Wairere Falls, the highest waterfall in New Zealand’s North Island, plunges 153 metres (500 feet) in two steps over the Kaimai escarpment.
The waterfall is located between Te Aroha and Matamata. A walking track runs from the car park at the end of Goodwin Road, up the valley of the stream to a viewing platform, and thence to the top of the plateau and the crest of the falls. Once at the top one can continue onto the North South track that runs the length of the Kaimai Ranges.
Te Wairere Falls was not only a sacred landmark to all of Mataatua, but was also a vital source of freshwater for the Ngāti Awa people living at Te Whare o Toroa Pa.
Another tradition associates this place with Ngahue, who visited here before the arrival of Mataatua. It is said that he found Moa here, which he preserved in calabashes and took back to Hawaiki.
The original anchor stone of the Matata wa la, Te Toka a Taiao, was sited where Te Wairere Stream meets the Whakatāne River (Ohinemataroa).
The falls are also associated with early industry. A flax mill was constructed in 1870, replaced by a flour mill in 1879, and later converted to a flax mill. The mill closed in 1909 and burnt down shortly afterwards.
The stream continued to supply water to the Whakatāne township until 1924. The site was made a scenic reserve in 1971 and remains one of the most beautiful and historically significant places in Whakatāne.