Collectively, in its simplest form, the various hapū come together and unite as an iwi or a tribe. Overlaid on this paradigm is the Papatipu Rūnanga structure. In the case of Ngāi Tahu, 18 regional Papatipu Rūnanga exist to uphold the mana of their people over the land, the sea and the natural resources.
Spread throughout Te Waipounamu each of the 18 rūnanga appoints a tribal member to represent its interests at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the governing council overseeing the tribe’s activities.
Those people that live and participate within the rūnanga community take on the responsibility of keeping the home fires burning. They are part of the continuum that is Ngāi Tahu, they maintain the marae, greet and look after the visitors, bury the dead, help to raise the next generations and keep alive the traditions and stories of their culture.
Each rūnanga has its own governance structure and it is through this mechanism that the collective Ngāi Tahu voice in the region is represented and heard at local government and community level.
No rūnanga is the same, each has opportunities and challenges shaped by the land, the environment, the towns and cities and the people that make the region home. The rūnanga is the face of Ngāi Tahu at regional level, wanting better education for their children, safer communities and less pollution at the beach.
Te Rūnanga was created to manage the collective assets of the tribe and in doing so support rūnanga in a way that allows each of them to exercise rangatiratanga – to determine their own destiny so they can build and sustain their communities as they have done so successfully for generations.