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Tangata whenua

People of the land.

Tangata Whenua

He Po, He Ao, He Po, Ka Awatea, tihei mauri ora.

Naia te mihi nei ki nga Iwi e noho ana i te rohe ko Te Manahuna i Te Runanga o Arowhenua.

Nei ra te take puuwaahi ki Te Manahuna.

He take mo rātou a muri ake nei ki Te Manahuna

No reira tena tātou kaatoa.

The darkness, the light, the darkness, the breaking day, the sneeze of life.

This is the acknowledgement of the people who live in the area of the Mackenzie from Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua.

Prepared by Aoraki Environmental Consultancy on behalf of Te Runanga o Arowhenua for Mackenzie District Council.


Arowhenua whānui is made up by three distinct groups of people:

  • Te iwi o Waitaha,
  • Te iwi o Kati Mamoe, and
  • Te iwi o Ngāi Tahu.

There are two other groups of people with whakapapa links to Arowhenua:

  • The Hawea iwi, and
  • Rapanui iwi.

Kati Huirapa is the primary hapu of the Arowhenua, named after their ancestor, Huirapa.

The heart of modern day Arowhenua / Kati Huirapa is Arowhenua Marae, located on Huirapa Street, between the Te Umu Kaha and Ōpihi rivers. The whare of the marae is named Te Hapa o Nui Tireni.

This is not the original Kāinga (village) for the Kati Huirapa hapu. Te Waiateruati is the tupuna pa, centred in the Orakipaoa wetland complex. It was a fortified village and a safe haven for the hapu in times of war. With multiple kāinga in the outer wetland and surrounding area.

Having a secure place to congregate, protect and defend whanau members in times of conflict was key to their survival. Fortified pa were common practice throughout Te Ao Maori.

A prominent figure and tupuna of many families that are whakapapa to Kati Huirapa was Te Rehi. He lived at Te Waiateruati and his Kāinga was an island, Harakeke Tautoro, named after the extensive swamplands of Harakeke (flax) that surrounded it. Unless someone was familiar with the area and knew the pathways into the pa, it was very difficult to find.

A whakatauki from the area explains the wetland – ‘Te Pakihi hauroa e te Kahu.’

The plains that are soared over by the kahu (swamp harrier) were used as signals. Often birds were seen at villages. Due to the thickness of the Harakeke the only bird to be seen was the kahu circling above the pa. Orakipaoa also formed part of the numerous trails into river valleys and the alpine areas beyond. Some of these trails led into Te Manahuna (Mackenzie Basin).

Kati Huirapa have used and cared for the catchments within their takiwa for generations. This has created a strong sense of belonging and connection with the catchments. It is the same connection that any person would feel when they visit the land where their ancestors lived hundreds or thousands of years ago.

This sense of belonging and connection is described by Kati Huirapa as ‘turangawaewae’, which means ‘a place to stand’, where one belongs and has a right to stand as their ancestors stood before them.

Being a thriving community with growing needs based on seasonal gathering, tikanga protocols would have seen multiple excursions into te Manahuna for mahinga kai and other resources (harakeke, taramea (Spaniard) and rakau kāpeti (cabbage tree)) and activities throughout the seasonal calendar.

To survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the time, the Tupuna had an intimate and vast knowledge of their surroundings. They were connected through a deep understanding and spiritual link to all things which was created and reinforced through karakia, whakapapa, moteatea, waiata, whare wāhana, haka, toi Maori, iwi, tikanga and kawa. Mātauranga (way of being and engaging in the world) was passed down through the generations.

This deep connection with South and Mid Canterbury and the Mackenzie Basin has meant Kati Huirapa have developed a deep sense of responsibility to care for it, as it has cared for them and those who came before them. This exercising kaitiakitanga supports the philosophy of rangatiratanga over South and Mid Canterbury and the Mackenzie Basin, Rangatiratanga is discussed in greater detail below.

Modern day Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua (Arowhenua) are one of the 18 Papatipu Rūnanga (mana whenua with kaitiaki status) that make up Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Their takiwā (district/area) has changed in size throughout their history. At present, it lies between two awa – the south bank of the Rakaia and the north bank of the Waitaki - ki uta ki tai, from the mountains to the seas.

Arowhenua share their takiwā borders with their whanau – to the north is Taumutu and Tuahuriri and to the south is Waihao and Moeraki.

