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Māori Culture

Māori in Ashburton

Māori are the takata whenua or "people of the land" of Aotearoa New Zealand.  In the 2018 census, 3,333 people or 10% of the population in the Ashburton district identified themselves as having Māori descent.

Before Europeans arrived in Aotearoa, Māori had extensively explored Te Waipounamu (the South Island). They developed a complex infrastructure of ara tawhito (traditional travel routes) which sustained important social and economic relationships. These ara tawhito traversed the island providing access to resources, such as pounamu (greenstone), trade opportunities with other iwi and hapū (tribal and extended whānau groups) and mahika kai (food gathering areas).

Traditionally, Māori traversed the Ashburton District using a coastal route to the east of the town. Braided rivers such as the Rakaia, Hakatere and Rangitata provided travel routes to the interior that joined ara tawhito across Kā Tiritiri-o-te-Moana (the Southern Alps) to Te Tai Poutini (the West Coast).

In the 1850’s the first English settlers arrived and settled the rural area of the district as sheep grazing runs producing wool. In 1858 Ashburton’s town was established.

When the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 by seven high-ranking Kāi Tahu rakatira (chiefs), it was seen as a convenient arrangement between equals. However the government failed to honour its obligations under land purchase agreements, robbing Kāi Tahu of the opportunity to participate in the land-based economy alongside the settlers.

In 1849 the Kāi Tahu ancestor Matiaha Tiramōrehu penned the first formal statement of Kāi Tahu grievances about the land purchases, marking the beginning of generations of Kāi Tahu petitioning the Crown over the following 150 years. This became known as Te Kerēme, the Kāi Tahu claim.

Kāi Tahu are takata whenua and the recognised iwi authority in all but the most northern part of Te Waipounamu including the Ashburton District. As the Ashburton District is part of three different takiwā (tribal areas) mana whenua (authority over the land) is shared between three different tribal entities - Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga and Te Taumutu Rūnanga.

Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua is based at Arowhenua marae to the south of Temuka. Arowhenua marae is the home base for the Kāti Huirapa hapū, one of the five primary hapū of Kāi Tahu. The takiwā of Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua extends from the Rakaia River to the Waitaki River, sharing interests with Ngāi Tūāhuriri ki Kaiapoi between the Hakatere and Rakaia Rivers and Te Taumutu Rūnanga in the area north of Hakatere, and thence inland to Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Main Divide. (Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Act 1996)

Visit to find out more.

The takiwā of Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga centres on Tuahiwi, north of Christchurch and extends from the Hurunui to Hakatere, sharing an interest with Arowhenua Rūnanga northwards to Rakaia, and thence inland to the Main Divide. (Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Act 1996).

The takiwā of Taumutu Rūnanga centres on Taumutu and the waters of Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and adjoining lands and shares a common interest with Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga and Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua in the area south to Hakatere. (Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Act 1996).

Located on the outskirts of Ashburton, Hakatere marae is a mātāwaka (pan-tribal) marae and community centre servicing the needs of other iwi Māori and the wider Ashburton community.

Hakatere Marae hosts regular health and community events open to the public, their venue is available for hiring and you can get involved by contacting them via their website

If you would like to find out more information, Ashburton District Council created the Tūwhana App, where you can find vocabulary, history, tikaka (protocols), and other resources about Ao Māori (the Māori world) and Samoan and Filipino cultural protocols and language, as these are two of the most spoken languages in the district. To download it, search for  Tūwhana in your app store.

If you are interested in getting familiar with Māori culture, you can find events, wananga (workshops) and  Te Reo Māori (Māori language) classes on the Keep Learning Mid Canterbury website