The marine environment and te ao Māori
Early Māori were ocean-going people. They navigated by the stars across vast oceans to reach their new homeland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Mōteatea and pātere (traditional waiata and chants) often include references to the waka journey of their ancestors through the oceans.
Many iwi live in coastal areas. They rely on the sea for food and other resources. Rivers and the sea are places of connection where people gather food and pass down traditions.
Tangaroa is the name given to the energy of water. In creation stories, Tangaroa is an atua and is the son of Papatūānuku (the earth mother) and Ranginui (the sky father).
The sea is important, not only for food but also for its spiritual and ancestral connections. It is a belief that all life on Earth started in the sea.
- For more information, see https://teara.govt.nz/en/tangaroa-the-sea/page-5.
Tikanga - Māori customs and protocols
The sea for Māori is not only a resource, but also a source of identity and whakapapa. There is a long history of tikanga for looking after rohe.
Iwi have different management strategies and systems. Each iwi has its own history and current practices. Māori have many tools for resource management. The use of natural resources revolved around the seasons and the lunar calendar.
What is a rāhui?
A rāhui is a restriction on collecting a resource for a certain time. It can be used to preserve or manage resources. A rāhui will allow time for the numbers of animals to recover after an event.
Māori would also sometimes use rāhui to guide harvest times or to restrict access to an area after something unpleasant had happened there. This also happens today.
A changing landscape
The Treaty of Waitangi and the Resource Management Act 1991 enable iwi to maintain mana whenua over their rohe.
Iwi often share custodianship with the Crown and local authorities on specific pieces of land or water. There are many different scenarios around New Zealand, depending on the history of the area and changes in ownership.
Now, as we look for sustainable ways to look after our oceans, we are seeing a return to some practices of the tangata whenua. Many iwi around the country work alongside DOC and other agencies to maintain or restore the mauri of traditional food-gathering areas, with the hope of allowing them to recover and prosper into the future.
- Ready for a quiz? Try The Marine World and Te Ao Māori activity.