13 Jan 2022

'The purpose of the rāhui is for everybody' - National Iwi Chairs Forum

From Summer Times 2021/2022, 1:10 pm on 13 January 2022

An open letter to the government has been penned by the National Iwi Chairs Forum out of concern for the way rāhui are being ignored.

Dame Naida Glavish

Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish of Ngāti Whātua says New Zealanders need to understand rāhui is about health and safety for all. Photo: RNZ / Leigh-Marama McLachlan

Earlier this year, two people died while swimming in Manawatū River, where a rāhui was in place after another pair went missing.

Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish of Ngāti Whātua is one of the signatories. She told Jesse Mulligan that rāhui is an ancient ritual that has been applied long before Te Tiriti o Waitangi and since then.

She wants New Zealanders to understand that rāhui is about health and safety for everyone.

"For instance, if there is a drowning, a rāhui will be in place to ensure the body is retrieved and that no-one else drowns there during the time of the rāhui.

"If it is on a environmental issue, it's about health and safety again, to ensure that no-one gets hurt.

"The purpose of the rāhui is for everybody, Māori will lay the rāhui but it's for the health and safety of everyone."

Dame Naida compared it to how the government had put in place Covid-19 and border restrictions to protect New Zealanders from the coronavirus.

She said in the same way that Covid-19 restrictions had come into law, "because the government has said so", then rāhui should too.

Another point of contention recently on rāhui has been disagreements over whether there is one in place at Parnell's Dove-Myer Robinson Park, where the government is trying to build an Erebus Memorial at the same site where a sprawling pōhutukawa tree stands.

Protect Mataharehare placed a rāhui on the site but Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei - the hapū with mana whenua for central Auckland - questioned its legitmacy.

Dame Naida has previously told RNZ she was against the "monstrosity" project, saying it would damage the pōhutukawa tree which she estimated to be over 180 years old.

While some may breach a rāhui ignorantly, she said, "when the government breaks a rāhui that's another issue, because no government in this country can tell us they're not aware of a rāhui and its purpose".

"There's a desire by the prime minister and others ... to cut into the roots of that tree to erect an Erebus Memorial there in Parnell. There was a rāhui placed on there to protect the tree, to protect the use of that park as well.

"It wasn't the Crown's responsibility to disregard the rāhui placed [by] whom they wanted to listen to."

Ombudsman Peter Boshier late last year advised the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Auckland Council that he would be conducting an investigation into the project, after complaints from opponents. But work in the park has pressed ahead.

Dame Naida questioned why a rāhui would be breached when there was so much pride in instating Māori tikanga into the country.

"Here's an example, the government names all its Crown agencies Māori names and then the government calls on Māori to do blessings. And then one of my proudest moment was when the prime minister wore a kiwi korowai into Buckingham Palace, so if you can wear a kiwi korowai into Buckingham Palace, is this right that you should be in New Zealand breaching a rāhui?

"And the All Blacks and the haka. Everything that is Māori in this country is supposed to be with some pride, but when it doesn't suit, just breach it, just put a fence up, because that's what's happened."

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