13 May 2015

Pounamu guardians acknowledged

6:35 am on 13 May 2015

The leader of a Ngāi Tahu hapū is pleased the greenstone industry and public are finally starting to understand its role as kaitiaki (guardians) of pounamu.


Photo: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu / Waewae Pounamu

Ngāti Waewae, from the South Island's West Coast, was nominated for the Leading Light West Coast Business Excellence Awards. Its business, Waewae Pounamu, reached the finals.

The hapū and Ngāi Tahu have pushed for decades to assert their kaitiakitanga rights over pounamu, and in 1997 legislation was passed stipulating that Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has customary ownership over pounamu in its tribal area.

Ngāti Waewae chair Francois Tumahai said people now had more appreciation of why the iwi was the main supplier to the greenstone industry.

"I think they're starting to understand just how significant that is," Mr Tumahai said.

"And the fact that it's [pounamu/greenstone] getting harder to find.

"They're [the greenstone industry is] getting to know us a lot better and that's just due to relationships that we've been building. Their whole thought patterns [have] shifted. They now can see that we are supplying the industry and there's a whole lot of good coming out of it."

Ngāti Waewae were announced runners-up at the ceremony on Friday and Francois Tumahai said iwi members were delighted to make it that far.

"For me in particular it wasn't so much that we'd been nominated for these awards, it was just to see the looks on the whanau's faces who have never been in that environment... and to see how proud they were and to realise how far they have come."

Mr Tumahai said with the mining industry and its recognition of the important role that Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Waewae play in protecting the pounamu resource for future generations.

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