The Kotuku, (White Heron), has been chosen as the logo to represent the Styx Catchment for several special and differing reasons.
Firstly it is a symbol of something rare and beautiful. Early inhabitants of New Zealand often regarded this native heron as the magical ‘Bird of a Single Flight’, for to see one was usually a ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrence. Today this belief still applies, although from time to time one of these majestic birds may be sighted wading through shallow waters in the Styx River catchment.
The second reason for choosing the White Heron is its association with both mythology and death. Kotuku occupies an important place in Maori mythology for it is said that it is an inhabitant of the other world, the spirit land of Reinga. Ancient Maori believed that if a Kotuku was ever sighted it heralded the death of a Great Chief.
Greek mythology, according to Homer’s Iliad (BC 9-8), records the Styx River as the principal river of the lower world, which had to be crossed in passing to the regions of the dead. It would appear that an early settler, observing Maori washing the bodies of their dead in the Styx River as part of their funeral rites, made an association between the Styx River of Greek mythology and the Styx River of Christchurch, New Zealand. Mythology plays a further part in this river’s association with death as in Maori mythology the Kotuku is recognised as the bird that transports souls from this world to the next.
It is therefore for reasons of its beauty, its rarity, it links to Maori mythology, and its association with death, that this stately bird has been chosen as a symbol appropriate to the Styx area.
In Maori oratory to compare a person to a Kotuku is regarded as a compliment of the highest order. Likewise, selecting the Kotuku as a symbol of the area, honours the uniqueness and beauty of the Styx River and its catchment.
On the 10 June 2008 park rangers, teachers and a group of students from Harewood School were the first to observe a white heron in the Styx Mill Conservation Reserve, where it was roosting in the willow trees and feeding on bullies and other small fish in the lakes. The white heron was the first recorded sighting of this specie in recent times, making it the 49th specie to be seen at this location.