New Zealand’s Mermaid Pools closed indefinitely after tourists and their trash ruin sacred site

Sacred Mermaid Pools in New Zealand have closed indefinitely to the public after human waste and litter were repeatedly left at the Māori site.

The site, Te Wai o Te Taniwha, also known as Mermaid Pools, has been left desecrated by visitors who left sanitary towels, sunscreen, urine and other rubbish at the site.

The Sacred Pools at Matapouri, a small town located in the Northland region of New Zealand, has seen an influx of tourism in the last six years largely due to Matapouri being recognised by the Lonely Planet guide as having “one of the best beaches in New Zealand”.

The failure of tourists to respect the delicate ecosystem of the Mermaid Pools resulted in the indigenous tribe, Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu Hapū confirming that a rāhui – a temporary ritual prohibition – would be placed over the pools.

Te Wai o Te Taniwha used to only be accessed from a natural crevice in the rock. But when the crevice closed up, an unofficial track was cut through the Rangitapu Pa to allow access to the pools.

What were once tidal rock pools with stunning emerald green water have now become heavily polluted, according to locals.

The rāhui, a temporary ritual prohibition, may be in force over the pools for years, according to Kris MacDonald, the chairman of the Matapōuri marae.

Te Wai o Te Taniwha is one of a growing number of places around the world that is closing indefinitely due to the effects of mass tourism and humans’ lack of respect for the environment, raising questions about just how sustainable tourism can be.

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist with the aim of making a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate future employment for local people. Great in theory, but many countries and tourism agencies are struggling to turn the concept into a reality.

The tourism industry produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. While tourism is a major source of revenue in countries including Thailand, Maldives, Seychelles and Italy, it is a huge contributor to the loss of ecosystems and the effects of climate change.

Last year, Thailand’s National Parks and Wildlife Department made the decision to close Maya Bay – the beach made famous by the movie, The Beach, starring Leonardo de Caprio – on Phi Phi Leh island indefinitely. Marine biologists found a large part of the coral reefs around the area had gone and sea life virtually disappeared. Initially closed for four months, Maya Bay continues to be closed to the public to allow the ecosystem to heal.

Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu Hapū are working in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Northland Regional Council to help in the recovery of the sacred Mermaid Pools.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at 



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