Māori consider water to be the foundation of all life; it is a valued taonga gifted by our ancestors that provides sustenance and nourishment to communities and enhances hauora Māori (Royal, 2010). For generations, Māori have participated in water-related activities such as fishing, gathering kai, diving, waka and swimming (Karapu et al., 2007). It is through these activities in and around the water that hauora Māori can be enhanced. Despite this positive relationship with water, Water Safety New Zealand (2022) statistics demonstrate high drowning rates for Māori, with the 2021 drowning toll being the highest since 2001. In that year, Māori accounted for 31% of all drownings despite only comprising 17.4% of the population (Stats NZ, 2022; Water Safety New Zealand, 2022). Most of these drownings of Māori occurred while swimming (Water Safety New Zealand, 2022). With this in mind, this article will examine the significance of swimming on Māori engagement with water and therefore hauora Māori. This examination will be done using a whānau case study that was undertaken for the purpose of the lead author’s master’s research. In bringing together the key findings, a framework named Mukukai: Kaitiaki o Te Ao Kauhoe draws on five main values to describe how swimming can enhance hauora Māori. These values include kaitiakitanga, ūkaipōtanga, whakatinanatanga, whanaungatanga and whakapapa. The values are symbolised by elements of pepeha in the model to demonstrate the significance for Māori of swimming for connection to whakapapa and therefore its influence on hauora Māori.