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Ken Mair: It is time to put the ASPIRATIONS of Tuna first

Te Wai Māori Trust
Thursday, 20 July 2017
For immediate release


Ken Mair: It is time to put the ASPIRATIONS of Tuna first. Are we up to the challenge?

Te Wai Māori Trust recently hosted the second National Māori Tuna Conference at Whanganui.

We were pleased to bring together over 200 iwi, commercial and customary fishing interests, scientists and policy advisers from central and local government, independent experts and scientists to talk about Tuna.

It was an honour, as Chair of Te Wai Māori Trust, and a privilege, as an uri of Whanganui, to connect the tuna conference and the significance of Te Awa Tupua. The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017accords a legal personality to Te Awa Tupua. For the first time the innate values, or rights, of a natural resource are defined at law via kawa, our indigenous world-view.

All hapū, iwi and tupuna share the same kawa-based relationship with their rivers, lakes and coastal waters. In kawa, all living things are linked through whakapapa,connecting people, birds, fish, trees and natural phenomena. Legitimising our place in this land and shaping our views as peoples of this land. Tuna in our indigenous worldview are recognised and acknowledged as having status and personality due to their direct whakapapa links with iwi and hapū.

The status of Tuna has been ignored and nearly destroyed with the construction of dams, the pollution of waterways and destruction of habitat. Those responsible for environmental governance and management have provided extensively for the habitat of trout while ignoring native fisheries.

We should also acknowledge the possible impact of climate change on the breeding grounds of Tuna in the Pacific near Tonga. Albeit there is a need for a lot more information and research - at a minimum we should be forming an alliance with our Pacific cousins and working together to ensure the future health and well-being of the tuna breeding grounds in the Pacific.

The steady undermining of the status of tuna is akin to the undermining of our whakapapa.

At the conference, we asked those gathered if we can continue to tolerate the status of tuna and our indigenous worldview, being undervalued and undermined.

Together we explored ways to ensure the status of tuna is acknowledged, valued, and effectively provided for locally and nationally; that included an invigorating debate about the pros and cons of the various legal options that could uphold Te Mana o Ngā Tuna, namely legal protection, legal recognition or legal personality.

To lose our tuna is to lose our identity. We must find solutions to improve waterways, streams and rivers to ensure changes are not at an expense of the status and the whakapapa of tuna. This is not a kaupapa we can afford to put off.

Te Wai Māori Trustee and Whanganui Iwi hosted the second National Māori Tuna conference on 17 and 18 July at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre. Videos of presenters’ presentations is available on www.tuna.conference.maori.nz


The National Māori Tuna Conference was held at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre on Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 July 2017.

The National Māori Tuna Conference continues to focus on protecting and enhancing our tuna populations initiated at the inaugural Tuna Conference in Hopuhopu 2014. Speakers include our hosts from Whanganui Iwi, Tuna Kaitiaki, Iwi advisors and leaders, Mātauranga Māori practitioners, Primary industry leaders, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

The conference theme is ‘Te Mana o Te Wai. Te Mana o Ngā Tuna’. Te Mana o Ngā Tuna is fundamental to the identity of Māori as a people, as well as Aotearoa New Zealand as a nation.

Kaitiaki, fisheries managers, educators and leaders all share responsibility to secure the future of our beloved tuna.

The National Māori Tuna Conference was organised by Te Wai Māori Trust. It advances Māori interests in freshwater fisheries, undertaking and funding research, development and education; and promote the protection and enhancement of freshwater fisheries habitats.

Full conference programme and information about speakers and their presentations can be found on the conference website tuna.conference.maori.nz

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