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Statement by Ngati Whatua

Below is the paper written as a contribution to the inter-agency discussion on the DOC stewardship area - Papakanui and Waionui - which is on-going. While Ngati Whatua have strong associations and much 'korero' of past history with the area concerned, it is considered unwise to write it down. The written word seems to become 'public' property and it has been in our experience that often it is misused to maximise commercial benefit.


Here is an ecosystem which can be described in contemporary scientific terms but here also is an ecosystem that in the Maori conceptual framework projects something different again: Tumatauenga, domain of human society and mastery of fire and stone-rapping; Tanemahuta, domain of forest biota; Tangaroa, domain of aquatic biota; Rongomaraeroa, domain of cultivated and stored crops; Haumiatiketike, domain of wild staples (bracken fern root, flax, koromiko, nikau, ponga, edible ferns); Tauhirimatea, domain of physical forces. “The land is partitioned by a different geographical paradigm.”

The Maori world-view is holistic in the sense that it encompasses the metaphysical (spiritual) and physical (natural) world and recognises the two as part of an interrelated whole. This world-view perceives humans as tracing their whakapapa (genealogy) back in the past through their tupuna (ancestors) to the creator. Relationships exist between people today and their past, their tupuna, the atua (gods) and the physical ‘repositories’ of their past, their wahi tapu (sacred sites) and taonga (treasures). From this world-view (which does change over time) are derived the ethical principles which maintain the integrity of the culture and its world-view, and serve to ensure that obligations are maintained. Maori, especially hapu always have and always will be kaitiaki (caretakers) of their past and of their wahi tapu, irrespective of the intentions or actions of those who have different perceptions. There exist intergenerational obligations to tupuna which must be met and discharged in relation to the past, present and future.

One of the main principles that guides these relationships is reciprocity. The ethos of kaitiakitanga (caretakership) involves the natural world in the social world, where humans stimulate and look after the intrinsic vitality (mauri) of all life forms and receive in return abundant harvests. Appropriate rites and rituals, the observance of laws of tapu, are mechanisms to regulate that connection.

Key values then might be summarised as:

a) for every right there is a responsibility
b) for every benefit there is an obligation
c) for what is received there is something to be given back
d) the balance between the natural and the social hangs on relationship

Places are not just points on the map. They have a wealth of ‘personal’ history associated with them. Some places are sacred either because of the events that have taken place there, or because they may be resource sites. Resources such as kaimoana are not only significant in terms of providing the necessities of life, they are symbolically important as part of the marae/kainga’s ability to offer hospitality in a traditional way. The place names remain, albeit often mispronounced and misspelt, and serve to indicate for what reason they are significant to certain people.

For example, from Papakanui Spit looking westwards, the belts of sand dunes behind Muriwai Beach or Te One Rangatira have ponded a line of dune lakes, which in local Ngati Whatua tradition are collectively known as Nga Tapuwae o Kawharu, the footsteps of the great warrior Kawharu.

In addition the sand dunes are referred to in a traditional form of address as “te tai o te uru, ngunguru te po, ngunguru te ao” (the western dunes that murmur by night, and by day) as being those burial grounds and departing place of ancestral spirits, particularly for Ngati Whatua.

A taniwha log named ‘Humuhumu’ is said to have lived in its peaceful moments in the Waionui lagoon. Another powerful taniwha is described as having lived in an underwater cave below Okaka pa further along the south head itself.

Looking east is Taporapora o Toko o Te Rangi (the outspread mat of Toko-o-Te-Rangi). Toko was the son of Kauea, the grandson of Toko-kai-Rakau who led the migration which arrived about 1150AD. Subsequently, the ancestor Rongomai who captained the canoe Mahuhu ki te Rangi came to Taporapora where he took a wife from the people of the land there. Some time later, on a fishing expedition, Rongomai was drowned and his body gnawed by trevally. It is said that his descendants do not eat those fish to this day. Rongomai’s death was attributed to the jealousy of his brothers-in-law and their acts of witchcraft, which caused his canoe to capsize when crossing the channel near Taporapora. Hence the words in his wife’s lament: “Taporapora whakatahuri waka, whakarere wahine” (Taporapora that capsizes canoes, and bereaves women). This proverb is still remembered today because of the many lives lost in crossing that channel. There is a very distinctive group of rocks inside the harbour entrance off the beach, on the north side, named after Rongomai, where his body was washed up. Because of this tragedy some of Rongomai’s people left Taporapora but to avenge his death a great storm is said to have been created afterwards in which the island of Taporapora, its large whare kura (house of learning) and its people were completely washed away. This disaster is known as Te Taraitanga (the shaving off). Thus was formed the Kaipara Harbour, and the flow of its river systems much as it is today.

Key values then are:

a) maintenance of association with area
b) respect for names
c) protection of sustainable resources

From the time of the 1820s missionaries, writers of all kinds, as well as seven generations of law, science, and public policy have invalidated the Maori knowledge or paradigm of the natural world. The majority of writings in colonial times provide a valuable window into the extent of colonialist ‘visuality’. They show us the process by which the ‘land’ was made to appear as ‘nature’: a space that held no sign of ‘culture’ and therefore could be appropriated into the administrative space of the colony. There is a general framework within which discrete entities are described in detail: water, rivers, rocks, soil, plants, birds, fish, Maori. The accounts distill the complex socioecological world of Kaipara Maori into neat unambiguous categories: primitive culture and pristine nature. No relations are drawn between the two. Maori are ‘fixed’ at certain sites - villages or resource procurement sites - and surrounded solely by what appeared as the empty spaces of nature. Across this empty space Maori only ‘moved’, leaving little trace of occupation or, few claims of possession. This gave legitimacy to the idea that beyond the extent of the Maori village or reserve lay an empty nature, ‘waste land’, open for sale, settlement, timber and flax resources of the emerging colony. It authorised the Crown’s assumption that after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi it had authority over the foreshore and the territorial sea, and all of their resources.
Since European land law arrived and Maori started to be confined to specific locations, curtailing seasonal movement and access to resources, the long sustained relationship Ngati Whatua has had with the land under discussion has been severely strained.

So it is today that the Crown agencies involved in these discussions are Department of Conservation, Auckland Regional Council, Rodney District Council and the New Zealand Defence Force, all of whom have both responsibilities outlined in their policy documents towards the area under discussion as well as towards Ngati Whatua as tangata whenua, and the resources to implement those responsibilities. It would be as well to do an audit now of exactly the extent to which those agencies are carrying out their responsibilities. From a brief perusal of some of the policies already in existence, much of the concerns might be allayed if the policies were put in place.

Ongoing monitoring of the area seems to present the greatest difficulty. From our point of view the current lack of management of the area creates an opportunity for Ngati Whatua to share the responsibility of managing and monitoring. We suggest that if all agencies combined contributed, there might be enough resources to maintain a monitoring system.

Key points in summary:

a) need to restate the policies of statutory agencies
b) need to audit responsibilities of statutory agencies
c) need to review the implementation and enforcement of policies
d) suggest co-operative approach including Ngati Whatua
e) need to educate public and encourage more holistic sense of responsibility

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