A Rodney man is warning other holidaymakers to steer clear of Cable Bay after his family was threatened by young men claiming to be enforcing a rahui.
Wairongoa Clarence Renata, 54, died at Cable Bay on January 2 trying to rescue his children when they were swept out by a rip. The much-loved army veteran, known to his friends as Magoo, lived in Palmerston North but maintained strong links with his home town of Kaeo.
Following the tragedy a rahui was imposed on part of the bay, prohibiting swimming or seafood gathering.
However, a Rodney man said he and his family had been threatened by young men enforcing the rahui. The men also claimed the rahui included a ban on playing on the beach.
The hapu behind the ban said a lack of education about rahui and other Maori cultural practices was an issue around the country.
Rodney man Dan, who did not want to give his full name, said until Monday evening there were no signs advising of the rahui and no one seemed to know what activities were covered or for how long. The laminated signs that appeared on Monday had disappeared by yesterday morning.
Dan said he knew about the drowning before his family arrived for their holidays on January 4.
''I also knew the locals weren't swimming out of respect, which is fair enough.''
They kept away for the first few days, then went to the beach about 5pm on Saturday for a game of touch. His group was approached by a man in his 20s, accompanied by two older women, who filmed beachgoers on their phones and told them to ''Clear off''.
''He told us 'You can't swim here, you can't fish here, you can't play on the beach, so get out of here'.''
When Dan asked when the rahui would be lifted the man was vague, saying it could be on January 26 or 30. On Monday afternoon his wife took their children, aged 2 and 3, to play in the stream at Cable Bay. They were joined by four other children ranging in age from 4 to 8.
She was approached by another man who told her to leave. Dan's wife said they were only playing on the beach, not going into the sea, so they had every right to stay.
''He got right up in her face and told her to leave. He threatened to bring some more people to the beach to remove them. It smelt like he'd been drinking. The kids were pretty upset.''
At that stage Dan intervened and said they would leave ''to keep the peace''.
The enforcers did not seem to be official. He feared what might happen if visitors unaware of the ban went for a swim and urged other holidaymakers to stay away.
Hone Bassett, a trustee at the local Parapara Marae, said a lack of education about rahui and other Maori cultural practices was an issue around the country.
"If our partners who have been here for 170-odd years can't understand that, there's not much we can do," he said.
"We can't be in control of our young people when people are desecrating our culture."
Dan said he had no problem following a rahui, it was the way his family had been treated and the fact visitors had no way of knowing a rahui was in place.
A notice on the Parapara Marae Facebook page stated that local hapu have placed a rahui on part of Cable Bay, from the store to the Stratford Drive end of the beach known as Owhetu.
The notice stated there should be no gathering of seafood or swimming within the area for two weeks but makes no mention of playing on the beach. It did not apply to the busier, eastern end of the beach.
"We have to put these rahui in place for protection of our culture, it's really protection for all people," Mr Bassett said. "When it comes to drowning, we take that very seriously."
Mr Bassett confirmed the rahui was lifted yesterday morning.