The Rūnanga is set up as an incorporated society with a board of executives that oversees the day to day running of the marae and the four companies in its portfolio:

  • The company board of directors that oversee investment.
  • A newly formed board of directors that oversee business development.
  • Arowhenua Whānau Services – a health provider.
  • Aoraki Environmental Consultancy Limited (AEC) – the legal entity was established in 2017 to oversee resource consents, regional and district plan reviews, plan changes, concessions, cultural consultation with the public sector, as well as the environmental space with the private sector, particularly farming, industrial and energy sectors. AEC is unique in that it has been given the mandate by Arowhenua to make decisions within the environmental space on behalf of the rūnanga.


The deep connection Arowhenua and Kati Huirapa have with South and Mid Canterbury and the Mackenzie Basin has meant Kati Huirapa have developed a deep sense of responsibility to care for it, as it has cared for them and those who came before them. This way of life is known as kaitiakitanga and incorporates the responsibility to ensure that the whenua and wai will continue to provide for their mokopuna – ‘for those who come after us’.

For Kati Huirapa, exercising kaitiakitanga supports the philosophy of rangatiratanga over South and Mid Canterbury and the Mackenzie Basin. Rangatiratanga is a traditional Māori philosophy, value and practice of people exercising their independence, determining their choices for governing themselves, their lands, and all their treasures. Rangatiratanga has particular prominence, as it is the basis of Article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi (1840).

Rangatiratanga is often associated with sovereignty, leadership, autonomy to make decisions, and self-determination. This includes leadership within the whānau and community, as well as leadership within business activities in the private and public sectors. For Kati Huirapa, rangatiratanga in the cultural sphere relates to stewardship of others, advocating for others and the community, doing the right thing for their people, and ensuring well-being and generosity of spirit.

In relation to the environment, rangatiratanga is about caring for wāhī tapu and wāhī taonga (sacred places and objects) and ensuring co[1]governance and co-management of natural resources. This in turn ensures that rangatahi (the younger generations) and the community know the history of the land and reserves that surround them, and that the land is safe, appreciated and used. The values held by Kati Huirapa and Arowhenua associated with this belief are as follows:

  • Practice and protect the co-governance and co-management of natural resources and be active participants in the decision-making processes that impact the takiwa.
  • Establish and achieve a high standard of environmental outcomes to protect the natural landscape for future generations.
  • Aim to return conservation land to a natural state where biodiversity projects can enhance the indigenous flora and fauna of the area.
  • Encourage customary harvesting and practices on the whenua (land), in the awa (rivers) and the moana (lakes).
  • Protect the whakapapa of Arowhenua and Kati Huirapa.

Arowhenua proclaim rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga over their takiwā and feel this responsibility strongly. Arowhenua are greatly concerned with the ongoing degradation of awa, moana and whenua. Arowhenua want to participate and be involved in the decision-making processes and the formulation of strategies and plans that will stop the waterway and environmental degradation. This is supported and provided for in all resource management processes.


Te iwi o Waitaha are recorded in Ngāi Tahu whakapapa as the first inhabitants of Te Wai Pounamu.

Whakapapa states their arrival around the 8th century AD, arriving in the great waka Uruao which was led by the Rangatira Rakāihautū and his son Rakihouia. They first landed at Boulder Bank in Whakatū (Nelson) where their group split in two, with one led by Rakāihautū and the other led by Rakihouia.

Rakāihautū led his group south and down through the main divide, exploring the island and eventually discovering the great lakes in Te Manahuna rohe, the lakes and wetlands in Murihiku and the coastal lakes and wetlands from Wainono up to Banks Peninsular, with the help of his ko (digging stick) Tūwhakarōria.

It is recorded as Nga puna wai karikari o Rakāihautū Takapō, Pūkaki, Ōhau, Hāwea, Wānaka, Whakatipu wai maori, Whakatipu wai tai, Te Anau, Wairau. Rakāihautū claimed the whenua (land) by way of take taunaha ahi kaa – the right of discovery and occupation.

‘Ko Rakāihautū te takata nāna i timata te ahi ki ruka ki tēnei motu ka nohoia tēnei motu e Waitaha.’ Rakāihautū was the man who lit the fires of occupation upon this island which was settled by Waitaha. Upon his return from Wairewa and Waihora he pronounced the name of ko to be Tuhiraki. His people cried out and repeated ka puna karikari a Rakāihautū – the pools dug by Rakāihautū.

The group led by Rakihouia sailed the waka Uruao through the Cook Strait and down the east coast. Noticing the abundance of tuna (eels) from Banks Peninsular to Morvern, he set pa tuna (eel weirs) along the coast, giving effect to the name of the South Canterbury coast – ka poupou o Rakihouia (Rakihouia’s upstanding post – in reference to the eel weirs he erected).

The two groups reunited at Waihao-Morven and it is said the waka Uruao is now a reef in the Waitaki hapua.

Kati Mamoe

Kati Mamoe descends from Hotu Māmoe / Whatua Māmoe. They merged into a tribe in the late 15th century.

