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Waikāretu
Hamlet
Waikapakapa Stream waterfall, Waikāretu
Waikapakapa Stream waterfall, Waikāretu
Country New Zealand
Region Waikato
Territorial authority Waikato District
Elevation
90 m (300 ft)
Population
 (2013)
 • Total 111

Waikaretu or Waikāretu is a rural community and caving area in the Waikato District and Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island. It is located 49 kilometres south-west of Tuakau. Meshblock 0846300 had a population of 48 in 2013 and the south side of Waikāretu, meshblock 0849001, had 63.

The area features the 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) long Nikau Cave, which has limestone pillars, stalactites and stalagmites. Ninety minute guided tours are available, which are often wet and muddy. There is a visitor cafe, and there are several accommodation options nearby. A British analysis of TripAdvisor reviews in 2020 identified the cave as one of New Zealand's best secret tourist spots.

A local farmstay also provides guided horse treks.

Waikāretu translates as "waters of the kāretu grass"; wai means water; and kāretu is a sweet-scented grass.

History

20th century

The current Waikaretu settlement was established with the opening of a local school in 1924.

The Wāikaretu War Memorial Hall was built in 1952. It has no Roll of Honour, but includes a plaque commemorating those who served in both World War I and World War II.

Philip and Anne Woodward moved to the area in 1976, purchasing a 204 hectare sheep and dairy farm that included Nikau Cave. They opened the cave to the public in 1994, after their farming lease on a neighbouring 242 hectare block ended and they could no longer make enough money from farming and shearing services.

21st century

By the 2010s the area featured several dairy farms, including the third-generation Whitford farm.

In 2016, the Overseas Investment Office granted a Chinese company, Weihai Station, approval to buy 595 hectares of coastal land. Part of the land will be used for a lodge and training facility, with the rest continuing to operate as a sheep and beef farm. The company gave Waikaretu School $25,000 in grants between 2016 and 2020.

Also in 2016, a secretive group began tunneling into the side of road searching for the skeletons of a mythical race of pre-Polynesian giants. They called off the search in February 2020, after iwi, academics and the landowner raised concerns about the dig.

Education

Waikaretu School is a co-educational state primary school for Year 1 to 8 students, with a roll of 21 as of July 2016.

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