Integrated Catchment Management

Maori History and Values - Motueka

Natural resources — tāonga (treasures) Māori placenames Māori land tenure
Māori population Māori trade Alienation of Māori land

Traditional Māori tribal history depicts the Motueka-Tasman Bay area as affected by many invasions and conflicts which displaced previously occupying iwi, and each in turn achieved dominance and occupation over newly acquired land and resources. A number of iwi (tribes) claim collective authority, significant cultural values, and an intimate spiritual and physical relationship with the Tasman Bay district today. These include the iwi, Ngāti Rarua and Te Atiawa, and Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Koata and the very old iwi, Ngāti Tu-Mata-Kokiri with very few descendants left. Many Māori from the area trace their whakapapa (ancestry) back to several of these iwi and hapü groups. Two main iwi, Ngāti Rarua and Te Atiawa, and their respective hapü, are regarded as tangata whenua and have a strong connection with the Motueka catchment today. Māori migration, conflict and successive occupation indicates a discontinuity of settlement, the result of this has meant that in some areas there has been a relative paucity of traditional Māori knowledge. A glimpse of what the Motueka catchment was like pre-1840 is given below.

Natural resources — tāonga (treasures)

The Tasman district was and still is very rich in natural resources. Pre 1840 Māori had access to an adundance of coastal, marine and terrestrial resources.

Coastal and marine resources (kaimoana) were regarded as treasures from the sea (tangaroa), including snapper, kahawai, barracouta, flounder, and mullet. Haapuku, tarakihi, ling, mackerel, red cod, and dogfish were also important. Fishing was linked to seasonal food gathering. Flounder were speared by local fisherman using flax torches in the late evening and at night. Whales, dolphins and seals were regular visitors to the area. The seashore, littoral zone, and estuaries contained a wide range of culturally significant shellfish species, including pipi, cockles, scallops, paua, mudwhelks, and rocklobster. On the rocks around the coastline included numerous oysters, mussels, catseye, paua, (abalone), kina (sea egg), and crayfish.

Fishing in freshwater environments was a significant part of Māori culture and a major source of kai (food). Rivers and streams contained an abundance of eels (tuna), smelt, freshwater crayfish (koura), and whitebait (inanga). Inland species were often caught during spring migrations, Tuna were particularly abundant during autumn neap tides, while inanga (whitebait) were abundant in late spring. Local iwi would dig trenches at the side of awa (river, stream) and lay flax nets at the bottom of each trench to catch inanga. To catch tuna, weirs, eel traps (hinaki), and nets (kupenga) were placed strategically in or at the sides of streams and rivers. Other freshwater treasures included Kokupu and Bulley.

In 1840 the Motueka catchment had abundant birdlife, including pukeko and bitterns in the swamps, blue duck, grey duck, teal, and paradise duck were abundant near rivers. Seabirds included seagull, shags, pied stilts, pied oyster catchers, and godwits. Occasional penguins were observed. In the lowland forests kaka’s, makomako (bellbird), tuis, kereru (wood pigeon), weka, kiwi, and kakariki (parakeet), miromiro (tomtit) were common. Weka (woodhens) were found throughout the catchment, particularly at the margins of forest and in scrub. Main birds caught for food particularly during winter included, weka, kereru and kaka. With surpluses, birds were often stored in fat for later periods of need. Most birds were caught when trees fruited and berries and fruit were plentiful attracting large numbers of birds, and when cooler temperatures drove birds into lower altitudes in the catchment, increasing bird populations in lowland forests.

Before 1840, coastal forest (ngaio, mahoe, karaka, northern rata, kohekohe, nikau, puriri, pohutukawa, and small shrubs of kawakawa, coprosma, myrsine, and pittosporum) occured in fringes or groves along the coast in the lower reaches of the Motueka towards the shoreline. The edible products of this forest included the berries of Coprosma species (karamu, kakaramu, karamu) and of karaka, ngaio, and kawakawa, in addition to nikau palm and northern rata. Forest types merged and showed variations. Manuka grew in more exposed areas, on cliffs and promontories. Only small areas of remnant coastal forest are evident today.

Extensive swamps, coastal backswamp areas, wetlands in good condition in lower reaches of the catchment, and behind coastal sand country terraces and coastal bluffs. Swamps yielded valuable resources and were culturally significant sites for Māori. Plants for raranga (weaving) include harakeke and raupoo. Foods from wetlands included roots and pollen from raupoo, berries from kahikatea, matai, and supplejack, fruit from kie kie, the trunk pith and from stems of mamaku (black tree fern), fluid and honey from harakeke (flax). Flax was also used as a fibre (muka) for binding and manufacturing into cordage and textiles. Māori recognised about 60 varieties of harakeke throughout the country, and used particular species for particular purposes, such as clothing, mats, kits, nets, etc. Māori people pioneered the utilisation of this fibre.

