A Northland hāpu at its wits end over tourists openly flouting a rāhui placed on the popular Mermaid Pools is considering issuing trespass notices to get its message through.
Yesterday morning, eight Kiwi and overseas tourists climbed over a temporary fence erected by the Department of Conservation to access the pools and were approached by hāpu members upon their return from the pools to inform them of the rāhui. They also knocked over a sign post.
On Sunday afternoon, hāpu members on the way to put up more signs came across 18 people returning from the pools who they said were not prepared to listen about the rāhui when approached.
Hapu members have also faced racist abuse while trying to explain the rāhui to some, with Kiwis most likely to breach the ban.
"We're having discussions with police and the council on the next steps such as issuing a trespass order to get people to respect what the hapu and others are trying to do," a Kapakaitiaki founder Ngapera Hohepa said.
She said regrettably, most of those not respecting the ban were Kiwis.
Community group Kapakaitiaki has been monitoring the condition of the track, the number of people frequenting the pools and sea conditions since January.
The Te Whanau a Rangiwhakaahu hapu placed a rahui over the popular pools at the northern headland of Matapouri and the access route over the Rangitapu headland in late April to restore their environmental, cultural and spiritual wellbeing.
Rāhui restrict access to, or use of, an area or resource by the kaitiakitanga or guardians of the area.
Environmentalists, community groups, civic leaders and the local hapu have long been concerned about the degraded state of the pools and the condition of the track.
Hāpu members spoke to between 40 and 50 people upon their return from the pools the day the rahui was put in place in April while about 150 more were turned away the next day.
The picturesque, turquoise tidal rock pools are enormously popular with both local and overseas tourists and have in the past attracted several hundred people on a hot summer day.
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Hohepa said on an occasion after the rahui was put in place, three Kiwis on the way from the pools were blatantly rude and racist when she tried to explain the ban.
"They said 'Māori seems to get away with anything'. Tourists, particularly those from overseas, are genuinely sorry, they understand why a rāhui is in place once we explain to them but it's mostly Kiwis that unfortunately don't respect what we are trying to do.
"The sad thing is there are signs so it's not like people don't know about the rāhui. Some people just want to do what they want to do. They aren't prepared to listen.
"It's not just people coming down or going over the mountain but we've been planting manuka, little shrubs and other trees on the track in order to close the track and we've come across six plants that have been pulled out completely and just trampled upon," Hohepa said.
She said the rāhui breach was a concern to her hāpu because the whole idea of placing a cultural ban was to restore the mauri of the area but that couldn't be done when some people didn't respect their efforts.
Most of those that breached the rāhui went over to the pools to take photos rather than for a swim, she said.
With an influx of visitors to Northland, Hohepa pleaded with those enjoying the summer break to leave the tidal rock pools alone to ensure the long-term care and protection of the pools.
Kapakaitiaki members and local artists have painted pou and installed them and signs around Matapouri to create awareness and to educate people about rangitapu.