Ngāti Tamaoho kaumatua Ted Ngataki has made an impassioned plea for work to restore the Pahurehure Inlet, and Manukau Harbour beyond it.
Speaking to councillors and local board members at a Karaka hui, he says the harbour is a life source for the iwi.
“I was raised around the harbour, a source of kaimoana that sustained our people, yet we see it getting sicker.
“We desperately need rongoā (medicine) for it, so that we can see the scallop beds return, cockle and pipi being harvested, and pātiki (flounder) and kanae (mullet) being caught to feed our people.”
The harbour’s role as a food source is central to Ngāti Tamaoho, with Whātapaka and Mangatangi both poukai marae – where since the 1880s and King Tāwhiao, Kingitanga affiliated marae have hosted annual visits from the king or queen featuring kai from local sources.
“That tradition will be handed down to the next generations of our people,” Matua Ted says. “But to sustain it, we are going to have to give Mother Nature a hand because that inlet can’t flush itself out and it continues to degrade.”
A master carver, he turned his chisels to polystyrene, carving a three-level map of the inlet, one depicting high tide, another the sea of mud at low tide, and a third with wetlands, walkways and a deep lagoon made by dredging to create new land.
Papakura Local board member Keven Mealamu says hearing the significance of the harbour explained was inspirational.
“We can drive by and see only a muddy estuary, but Pahurehure and Manukau have been taonga for generations and hearing the stories should fuel members drive to preserve this place.”
Puketāpapa board Deputy Chair Jon Turner also chairs the Manukau Harbour Forum, formed by the nine boards bordering the harbour as a means of collective local board advocacy on harbour issues.
“We should pledge to advocate to make sure mana whenua are involved in not only discussions but decisions affecting the harbour, especially when we are seeing solutions being put forward by an iwi with a vision to restore this waterway.
“Auckland Council’s governing body has resolved to support building better relationships with mana whenua around the harbour, including exploring a new approach to governance.”
Ngāti Tamaoho has a high-level relationship agreement with the city’s southern boards, excluding Franklin, which doesn’t yet have an agreement but has acknowledged an enduring, positive relationship is critical for both parties.
Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Angela Dalton says any effort to improve the harbour will be welcomed.
“We sometimes over-engineer and without consulting with iwi first, what could be simple fixes become complex projects that have little hope of achieving funding, let alone being put in place.
“Taking small steps alongside mana whenua will ensure we reach our shared environmental goals.”
Other hui topics centred on explanations of the Ngāti Tamaoho rohe, its charitable and treaty settlement trust activities, traditions as a welcoming people, and its history and aspirations.
Pukekohe is home to the third significant Ngāti Tamaoho marae, Ngā Hau e Whā – the four winds.
“That’s more than a symbol for us,” Matua Ted says. “It does what the name says, it’s open to anyone from the direction of the four winds, but that acknowledges us as an iwi where all are welcome, and where all will be treated well.”
Ngāti Tamaoho was a founding member of the Tāmaki Collective, which settled historical claims with the Crown in 2012 over the tupuna maunga of Tāmaki Makaurau.
Ownership of 14 maunga transferred to the Collective and Ngāti Tamaoho remains part of its governance and management.
In 2017 Ngāti Tamaoho Trust signed a deed of settlement and received a Crown apology at Mangatangi Marae that acknowledged a failure to uphold the mana, rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga of the iwi, as promised under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Today the iwi trust employs more than a dozen people and has contracts across the rohe in areas such as culture and heritage, well-being and environmental services.
Its Karaka offices contain a historical resource Cultural Archive Centre, hui and administration spaces, and are home to facilities to continue the tradition of carving and weaving practices.