funded a competitive grant to prevent diabetes within the Waikato/Southern Lakes District Health Board regions. The recipients of this funding were a partnership of iwi, researchers, Maori health providers and other health services. The grants funded Te Wai o Rona.

Key messages

The key messages of Te Wai o Rona are:

  • Look for more ways to be active every day
  • Increase daily exercise and include intense exercise
  • Move more, add more steps
  • Choose to be strong
  • Reduce sedentary leisure time
  • Drink more water
  • Minimum 5+ a day, increase fruit and vege intake
  • Choose more variety of protien
  • Eat less fat, decrease fat intake
  • Watch the portion size
  • Eat more fibre
  • Eat less sugar, decrease simple sugars

How was Te Wai o Rona named?

As with any legend we sought the advice of Kaumatua who link to a specific area to tell the story of their life and the local history and knowledge of that place. We consulted with a number of sources, including a Kaumatua group from Kirikiriroa Marae, Dey St, Hamilton, who recommended “Te Wai o Rona”. Some of the Kaumatua's whakapapa back to Kawhia township/Harbour and “Te Puna o Rona” – a protected freshwater spring, located near Maketu Marae, Kawhia township.

The “Puna” is regarded as having healing powers and is mentioned in one of the oldest “poi” waiata of the Tainui waka area, titled “Timatangia e Te Puea e”

One of the verses is worded:

Wai hopuapua e,
e mimiti i a koe e.
Ko Te Wai a Rona,
He manawa-a-whenua,
e kore e mimiti e.
Water on the surface,
will soon disappear.
But the waters of Rona,
come from the bosom of the earth,
and will never run dry.


What is the Te Wai o Rona legend?

The History of the legend of Te Wai o Rona is a local story of the Kawhia people. It is perhaps one of the most intriguing stories in the Waikato as it speaks of a Tupuna (ancestor) and provides a moral that is as applicable today as it was back then. 

The name - “Rona” – commemorates a Tupuna (ncestor) who was sent to fetch water, in gourds, from the spring during the hours of darkness. Rona did so reluctantly and depended on the moon to provide light, so she could follow the path safely. A cloud hid the moon temporarily and she tripped over some tree roots and damaged the gourds, which caused her to curse the moon. Upon hearing her cursing, the moon took offence at what she said, reached down and grabbed Rona and took her back to his domain.

Rona, her gourds, and the tree she clung to while trying and prevent the moon from taking her, can still be seen on the surface of the moon.

The moral of the story: Always show respect to superior powers, especially during testing situations; otherwise - suffer the consequences.

What does Te Wai o Rona logo symbolise?

The tohu (logo) accompanied the name given by the group from Kirikiriroa Marae.
Nowadays, Rona influences the movement of the tides and she symbolises the commitment to significantly reduce the tide of diabetes engulfing Maoridom

Today more than ever there are an increasing number of health issues that affect our people and this strategy was put in place to help reduce the incidence of diabetes and help Maori improve their health.

It should be remembered that physical activity and healthy eating are crucial to maintaining good health and that small consistent lifestyle changes can greatly enhance our lives.