Story: Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation

Page 6. Rāhui – prohibitions

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Protecting through prohibition

Rāhui is a restriction that sets aside an area and bans the harvesting of resources. For example, a lake or a forest might be temporarily off-limits so the fish, birds or plants can be restored. Hirini Moko Mead explains:

The conservation rāhui was used to protect the products of the land and water … [the] chief Tukuha … set up a rāhui post at Te Rautāwhiri. The post remained in the same position, but whenever the chief wanted to rāhui the eels of his part of the Rangitāiki River, he would ‘hang one of his old garments’ on it. That would signal a complete ban on that one resource, eels. In this instance, the name of the place, Te Rautāwhiri (the leaves twisted on) indicates that it was used by custom as a place to signal a rāhui. 1

In the Southland region, the Ngāi Tahu tribe preserved resources through a number of restrictions:

A traditional Ngāi Tahu example is the wakawaka (boundaries defined between hapū or fishing grounds) … An example of the natural rāhui is the bird called hākuai … the hākuai is considered by some as the guardian of the Tītī (muttonbird) and when the people hear the hākuai call in the night, it foretells the end of the season for taking Tītī. The rāhui then remains until the following year. 2

In the 1980s, the tribe placed limits on seafood gathering:

[T]he rāhui [was] placed around the Ngāi Tahu rohe pōtae (region) by Rakiihia Tau … This rāhui was determined at a meeting held at Rāpaki in 1986. This rāhui placed management responsibilities to the taking of sea food. It provided for the Ngāi Tahu representatives from the Ngāi Tahu marae, the right to approve the taking of shell fish by their people by complying with Ngāi Tahu resource management practices. 3
  1. Hirini Moko Mead, Tikanga Māori: living by Māori values. Wellington: Huia, 2003, p. 197. › Back
  2. Peter Garven, Marty Nepia and Harold Ashwell, Te whakatau kaupapa o Murihiku: Ngai Tahu resource management strategy of the Southland region. Wellington: Aoraki Press, 1997, p. 29. › Back
  3. Te whakatau kaupapa o Murihiku, p. 29. › Back
How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation - Rāhui – prohibitions', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 October 2017)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 24 Sep 2007