Lowland Podocarp-broadleaf forest behind the rivers and swamps was extensive up to 400 metres. The most luxuriant forest grew near the coast and along the riverine lowlands. Dominant trees were rimu (berries), northern rata (blossom honey), along with secondary matai, hinau, miro, tawa, titoki, and lowland totara (berries). Understorey included nikau palm (young leaves, heart, shoots), mamaku treefern (with its edible roots), supplejack, fuchsia (with edible berries), and many other fruit bearing plants. The rich supply of berries attracted birds which were then caught by local Māori using various methods. In dryer podocarp-broadleaf forest areas, fuchsia berries and the fruit of titoki were also a conspicuous part of Māori diet.

Beech forest (Nothafagus) dominated the hillier and more mountainous country in the upper parts of the catchment becoming more dominant at altitudes above 400 metres and along the drier ridge tops. These areas were more infertile, had cooler temperatures, and natural resources were more limited. Archaeological evidence indicates much lower Māori occupation in these beech forest areas. Reports in mid to late 1800's of lower numbers of native birds in beech forest compared to lowland podocarp-broadleaved forest.

Māori placenames

Local Māori believe the name Motueka is an ancestral name originating from the islands of Hawaiiki. Te Tai o Aorere is the original name of Tasman Bay. Te Tai is the tide or sea, o is of, and Aorere is ao, cloud or mist, and rere is flying or swift moving.

Māori land tenure

Before 1860 most of the Māori settlement was mainly confined to the lower part of the catchment, on floodplain and coastal terraces, near river mouths and estuaries. Before 1840 both oral and documented evidence indicates that polynesian kumara, gourd and taro were grown, while traditional Māori vegetable foods prior to 1840 included edible ferns, raupo roots, and nikau. Māori used wild variants of plants they had became familiar with and brought them into a kind of cultivation. Among the most important being ti kouka (Cordyline terminalis) or cabbage tree species and rauaruhe or bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinium and Pteridium esculentum). These plants were dominant in early stages of re-vegetation of cleared or modified sites providing roots, shoots, leaves, and rhizomes which became a major part of the Māori diet.

By 1840 kumara was still an important part of the Māori diet, but other European crops (e.g. potatoes, maize, corn) were starting to dominate cultivations. Maize was becoming a delicacy and by the early 1840's major potato gardens were evident on the flats between Motueka and Moutere and many references were made to potatoes being grown in forest clearings. Pigs and poultry were also being farmed. By 1860 large areas of land in the Waimea, Wakatu, Motueka, Marahau, Riwaka and Golden Bay were begining to be cultivated with crops like corn and potatoes. Cash crops were increasingly grown in the late 1800's with hops and tobacco becoming important crops for local landowners in the mid 1900's.

Horticulture: Substantial pre-European (about 1840) lowland horticultural systems are indicated in the sheltered lowlands of Te Tai o Aorere (Tasman Bay) (McFadgen 1980, Rigg and Bruce 1923, Chittenden et al. 1966, Challis 1978). Archaeological evidence for horticulture during pre-European times includes modified and redeposited soils, garden walls and terraces, mounds, relative levels of organic matter and effects from mulching or burning, garden implements such as the koo used for digging, and garden pits and other structures for storage. Modified soils, refered to as Māori plaggen soils, comprise a re-deposited mixture of sand and gravels for horticultural purposes. Substantial areas of Māori made soils of both gravelly and sandy type exist in the lower parts of the Motueka catchment (Challis 1978). Horticultural practice was to improve soil drainage, soil temperature, warmth, and moisture retention. Many soils were mulched with gravel or sand, and spread with burnt off vegetation. Scattered gardens were located on river terraces, raised coastal flats or on warm facing hillsides.

Most cultivated soils were above flood and swamp level indicating some permanence to sites. Māori horticulture was likely to have been in sheltered forest clearings forming micro-climates more favourable for horticulture, with slightly higher mean day and night temperatures and improved soil moisture retention.

Between 1860 and 1910 there was significant clearance of native forest in the middle parts of the Motueka catchment and substantial settlement in the lower parts of the catchment around Motueka.

Māori population

By 1840 somewhere between three hundred and five hundred people were living in the Motueka and Riwaka area, mainly of Ngāti Rarua descent. The Māori population for the Riwaka-Motueka-Nelson district was estimated to be about one thousand. By 1863 Māori population was in rapid decline in the Tasman Bay district, a census in 1863 giving a Māori population of 251 suggests that Māori may have been affected by several epidemics from European settlers at that time and that a number of Māori who had lived in the area for some time were returning home to Taranaki, Waikato, and Horowhenua. An alarming increase in Māori mortality figures was recorded. Nationally the pakeha population was rapidly increasing in New Zealand while the Māori population was declining. Today Māori represent only 7.0% of the total population of the Tasman district.

Māori trade

In pre-European and early European times Māori traded in a range of products, including foodstuffs, weapons, tools, and personal ornaments made from materials such as nephrite or pounamu, stone, whale bone, whale teeth, moa bone, shark teeth, and dolphin teeth. In the Motueka, Māori discovered and used many low traversable alpine passes for trade. Two well known historical Māori ara (trails/tracks) in the district are the Rotoiti-Motueka ara and the Wairoa-Wairau ara which were used by many travellers trading in pounamu and other goods. The sea in Te Tai o Aorere (Tasman Bay) was the major highway, but the inland route up the Motueka river across to the upper Motupiko awa and Tophouse, near Rotoiti, was a major link to the east coast through the Wairau awa. However, the inland hilly and mountainous areas in the middle and upper parts of the catchment were seen as a natural barrier to Māori living in the area. The Motueka route was relatively treacherous in places, especially between the rapids which form on descent from Pokororo where elevation drops about 70 metres to sea level. The same Motueka route was also the main inland connection to the west coast via the Kawatiri awa (Buller river).

