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New website has Māori talking about kai

A new website has launched, exploring connections between kai, lifestyle, te taiao, hauora, and non-human animals. He Ika Haehae Kupenga shares kōrero with Māori from across Aotearoa. It presents interviews with, and articles by, tāngata Māori who have made changes to the food they eat and their lifestyles.

A lot of developments have been happening around kai in te ao Māori recently, including a shift toward plant-based diets. That movement is gathering pace, and in many cases, it is being prompted by individuals who are stepping out and doing things differently.

Kaiwhakatipu/editor, Philip McKibbin (Ngāi Tahu) says:

“The aim of the site is to make connections. There’s so much going on, all across Aotearoa, and when you pull it all together, you see that a lot of these kaupapa are connected. Some people are thinking about non-human animals; others of us are looking at how we can live in better relationship with Papatūānuku; and at the same time, there’s a big push among whānau around living healthier lifestyles.”

The kaupapa is expressed in the website’s title, McKibbin explains:

“The phrase ‘he ika haehae kupenga’ is a kupu whakarite, a metaphor, which typically refers to someone who is a troublemaker. It literally means ‘the fish who tears the net’. So, a fish who tears the net and gets free – and who, in doing so, allows other fish to escape as well. I think of these ika as individuals who recognise that sometimes we need to challenge the status quo and do things differently.”

That image, of a fish tearing a net, provoked a kaupapa Māori framework for exploring individuals’ contributions to the development of tikanga around kai, and for critique. Importantly, the website takes an inclusive approach, recognising that the issues relating to kai are complex, and that diverse perspectives give us more resources for creating a better future for tātou katoa, and for addressing challenges.

Throughout the kōrero that are shared on the site are themes of whanaungatanga, rangatiratanga, and decolonisation.

The website has launched with kōrero from Kirsty Dunn (Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa), Te Haunui Tuna (Ngāi Tūhoe), and Pania Newton (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Waikato, Ngāti Mahuta). Each of the interviewees talks about different kaupapa. Kirsty Dunn explores kaimangatanga, a term that could help us to articulate a Māori plant-based kai ethic; Te Haunui Tuna talks about his experience with veganism; and Pania Newton reflects on the past, present, and future of Ihumātao and the importance of mahinga kai to the whenua and its people.

You can read their korero here:

The website and its social media pages feature artwork by Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho (Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Kahungunu).

New kōrero will be shared on the website weekly, throughout summer.

You can follow the kaupapa on Facebook ( and Instagram (, or by subscribing to the email newsletter:


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