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Key Principles of the Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai Standard

Whakatauki (Proverb)

Toitū te marae a Tāne
Toitū te marae a Tangaroa
Toitū te iwi

If the world of Tāne (all living things on land) endures

If the marae of Tangaroa (the lakes, rivers and sea) endures
The people endure

This whakataukī (proverb) provides the philosophical basis on which the Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai standards (NTMS) are based in order to help guide our accredited kaiwhakatipu (producers) in their kaitiakitanga (sustainable management) of the food that they produce.


What is Mahinga Kai?

For Ngāi Tahu the term ‘mahinga kai’ means:

“Ngā hua o te whenua,
ngā hua o Tāne,
me ngā uri o Tangaroa.”

This translates as “the resources of the land, the resources from the bush and forests which includes all birds and animals dependent upon these resources, and the uri o Tangaroa refer to all living things within the waterways which include all water be it lake, river, lagoon or sea water.” This term has also come to encompass both native and introduced food species that are both domesticated and wild. As such, this mahinga kai standard in general covers all forms of agriculture, wild harvesting/hunting and commercial fishing activities.


Standards for the Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai Brand

The following five key mātāpono (principles) express the vision and commitment of Ngāi Tahu to protect, promote and sustainably utilise those mahinga kai resources that are integral to the maintenance of the Ngāi Tahu culture as the kaitiaki (steward) of the environment in its rohe (tribal area).

They outline the way Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai food producers will utilise and interact with ecosystems, species and the inter-relationships between these to form a unique whole ecosystem ‘ki uta ki tai’ (from the mountains to the sea) kaitiakitanga (sustainable management) perspective. The kaitiakitanga of mahinga kai resources as outlined in this standard by Ngāi Tahu will protect and maintain this ecological, cultural, spiritual and economic legacy to promote the health and wellbeing “mo tatou, a, mo ka uri a muri ake nei” (for us and those after us).

The five key mātāpono of Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai are; Hauora (health), Kaitiakitanga (sustainable management), Whanaungatanga (fairness), Kaikōkiritanga (care) and Tikanga (cultural ecological wisdom).


Te Mātāpono Hauora (health)

Mahinga kai practices should sustain and enhance the hauora (health) of soil, plants, animals, freshwater food resources, the seas, kai moana (seafood), humans and the planet as one and indivisible.

Mahinga kai hauora is about the wholeness, integrity, wairua and mauri of living systems and the relationships Ngāi Tahu have with them. It is not simply the absence of illness or pollution, but the maintenance of the inter-connections between physical, mental, cultural, spiritual and ecological well-being that sustains the ahi kā of the Ngāi Tahu whānui. In particular, the production of healthy mahinga kai is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food that contributes to preventive health care and well-being without degrading the mauri (life supporting capacity) of the inter-connected ecosystems ‘ki uta ki tai'. As such, all mahinga kai production methods will avoid where possible the use of fertilisers, pesticides, drugs and unnatural food additives that may have negative effects on the hauora (wairua and mauri) of plants, animals, humans, ecosystems and the life within them.


Te Mātāpono  Kaitiakitanga (sustainable management)

Kaitiakitanga (sustainable management) is based on a holistic "ki uta ki tai' (from the mountains to the sea) view of living ecological systems. Kaitiakitanga works within natural cycles, emulates them and helps protect and sustain them.

Mahinga kai me te ahuwhenua (agriculture) and Puihi (wild harvest) will protect and enhance the balance inherent in nature. Balance will be promoted through the implementation of certified organic farming practices, establishment of biodiverse habitats, protection of the quality and quantity of freshwater resources and the maintenance of natural whakapapa (genetic) and agricultural diversity.

Mahinga kai fishing practices are based on the kaitiakitanga of the targeted species that allows for the maintenance of healthy populations, as well as associated or dependent species and the protection of the biological diversity and habitat of the aquatic ecosystems.


Te Mātāpono  Whanaungatanga (fairness)

The Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai social, cultural and economic standards system will build on relationships that recognize rangatiratanga and whanaungatanga which ensures fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities. Mahinga kai whanaungatanga is characterized by equity, respect, social justice and stewardship of the shared world; both among people and in their relations to other living beings.

