Mahaanui Iwi Management Plan (IMP)

4. Ngāi Tahu me ngā rawa taiao

Ngāi Tahu and Resource Management

Wāhi Tuawhā | Part 4

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei

For us and our children after us

There is a distinctive cultural context to the way that Papatipu Rūnanga think about and respond to resource management issues in the takiwā. This cultural context informs the issues and policies in this plan.

4.1 He Kupu Whakataki | Introduction

This distinctive cultural context informs the issues and policies in this plan, and is a reflection of:

  • A body of knowledge about the land, water and resources that was developed over more than 40 generations of collective experience in Te Waipounamu;
  • The relationship between tāngata whenua and the environment, and a worldview that sees people as part of the world around them and not masters of it; and
  • The desire to protect key cultural values such as mauri and mahinga kai that are critical to identity, sense of place and cultural well-being.

There is also a historical context to the words in this plan. The dispossession of land that followed the Treaty of Waitangi and the Canterbury and Banks Peninsula land purchases had a profound effect on the spiritual, cultural and traditional relationship between Ngāi Tahu and the environment. As the physical landscape changed, so did the ability of tāngata whenua to access and manage the resources upon which they depended (see Boxes: Sale and Purchase of Ngāi Tahu Land; and Land loss in the 19th century).

The RMA 1991 and the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 increased the presence and influence of Ngāi Tahu in resource management processes. While the loss of land will forever stay in the memory of the people, Ngāi Tahu have worked tirelessly to restore taonga such as mahinga kai and water quality, and to fulfill their role as kaitiaki.

Sale and Purchase of Ngāi Tahu Land

The legitimacy of Ngāi Tahu’s mana whenua in the South Island was reiterated through the contracts for sale and purchase of traditional Ngāi Tahu lands to the Crown from 1844 to 1864, including (within the Canterbury region):

    • The Canterbury Purchase 1848
    • The Akaroa Purchase 1856
    • The Port Cooper Purchase 1849
    • The North Canterbury Purchase 1857
    • The Port Levy Purchase 1849
    • The Kaikōura Purchase 1859

In total, the Crown purchased around 34.5 million acres of Ngāi Tahu land (80% of the South Island and more than half of the land mass of NZ) for just over £14,750. While this amounted to less than a penny per acre, it was encumbered with a number of commitments that included setting aside ‘adequate’ reserves for Ngāi Tahu’s present and future needs.

The amount of land reserved was to have equated to approximately 10% of the land sold – that is, nearly 3.5 million acres – however, only 35,757 acres were ever set aside. Ngāi Tahu were left with only about one-thousandth of their ancestral land and over 3.4 million acres short of the land that the Crown had agreed to reserve.

Source: Information prepared by Te Marino Lenihan (2012).

Land loss in the 19th Century

Much tribal land was lost in the 19th century. While some tribes willingly released some land, much land was taken against their will and the will of others. The New Zealand wars were followed by land confiscations, and the Native Land Court also facilitated the sale of land by transferring land titles from tribes and putting them into individual names. Iwi (tribes) made many attempts to halt this loss. The felling of forests and loss of land were a catastrophe for their traditional world view. The trees of the forest were a model for the tikanga or behaviour of a people, so their destruction was a calamity. The widespread loss of land meant the loss of foundation and stability, and of the centering, nurturing principle of Papatūānuku.

The desperation felt in the 19th century is captured by Wi Naihera of Ngāi Tahu:

When the waves rolled in upon us from England, first one post was covered, then another till at last the water neared us and we tried to erect barriers to protect ourselves. That is, we entered into agreement with those who purchased our lands from the Queen, but when the flood tide from England set in our barriers were cast down, and that is why you find us now, clinging to the tops of these rocks, called Native Reserves, which alone remain above water.

Source: Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. ‘Papatūānuku – the land – Loss of land’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

4.2 The cultural framework

There a number of key values, principles and practices that shape Ngāi Tahu view on the environment and resource management. While these are embedded throughout this IMP, a brief overview is provided here:


Whakapapa (genealogy) is the central pillar of Ngāi Tahu’s framework for managing resources, setting out and effectively explaining the relationships between the various elements of the world around us, including human beings.


Manawhenua is the right to exercise authority over a particular area, its resources and its people. Manawhenua is passed on by way of whakapapa and is protected and secured through the on-going exercise of one’s rights to resources in a manner consistent with tikanga. Inevitably, with mana comes responsibility.


Traditionally, kaitiaki were the non-human guardians of the environment (e.g. birds, animals, fish and reptiles) which, in effect, communicated the relative health and vitality of their respective environments to local tohunga and rangatira who were responsible for interpreting the ‘signs’ and making decisions accordingly. In essence, there is no real difference to scientific practices of today, which continue to use specific indicator species and observe their behaviours to measure the state of the environment.


Kaitiakitanga is fundamental to the relationship of Ngāi Tahu and the environment. The responsibility of kaitiakitanga is twofold: first, there is the ultimate aim of protecting mauri and, second, there is the duty to pass the environment to future generations in a state which is as good as, or better than, the current state. To Ngāi Tahu, kaitiakitanga is not a passive custodianship, nor is it simply the exercise of traditional property rights, but entails an active exercise of responsibility in a manner beneficial to the resource.


Mauri is often described as the ‘life force’ or ‘life principle’ of any given place or being. It can also be understood as a measure or an expression of the health and vitality of that place or being. The notion embodies the Ngāi Tahu understanding that there are both physical and metaphysical elements to life, and that both are essential to overall well-being. It also associates the human condition with the state of the world around it. Mauri, therefore, is central to kaitiakitanga; that is, the processes and practices of active protection and responsibility by Manawhenua for the natural and physical resources of the takiwā.

