Story: Te mahi kai – food production economics

Page 6. Location and scale of activities

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The kāinga or village was the focal point of economic activities. These were permanent settlements near significant resources, often with a nearby. They were generally winter quarters, particularly for iwi (tribes) who moved seasonally to gather or use different resources. However, some kāinga were inhabited year round – particularly if they were on or near the coast, and close to all major resources the people needed.

Individual pursuits

Individuals, sometimes supported by family members, typically caught birds or kiore (rats). Use rights for particular trees or kiore habitats were often allocated to an individual or whānau (family). In the south, only men went to harvest kāuru (sugar produced from cabbage tree stems and rhizomes) as local foods would not support large groups.

Large-scale activities

Annual fishing expeditions for sharks and other fish were often organised on a hapū (sub-tribe) or iwi basis. Nets could be up to a kilometre long, so their weaving required large-scale organisation. In the north, one large fishing expedition involved around 1,000 people and caught 7,000 sharks. The annual harvest of tītī (muttonbirds) involved large numbers of people. If a large community event was planned, like a major feast or building a pā, a large clearing might be made to grow food for the event.

Some pā, particularly in Auckland, appear to have supported thousands of people and were virtual urban centres. This suggests large-scale, efficient organisation of food production resources.

How to cite this page:

Manuka Henare, 'Te mahi kai – food production economics - Location and scale of activities', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 April 2024)

Story by Manuka Henare, published 24 Nov 2008