Within the Nelson-Motueka-Marlborough Sounds district and over on the West Coast of the South Island, it was known by local Māori when they first arrived and explored the area that it had excellent high quality sources of many different types of rock, especially nephrite (pounamu) and high quality argillite. Nephrite, greenstone, or pounamu found in the Te Waipounamu was a significant tāonga (treasure) for Māori. Pounamu was very scarce in the Te Ika a Maui (North Island) and the acquisition of pounamu was a symbol of wealth for iwi, and was one of the reasons for the succesive raids by Te Rauparaha and Taranaki allies into Te Waipounamu in the 1820's. The eighteenth and nineteenth century was a great pounamu or nephrite age and for some time, Tainui and Taranaki iwi occupied the northern west coast of Te Waipounamu where they partly amalgamated with the Poutini branch of Ngai Tahu to mine and trade rock materials. Heaphy reported that in 1846 (Duff) Ngāti Rarua were working pounamu on a very large scale in the area.

Many local sources of different types of rock were worked by local Māori for tools and weapons. A well organised system for trading between iwi and hapã outside the district was developed whereby rocks from Nelson-Motueka were made into weapons and tools and distributed to many other parts of the country. Stone tools from archaeological finds in the Te Tauihu region indicate many local sources of rock. Rocks that were continually traded and used by Māori included: pounamu, greenstone or nephrite; obsidian, basalt, greywacke, argillite, silcrete, pahutane flint, limestone flint, porcellanite, chert and similar stones, schist, serpentine, and slate.

Alienation of Māori land

Historic loss and alienation of land is a major issue confronting Māori in New Zealand today. To better understand these issues in a historical context, a brief chronology is given below on the changing ownership of land and the systems of land settlement which were so controversial at the time and are the cornerstone of so much debate today. Reference is also given to some of the historic Government legislation and attitudes which were, and still are, the basis for so much retrospective discussion.

Large tracts of Māori owned land were purchased by the New Zealand company in the 1840’s, following the establishment of the New Zealand Company in the 1830's to facilitate the migration of colonists to New Zealand from England, Australia, and Europe. The land settlement system, sometimes refered to as the Wakefield system, purchased thousands of hectares of Māori owned land through a series of dubious sales and relegated Māori to reserves away from colony settlements, often on poorer quality land. Land was purchased very cheaply using a concept of sale foreign to Māori custom and protocol, which promoted selling land in exchange for a variety of goods including guns, ammunition, tobacco, soap, alcohol, sugar, clothing, blankets, foodstuffs, and other goods. By the end of the 1830's and early 1840's the New Zealand Land Companies colonial settlement programme was underway and a new phase in the relationship between European and Māori had begun. The era of European land settlement paid little respect to understanding Māori society and culture. Europeans at the time believed that Māori did not value land, because much Māori land was uncultivated, undeveloped, and therefore appeared to be worth little to them.

New systems of government and law enforcement were set in place, based on the traditional English model of centralism and uniformity. In 1842 European settlement commences in the Nelson-Motueka area. A transformation of the landscape begins with colonists renaming the physical landscape, introducing exotic flora and fauna, large scale surveying and land subdivision, construction of European cultural structures and features, all designed to create an image of the colonists homeland. A significant area of land in the North Island was Māori owned, so attention focussed onto the South Island which had, as seen by the colonists, localised and sparse Māori ownership. Large scale alienation of Māori land begins.

The Native Lands Act was passed in 1862. Collective ownership of land was not recognised in the Act and ownership interests were individualised. Many examples of Māori resistance to selling land to the colonial government and private land owners. A number of conflicts resulted throughout New Zealand in regard to Crown ownership of Māori land and the British reaction to this was to confiscate thousands of hectares of Māori land.

In 1864 the Public Works Act was passed by Government which enabled Māori land to be taken for public works.

In 1865 the Native Lands Court was established and headed by Judge Fenton. The court had three main functions (1) to ascertain the owners of Māori land according to Māori custom, (2) to transmute any title so recognised into one understood in English law, (3) to facilitate dealings in Māori land and the peaceful settlement of the colony. The court however went beyond this brief to gain control of Māori land. Judge Fenton worked on four major principles to achieve the Courts goals: (1) Māori land was to be individualised; (2) it could be subdivided or partitioned amongst individuals; (3) the land could be freely alienated by sale or lease to anyone; (4) land with particular significance could be made inalienable but the restrictions on alienation could be removed. Māori land was treated like any other commodity.

In 1880 Māori were turning increasingly toward the Treaty of Waitangi to solve problems relating to the physical, economic and spiritual alienation of land.

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