Appeal to Lake visitors
6 November 2019
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Ngai Tuhoe iwi have a solution to help ensure illegal campsites and the effects these have on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana do not happen again.
The campsites were set up during Labour Weekend. Native bush was cut down, home-made showers and toilets were set up, “a beer bottle wall” was erected in a kiwi sanctuary and rubbish was left behind.
“Being ‘tangata whenua’ (people of the land) is accepting you have duties and responsibilities to the land,” says Tuhoe spokesman and Te Uru Taumatua chairman Tamati Kruger.
“So I would like to tell visitors to behave in a way that you are ‘tangata whenua’.”
Mr Kruger explained how the meaning of tangata whenua could help lake visitors treat the land with more respect and appreciation.
“Tangata whenua does not mean ‘I’m the first here’ or ‘I have more rights than you’, or ‘I’m the owner’.
“It’s not a term that just applies to Maori . . . tangata whenua literally means, ‘people or person of the land,’ it doesn’t exclude anyone.
“It means you see your connection with the land as something of value and you see that connection as something that gives you a sense of belonging and identity.”
In terms of educating campers and visitors to the lake, he said it was his and the people of Tuhoe’s responsibility to make sure standards and expectations were followed.
“We take responsibility for that in terms of Te Urewera and Waikaremoana.
“We accept we should be front-line in giving out useful information and making clear what the standards and expectations are, and presenting them in a way people see they are reasonable . . . not rules or new rules, but one’s instinct.
“It’s how I would behave if I were a manuhiri (visitor) in a friend’s home.
“Human beings have an instinct of what is good and bad behaviour, and we’re appealing to that.”
Mr Kruger said if people said Tuhoe was not doing enough or not giving out enough information, he would want to revisit their strategies and improve.
“I think we should all aspire to be tangata whenua . . . it unifies all of us, irrespective of your gender, religion and ethnicity.”
Asked about a “beer bottle wall” found within the pest control fence-line used to keep deer, possum, stoats and kiore out of a kiwi sanctuary, Mr Kruger explained how future repercussions of the campers’ actions could affect more than just the growth of the kiwi population.
“The ‘beer bottle wall’ was a monument of their disrespect for nature and that place.
“This could have the repercussion that could make people think Tuhoe is not qualified or committed to being tangata whenua.
“It would be a contradiction of everything we’re saying in te kawa o Te Urewera (customs of Te Urewera). It undermines reputation and mana, and says Waikaremoana is a place that you can come to and do whatever you like.”
Mr Kruger said there were 220 to 230 kiwi in the sanctuary.
“We will need to transfer the juvenile kiwi soon before it reaches the threshold (of 250).”
Tuhoe have not heard of any kiwi being injured as a result of Labour Weekend camping, however, if kiwi populations were harmed it could cause a domino effect when it came to the repopulation of other areas around the lake.
Rather than limiting public access, Mr Kruger said the iwi’s first instinct was to promote awareness and educate people to accept iwi standards and the shared responsibility for the land.
“We would like to give everybody a lot of chances to display that.”
He was encouraged by the around 25 people who rang the Te Urewera visitor helpline after reading about the Labour Weekend campsite and rubbish findings.
“They owned up to being a part of the bad behaviour and even said they’re going to change their ways and they would contact others they know have left rubbish, too.
“They expressed support for what Tuhoe is doing and this really encouraged us to keep our faith and showed us there’s a lot of well-meaning people who want to do well by Te Urewera.
“The stories they have read have affected them and they want to help.”