The Cambridge Green

On the corner of Barbadoes and Salisbury Streets is an area now known as The Cambridge Green. A reserve of great historic significance.The home of the Ngai Tahu’s Puari Pa, it was a gathering place of foods such as eels, whitebait, native trout, grey and paradise ducks.

During the 18th century, a great Maori wedding happened there, between Chief Tautahi (the chief that named Christchurch ‘Otautahi’ – the Maori term stilled used today) of the Ngai Tahu and Princess Te Auru from the Waitaha tribe of Port Levy, on Banks Peninsula. It was an important day as it linked their two tribes together. Near to the celebrations, flowed the Otakaro (Avon River) and a stream that trickled into it. Believed to be the home of a great spirit, the water from the stream was used to bless the newly-weds and was also used by the people for its healing qualities.

Known to the Europeans as the St Mary’s Stream, (as it came from a spring in the grounds of St Mary’s vicarage) it was nothing but a pain – especially in the building of a new city. To the horror of the local Maori, the stream was concealed and redirected under Salisbury Street.

In 1995, the Christchurch City Council brought the land with plans to return it to its historic beginnings. Ten years later, the Cambridge Green was opened and blessed by the local Iwi. Three carved Pou (poles) were erected to signify the three waves of migration to Christchurch. The most important aspect was the return of the St Mary’s stream to the area. A brick barrel drain was put in for the stream to flow back through, into a pool in the reserve and then on to the Avon, as it had done for hundreds of years.

Sadly, the area has no signage or explanation of what happened there.

*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*

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