Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai

Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai is a lifestyle series featuring 12 ten minute episodes filmed in the stunning landscape of Te Waipounamu. It captures the stories and essence of traditional food gathering practices passed down through the generations.

The series offers a window into the lives of Ngāi Tahu whānau carrying on the food gathering traditions of their ancestors – from tūna and pātiki on the east coast, medicinal rongoā plants in the north and kanakana in the far south. Through our characters we explore the evolution of the practice – its past, present and future and we learn about the species and their natural environment.

Scroll down and watch each episode or jump straight to your favourite kai.


Older than the dinosaur, the kanakana is a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu whānau especially those from Murihiku like the Blair whānau. Kanakana migrate from around August to the end of October swimming up the Waikawa and Mataura rivers on route to their spawning grounds upstream.

They’ve taken me under their wing to teach the next generation their methods.


Te Waihora was once a considerable tribal resource known as Te Kete Ika a Rākaihautū – The Fish Basket of Rākaihautū and home to the sand, yellow belly and black flounders. Today, it is one of New Zealand’s most polluted lakes. We visit local kaumātua Don Brown, who has lived his entire life on the lake’s edge. We learn about Te Waihora and its importance to Ngāi Tahu as a food source and we talk to David Perenara-O’Connell and Craig Pauling about the restoration of the lake and the vision for its future.

I said to my wife,
don’t come between me and the lake.


Eighty-five-year-old Tiny Metzger has been making pōhā for as long as he can remember. The bull kelp and tōtara bark food storage container is an innovation at least 100 years ahead of its time. For Tiny and his whānau making pōhā is an annual tradition as they prepare to head to the Tītī Islands for the birding season.

I made a promise to keep pōhā alive.
It goes with our island.
It’s part of my culture.


Mōkihi or mogi were an essential means of transport for early Māori travelling the waterways of Te Waipounamu. They were light, buoyant and easily constructed. They were a clever innovation designed to traverse the waterways of Te Waipounamu in the search for kai. Long since replaced in a practical sense, by fiberglass and modern technology, the art and craft of mōkihi lives on through the passion and dedication of people like Joe Wakefield.

It’s not just about making a mōkihi,
it’s about whakawhanaungataka.


The spectacular Karitane coastline just north of Dunedin, once awash with the much sought-after delicacy that is pāua – pāua steaks, pāua patties, pāua in cream or just plain raw…now a fishery protected by customary fishing regulations to ensure its future. Khyla Russell and Brendan Flack are two locals with a passion for protecting and enhancing its health and abundance to make sure there will always be a feed for them and their whānau.

…cultural resources were disappearing. Something needed to be done.


The annual tuna migration from Lake Wairewa is a sight to behold as the mature female tuna make their way across the shingle to the sea on their journey to Tonga. Local Ngāi Tahu take this opportunity to dig drains, sustainably harvest and process those not quick enough to escape. The locals, including our talent Iaean Cranwell are well known for their succulent, delicious smoked tuna.

Putting food on the table
for us and our children after us.

Tī Kōuka

The plains and valleys of South Canterbury were once abundant with Tī Kōuka, sustaining whole communities not only as a food source but also as a fire starter, material for making protective clothing and a marker in the landscape. These days they are more appreciated for their aesthetic value than their practical uses. Local Mahinga Kai aficionado Karl Russell, takes us on a journey of discovery to explore the taste, texture and appeal of this once staple of the local diet.

It’s hand in hand with the resilience of our Māori people, still growing with pride.


Maurice Manawatu makes traditional medicines. He takes school groups through the Kaikōura forests and shows them how to make traditional medicines with the plants they gather.

We must look after the ngahere,
so the ngahere can look after us.


Paul Wilson was born and breed on the West Coast of the South Island. He comes from a long line of baiters and for Paul and his whānau the river is a way of life they wouldn’t trade for anything – it’s in their blood! The Wilson’s share their connection with this special place as they lay in wait for the prized īnanga to swim their way.

you can wake up in the morning and decide, oh well I’ll go whitebaiting today, and go out on the river and still make a good wage.


Cyril Gilroy takes us to Ōreti Beach where we dig for the prized tohera. We meet the marae cooks who tell tales of gathering this once plentiful bounty and although we can’t get a decent soup recipe out of them we are treated to a decent feed of patties.

You’ve got to put something back.
You can’t just take.


Meri and Charlie Crofts at Koukourārata – four generations of the Crofts whānau gather cockles, we investigate the degradation of the cockle bed and how cockles are now only harvested for customary take.

They’re big and fat and lovely.


Kaikōura local Butch McDonald has been gathering kaimoana for as long as he can remember. Growing up with his grandmother at Peketa, he learnt how to catch, process and cook the bounty of the Kaikōura coastline. He’s now 61 and his love and passion for the moana and the food it provides is still as strong as it ever was.

I love the things, can’t leave them alone.