A number of rāhui are in place, or have been placed, in Northland recently for various reasons.
Whangārei hapū Patuharakeke placed a rāhui, which is active until today, between the Ruakākā Surf Club and Waipū Cove after a man died at Uretiti Beach on Christmas Day; and the hapū of Wharemaru O Kaimaumau placed a rahui, which was lifted yesterday, on their moana boundaries after a woman died last week when the boat she was in flipped near Houhora, at East Beach, in the Far North.
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To raise awareness about rāhui, why they are placed and why people should take heed of them, the Northern Advocate spoke to Tepara Jennings, of Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu descent, and chairman of Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa Haami Piripi.
Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu is the hapū which placed a rahui over the popular Mermaid Pools, at Matapouri, and the access route over the Rangitapu headland in late April; and in 2009 Te Rarawa placed a rāhui on the area known as Otia - that rāhui is still active.
What is a rāhui?
Piripi said basically it's a restriction.
"It can take many forms depending on what kind of restriction it is. If somebody has drowned, for example, then that restriction relates to the tapu of that area because of a deceased person, whereas some rahui are done as conservation measure, some are done as a protection measure, some are done as a management regime - so it takes a lot of forms," he said.
"The fundamental underlying philosophy of a rahui is when you declare a place tapu - whether it be a week, month, year or decade - then you place the onus of the responsibility for maintaining it on the individuals of the community."
Why are rāhui put in place?
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Jennings said it depends.
"If a person has died from drowning in that area it becomes tapu. So rāhui is another way of saying tapu but not in a cruel way, it just sets it in place to allow time to reheal that area.
"For Rangitapu [headland] - because it's been so trodden on, the rāhui is to allow us to have more time to regrow it to find a safer way to go through it," she said.
Piripi said for Māori, if there has been a death the area becomes restricted for certain types of activities - mainly eating.
"In that sense it's usually given a period of time which is acceptable culturally for that tapu to pass. Once time is lapsed we go back and remove the restriction and people are free to enjoy it again."
Is it legally enforceable?
"Some rāhui are," Piripi said.
"Our rāhui at Otia is not established under any legal act or piece of legislation. It's really established on the law of tapu and the protocol of respect as human beings. It's been going for 10 years now so we rely on that."
How do you decide how long a rāhui is in place following a drowning?
There's usually a bit of debate, Piripi said.
"It also depends on how the person died and who they were. There's a few factors that determine it. We have a bit of a hui and decide which is the best method."
Why you should take heed of rāhui?
It's respectful, Piripi and Jennings said.
"For someone to not respect rāhui, it would to me indicate someone who doesn't want to support a particular methodology for protection and if that's the case what methodologies are they trying to support?," Piripi said.
Jennings said when people had not respected the rāhui at the Rangitapu headland and the Mermaid Pools, it hurt.
"What would it do to you if the same traffic were going over your family members? It's really hurting to see people be arrogant and have no respect and just carry on."
At Matapouri, where sheer numbers are having a detrimental effect on the Mermaid Pools, that in the past have attracted hundreds of people every day, Te Whanau a Rangiwhakaahu placed a rahui over the pools, and the track to them over the Rangitapu headland, earlier this year in a bid to restore their environmental, cultural and spiritual wellbeing. But some visitors have ignored it.
Foreigners, it seems, tend to breach the rahui in ignorance, and are receptive once the issue is explained to them. It is New Zealanders who tend to wilfully breach it, and become abusive.
Hapu members who were on their way to re-erect signs that had been knocked over recently say they encountered 18 people returning from the pools, who were not prepared to listen when the rahui was explained. Now support is being sought from the police and the local authority, including the issuing of trespass notices.