Mauri can change either naturally or through intervention and Ngāi Tahu use both physical and spiritual indicators to assess its relative strength. Physical indicators include, but are not limited to, the presence and abundance of mahinga kai fit for consumption or cultural purpose. Spiritual indicators include the kaitiaki referred to above. They are often recalled in kōrero pūrākau to explain the intrinsic connection between the physical and metaphysical realms of our world.

Wāhi tapu and wāhi taonga

Wāhi tapu are places of particular significance that have been imbued with an element of sacredness or restriction (tapu) following a certain event or circumstance. Wāhi tapu sites are treated according to tikanga and kawa that seek to ensure that the tapu nature of those sites is respected. Of all wāhi tapu, urupā are considered to be the most significant.

Wāhi taonga are “places treasured” due to their high intrinsic values and critical role they have in maintaining a balanced and robust ecosystem (e.g. spawning grounds for fish, nesting areas for birds and freshwater springs). They are prized because of their capacity to shape and sustain the quality of life experience and provide for the needs of present and future generations, and as places that connect and bind current generations to their ancestral land and practices.

Ki Uta Ki Tai

The principle of Ki Uta Ki Tai reflects the holistic nature of traditional resource management, particularly the interdependent nature and function of the various elements of the environment within a catchment. Mahinga kai The Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 describes mahinga kai as “the customary gathering of food and natural materials and the places where those resources are gathered.” Mahinga kai are central to Ngāi Tahu’s culture, identity and relationship with landscapes and waterways of Te Waipounamu.


Manaakitanga is the custom of being aware of and caring for the needs of your guests. In turn, the mana of the tāngata whenua is both upheld and enhanced. The loss of the ability of tāngata whenua to provide for guests in this way can also be seen as a loss of mana.

Tikanga-based management tools

A rāhui is a prohibition placed on an area or resource as either (a) a conservation measure, or (b) a means of social and political control. With respect to the former, a rāhui will effectively separate people from any ‘polluted’ area of land or water, preventing the ability to harvest potentially contaminated products from these areas. Rāhui are initiated by someone of rank and were placed and lifted with appropriate karakia by a tohunga.

 Since settlement, Ngāi Tahu have also established a number of customary fisheries protection areas (i.e. mātaitai and taiāpure) under the Fisheries Act 1996 and the Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations 1999. The intent of these legislative mechanisms is to give effect to the obligations stated in the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Claims Settlement Act 1992 and enable Tangata Tiaki (i.e. local Ngāi Tahu fisheries managers) to exercise greater rangatiratanga over customary fishing grounds.

Toitū te marae a Tāne
Toitū te marae a Tangaroa
Toitū te iwi

If the world of Tāne (all living things on land) endures
If the marae of Tangaroa (the lakes, rivers and sea) endures
The people endure

4.4 Tāngata whenua planning tools

A number of tools are used by Ngāi Tahu to assist with the exercise of kaitiakitanga, specifically with regard to implementing cultural values and objectives into RMA processes and assessing the cultural health of the takiwā. These tools include:

Cultural Impact Assessment

A Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) is a professionally prepared assessment of the impacts of a given activity on tāngata whenua values and interests. These assessments identify tāngata whenua values associated with a particular site or area and the actual or potential effects of a proposed activity on these, and provide recommendations for measures to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects. While most often used to provide information for RMA processes (i.e. CIA reports are often part of a resource consent application’s Assessment of Environmental Effects), CIA are also used to provide information for applications under the HSNO Act. CIA reports may be requested by tāngata whenua, councils or applicants.

Cultural values reports

Cultural Values Reports (CVR) identify and explain the cultural values associated with a specific area or resource. While a CVR may include broad level information on issues or outcomes associated with an area, resource or proposed activity, generally these reports differ from a CIA in that they do not include a detailed assessment of effects of an activity, or recommendations to avoid, remedy or mitigate effects. Examples include the use of CVRs to identify and prioritise values associated with a catchment or waterway for the purposes of environmental flow review, or as part of the tenure review process.

Cultural Opportunity Mapping, Assessment and Responses (COMAR)

COMAR is a tool developed by Gail Tipa (Tipa & Associates) to assist in identifying key attributes required to protect tāngata whenua values. It is used in Canterbury as a methodology for identifying flow and water quality that enables the protection of tāngata whenua values. COMAR enables users to assess the extent to which different environmental conditions afford tāngata whenua opportunities to engage in a cultural practices in specific locations. The results of the COMAR process can assist in the preparation of responsive resource management strategies and plans that deliver cultural outcomes.

Cultural monitoring

Cultural monitoring is used by Papatipu Rūnanga to protect and manage wāhi tapu and wāhi taonga in the takiwā. Rūnanga often assign cultural monitors to monitor development activities involving ground disturbance in areas identified as high risk with regard to the potential for accidental discoveries. The use of cultural monitors enables Rūnanga to be proactive in ensuring that all precautions are taken to protect wāhi tapu and wāhi taonga. Cultural monitors oversee excavation activity, and are on site to record sites or information that may be revealed, and direct tikanga for handling cultural materials.

State of the Takiwā

State of the Takiwā is an environmental monitoring tool developed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to assess and report on the cultural health of natural resources and the environment in the takiwā. The tool uses a specifically designed database and associated monitoring forms to allow tāngata whenua to systematically identify, compile, analyse and report on the cultural health of sites and resources over time. Reports provide assessments of the current and desired states of cultural health of an area, and are used to inform policy and planning. One of the major objectives behind State of the Takiwā is to ensure that tāngata whenua can build robust and defensible information about the health of the environment.