Mahinga kai resources that are used for production and consumption under this standard will be managed in a way that is socially and ecologically just and that are held in trust for future generations "mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei" (for us and those after us). Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai whanaungatanga requires a system of production, marketing, distribution and fair trade that is open and equitable and accounts for real environmental and social costs.


Te Mātāpono  Kaikōkiritanga (care)

All mahinga kai ecosystems will be managed in a proactive and precautionary manner to protect the whakapapa, wairua and mauri of the mahinga kai resources and the environment that sustains them for the protection of current and future generations.

Care will be taken by only adopting appropriate technologies and  taking a precautionary approach to unpredictable ones, such as genetic engineering, animal cloning, irradiation and inappropriate applications of nanotechnology. A precautionary approach is consistent with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu genetic engineering policy. Assessment of appropriateness will be based on the need to protect the whakapapa, wairua and mauri of mahinga kai resources and the ecosystems they rely upon.


Te Mātāpono Tikanga (cultural ecological wisdom)

Mahinga kai tikanga (cultural ecological wisdom) encompasses the cultural values of mātauranga (knowledge) and practices that have been built up by Ngāi Tahu from experience over the centuries of sustainably utilizing the natural resources of Te Waipounamu. This tikanga is enshrined in the mātāpono of Whakapapa, Rangatiratanga, Kaitiakitanga, Wairua and Mauri, and Mātauranga Taiao.

A.     Whakapapa
Whakapapa provides the foundation of Ngāi Tahu cultural identity and tribal membership. The protection of the natural integrity of the whakapapa (genetics) of mahinga kai resources is of paramount concern.
B.     Rangatiratanga
Rangatiratanga is about the right to exercise authority over the mahinga kai resources and the ecosystem from where it is grown, hunted and/or harvested.
C.     Kaitiakitanga
Kaitiakitanga is about the actions that are necessary with mahinga kai operations that need to be carried out in order for the growing, hunting  and/or harvesting to be done in an environmentally sustainable manner "ki uta ki tai" (from the mountains to the sea).
D.     Wairua and Mauri
The protection and promotion of wairua (soul) and mauri (life energy) of mahinga kai resources through ecologically wise kaitiakitanga is about ensuring the best health of the mahinga kai species so that food that is produced is healthy for those who finally eat it. This ensures the ethical treatment of those species managed under kaitiakitanga and the sustainable management of those ecosystems that they rely upon for a natural and healthy life cycle.
E.     Mātauranga Taiao
Mātauranga taiao (environmental knowledge) is about the Ngāi Tahu farmer, fisher, and/or hunter involved in a mahinga kai operation having the necessary knowledge of traditional Ngāi Tahu mahinga kai values and with a contemporary understanding in order to carry it out in a legal manner that is environmentally sustainable that produces high quality healthy food that is safe for human consumption. This includes respecting traditional and contemporary resource management tools developed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Papatipu Rūnanga through resource management and customary fishing policies, for example:
  • Wāhi Tapu - areas of cultural customary importance that need protection.
  • Wāhi Taonga - treasured species that need protection, for example, taonga species as defined in the Ngāi Tahu Settlement Act.
  • Rāhui - the temporary closure of specific areas for kaitiakitanga (sustainable management) purposes.
  • Mātaitai & Taiapure Reserves - customary fishing reserves.

Collectively these Ngāi Tahu tikanga mātāpono (principles) provide the cultural and ethical guidance necessary for the ‘ki uta ki tai' kaitiakitanga of mahinga kai resources in line with the traditional tribal whakatauki (proverb) of "mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei" (for us and those after us). The economic utilisation of mahinga kai resources will at all times respect the customary and recreational rights of the wider Ngāi Tahu whānui, for example, the customary right to harvest wai māori (freshwater) and kai moana seafood resources as ‘he taonga tuku iho' (treasures handed down from the ancestors).


Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai Production & Accreditation Standards Document

MahingaKaiStandardsDocument-coThe words above are taken from the Mahinga Kai Production & Accreditation Standards document.

This document describes the general mātāpono (principles) and aratohu (guidelines) for food production under a kaitiakitanga (sustainable management) regime. Food produced under this production standard is accredited as Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai.

The 38-page document is available here to download in Acrobat PDF format (1.2MB).

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