Based out of the great pa in Ahuriri (Napier) Otātura and Heipipi (Gisborne), they have close whakapapa connections to the Kurahaupō people from Mahia. They are also connected to the Rangitane and Ngāi Tara people who descend form Whātonga, a very early explorer to Aotearoa from Hawaiki.

Whātonga is said to have landed a Nukutaura on the Mahia Peninsular in the late 16th-17th Century, a small migrant ropu settled at Te Rimurapa (Sinclair Head), Raukana Moana coast.

Tradition says that they received a gift of kai from the Waitaha iwi living at Wairau across the strait. The abundance of kai in the gift led them to desire the Waitaha’s plentiful resources and they migrated south and settled at Waiau, where they absorbed the Waitaha iwi into their own. They moved from Waiau and established significant settlements at Waipapa at the mouth of the Waiau-toa (Clarence River). They later moved to Kaikoura as well.

With the arrival of Kati Kuri hapu of Ngāi Tahu, they were pushed out of their homelands and migrated as far south as Murihiku (Invercargill). They had a violent relationship with the Ngāi Tahu hapu and a lot of battles were fought. There was a lot of intermarriage between Kati Mamoe and Ngāi Tahu as well, creating alliances and peace from the marriage of both tribes.

Te Rūnanga O Ngāi Tahu

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (Ngāi Tahu) were the last group of people to migrate south to Te Wai Pounamu and were to have the greatest impact.

They descend from the Mātaatua waka through their founding ancestress Hemo-ki-te-raki. Another line they descend from is Paikea. He settled at Whangaroa and married Huturangi around 1350. Four generations later form this unity the eponymous ancestor of Ngāi Tahu was born – Tahu Potiki.

As an adult he was to marry Hemo-ki-te-raki and their offspring are the foundations of Ngāi Tahu whanui.

From Whangaroa they started migrating south around the 1500’s. Spearheaded by the hapu Kati Kuri, the migration was called Te Heke o Pūrahonui after their ariki (high chief) Pūrahonui. Kati Irakehu were another Ngāi Tahu hapu to migrate south after fighting broke out on their lands. Another prominent hapu was Kāti Tūhaitara, who were led and guided by chiefly woman whose group bear her name, later becoming Ngai Tūahuriri.

The other two main hapu are Kati Huirapa and Te Ruahikihiki.

Ngāi Tahu’s migration south was one of warfare, political allegiances, and intermarriage between Kati Mamoe and Waiteha.

The principal leaders of the Te Wai Pounamu around the time of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Tuhawaiki, Iwi Kau, Taiaroa, Korako and Karetai could all claim decent from Waitaha, Kati Mamoe and Ngāi Tahu.

Modern day Ngāi Tahu is now made up by the 18 papatipu Runanga who descend from the five hapu mentioned above.

Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua

South Canterbury

Arowhenua is the principal Māori kainga of South Canterbury, located between the junction of the Temuka and Opihi Rivers 2km south of Temuka.

Arowhenua Marae

38 Huirapa Street,

Phone: (03) 615 9646
Email: Arowhenua.admin@ngaitahu.iwi.nz
Website: Arowhenua Rūnanga

Te Rūnanga o Moeraki

North Otago

Maintaining the mana of Kāi Tahu Whanui in North Otago.

Protecting our taoka, tending our urupa, upholding the mana of our Marae and caring for our manuhiri for our current generations and for our tamariki me ka mokopuna of the future.

Moeraki Marae

Te Rūnanga o Moeraki,
Tenby St
Moeraki, RD2,
Palmerston, Otago

Phone: 03 439 4816
Fax: 03 439 4400
Email: moeraki.runanga@xtra.co.nz
Website: Moeraki Rūnanga

Te Rūnanga o Waihao

South Canterbury

The name Waihao refers to an important food resource obtained from the river that has its beginnings in the upland country behind the hills, Te Tari Te Kaumira.

Māori of the Waihao Rohe whakapapa to Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe and Ngāi Tahu. To these people Waihao is their turangawaewae, their home. Kāti Mamoe who migrated from the North Island in the sixteenth century and Kāi Tahu who came to Te Waipounamu in the seventeenth century whakapapa to Araiteuru and Takitimu waka.

It is through the marae that a sense of continuity with the past is achieved.

Tino mihi aroha ki a koutou te whanau o Waihao me Waitaki mo to mahi i te mana mo o tatou marae.

Waihao Marae

26 Maori Road, RD 10,
Waimate 7980

Phone: 03 689 4726
Email: waihao.manager@ngaitahu.iwi.nz
Website: Waihao Rūnanga