Ngāti Kuri: Maui.Tech case study

An iwi/Māori-led climate change case study, produced as part of the Maui.Tech project

Ngāti Kuri: Te Hiku o te Ika

This video case study from the rohe of Te Taitokerau revolves around the way Ngāti Kuri is responding to the urgent need to address climate change's impact on endangered species like the kuaka (godwit) and tōhoraha (whale). Ngāti Kuri is working to establish dynamic rahui (traditional protection measures) to safeguard these species and advocate for their use in the high seas.

This case study stresses the importance of Māori in environmental conservation and the need to return to traditional practices and values, to honour their tūpuna and to create a better future for their people and the environment.

This video case study was produced as part of the Maui.Tech project. Read more about Maui.Tech.


  • Sheridan Waitai (Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Tainui) – Executive Director Strategic Relationships and Innovation, Ngāti Kuri Trust Board

Click to read transcript

Sheridan Waitai  00:03 
Our first breath comes from the ocean. Our second breath comes from our whenua.  

For Ngāti Kurī, we're water people. We talk about 'He mo ana e Hine-moana kite whenua". It's around when Hinemoana eats at the land. It's a privilege to have whenua. It’s not a right. 

Trevor Moeke [Narrator]  00:33 
Ngāti Kuri, guardians of Te Rerenga Wairua at the northernmost peninsula of Aotearoa – Te Hiku ō Te Ika. From activism to actionism, they have been working across Te Moana Nui to protect taonga species. From tōhoraha [whales] to kuaka – the godwit – species severely impacted by climate change. 

Sheridan Waitai  01:01 
Climate changes, but it's accelerating in its change because of human impact.  

So the kuaka is a classic with a decline of 80% over the last five years. By pure nature of the different storms, uncertain weather patterns coming down from the north back to the Pārengarenga.  So they're caught up on the storms, which they never used to have to worry about before. They're late sometimes because the north wind isn't ready to come down yet. So if kuaka are out of line, our tōhara are out of line, cause they travel together.  

They're on the brink of extinction. They can not evolve fast enough. You still want to have hope, because you need to build hope for our mokopuna. And those mokopuna have to learn to make the hard decisions now. 

Trevor Moeke  01:38 
As Ngāti Kuri work to reconnect to Rangi-tahua in the Kermadecs, they hope to reestablish not only their ahi kaa, but kaitiakitanga of one of the world's most important ocean scapes.

With over 150 species of fish, 6 million seabirds, endangered sea turtles and many other marine species. 

Sheridan Waitai  02:28 
Rangi-tahua is within Te Moana Nui where it's like a bellwether. Where as described to us by our nanny, it's like – like a lantern of hope. It's like a light that just flickers and flickers, and it's the kōhanga of all kōhanga. We call it like the lungs of the ocean – is Rangi-tahua. 

Trevor Moeke  02:48 
The Kermadecs are situated 1000 kilometers northwest of Aotearoa. 

Sheridan Waitai  02:54 
It's not just any part of the ocean, it's, this one is one in four places left in the world pristine, where our tōhoraha hā nau [give birth] and their pepe [babies] do that muriuri and kōrero [communicate]. And lots of migratory species stop or move. All those taunga [fishing ground] feed off all the regrowth and the endemic stuff that starts to form. 

Trevor Moeke  03:15 
Deploying significant resources into their science, mātauranga and monitoring they are accruing alarming evidence that climate variation is already pushing marine species to near extinction. 

Sheridan Waitai  03:33 
So like a tear in the fabric, that once it's gone, no matter how many times you try to knit it back together we'll never – it's like, it's like losing a part of your family.

When we pull up our tōhoraha, it is like – it's like losing a hapū. How are we contributing to that whakapapa across the moana and creating safe passage for all our taonga? We have a responsibility for them – to make them safe in our rohe. And that also means creating the passage for them to go home as well.  

That would be a strategic move for us. To position that. So that the halo effect for Aotearoa, the halo effect for Te Moana-Nui, it benefits us all. 

Trevor Moeke  04:27 
With alarming rates of whale strandings being witnessed across Aotearoa, working with leading scientists and with indigenous peoples across Te Moana-Nui, they are advocating the use of dynamic rahui, along our aramoana which stretch 1000s of nautical miles across te wheke of Hawaiki. 

Sheridan Waitai  04:48 
When tōhoraha and others migrate, what are the challenges for them if that, there are other things crossing their paths now. So that's, that's them coming down from the Tongan Trench, our tōharaha. And there's all these fishing boats or container ships coming across, and they're often hit. We have experienced frontline kaitiaki, where our tōharaha have been hit and damaged by ships. And so what we're saying is we actually know those migratory routes. Why couldn't we have dynamic rahui. 

Trevor Moeke  05:20 
Calls for rahui across our high seas have already been supported in Rarotonga, Tahiti and Hawaii. 

Sheridan Waitai  05:27 
If rahui done in a traditional mechanism, like a traditional way, you know when it goes down, you know what to do when it goes down, and you know when it's lifted. It's managed in a way that it brings in all elements of protection. Not the [Fisheries Act 1996 section] 186 rahui closures of MPI. It's not about devolving our mana to the Crown. It's about how indigenous people lead. And how we lay down our mana, and how our mana is shared for greater prosperity for all others. Our mana is inclusive of other people. Legislation is not inclusive.  

It's the going back to our ancient ways, and amplifying and privileging them and owning them and walking them and living them and breathing them.  

Trevor Moeke  06:27 
Ngāti Kuri say it's time to honor our ancestors and the new Hawaiki. 

Sheridan Waitai  06:32 
The Hawaiki that we are looking for, is the Hawaiki in ourselves. It's the Hawaiki with each other. To honor our tupuna, by being like our tupuna we've been able to move into those spaces they've carved out for us