The Hangatahua (Stony) River has always been a special river to the people of Taranaki. The river is referred to in Māori mythology with the arrival of Mt Taranaki and is commonly regarded as the most sacred river in Taranaki. I remember summers in the seventies and eighties, returning from surf trips and stopping at the Stony River bridge to dive into a refreshing clear pool. It was an invigorating ritual. The bubbling mountain water tumbles seawards over large rounded boulders from its source in the mighty Ahukawakawa Swamp between the Pouakai Range and Mt Taranaki. After a journey of 28 kilometres, down through forested mountainside, across lahar fields, past Okato, the Stony reaches the ocean at the eastern end of Komene Beach.

Nikkie Andrews enjoys an autumn swim near the Stony River bridge

A dive into the mountain water of the Stony is refreshing, in both temperature and purity. The Ahukawakawa Swamp, where the Stony percolates from underground springs among the sedges, sphagnum moss, herbs and mosses, formed around 3500 years ago. The swamp has a unique microclimate and is home to many plant species, some found nowhere else in the world.

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