Four Specific Sites

Arahura ValleyRarotokaWhenua HouCrown Tītī IslandsWāhi Taonga

Arahura Valley

The Arahura Valley has traditionally been one of the principle sources of pounamu for Ngāi Tahu and the area is of particular significance to Poutini Ngāi Tahu (the tangata whenua of the West Coast of the South Island).

In 1976 the Crown vested the title to the bed of the Arahura River in the Mawhera Incorporation, a Māori landowners Trust. The boundaries of the title remain unsurveyed, being defined only by natural features. Due to the frequent changes within the riverbed there is often uncertainty as to where the physical boundaries are at any given time. The purpose of this redress is to ensure that the Mawhera Incorporation will be able to exercise effective control and management over its lands within the Arahura catchment.

The key elements of the Settlement were:

  • The creation of an historic reserve to be known as the Waitaiki Historic Reserve in the upper catchment of the Arahura Valley.
  • For the Waitaiki Historic Reserve to be vested, at no cost, in the Mawhera Incorporation which will administer this land under the Reserves Act. Public access to the Reserve is protected, and the Department of Conservation continues to own and maintain all of the huts and bridges, and to maintain the tracks within the reserve.
  • The Mawhera Incorporation is required to produce a management plan for the Waitaiki Historic Reserve within five years of the Settlement.
  • A number of legal but unformed roads within the middle section of the Arahura Valley will be closed. The title to those roads will be vested, at no cost to the tribe, in the Mawhera Incorporation as Māori freehold land, subject to a number of easements which provide legal access to all of the sections of private land in this area.


Rarotoka has traditional significance to Ngāi Tahu as both a resting place on the arduous journey to the tītī islands, and as a navigational marker for guiding Ngāi Tahu as they navigated the difficult southern seas. The use of the island as a navigational site has continued into modern times.

The key elements of the Settlement were:

  • The transfer of the freehold title, exempt from marginal strip requirements, to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
  • This transfer was subject to a lease back of a small portion of the island to the Marine Safety Authority who will continue to occupy the lighthouse site on the island.
  • In addition, a 500 metre Fisheries Area has been created around the island. At any time in the future, Te Rūnanga may make a formal request to the Crown to give effect to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu rights to manage the fisheries within that area.

Whenua Hou

The Māori connection to Whenua Hou goes back many centuries. It is said to be the ancestral home of Rakiura Māori. Like Rarotoka it was one of the original stopping off places for southern Ngāi Tahu on their way to the titi islands. In the 1820s it became the site of one of the first integrated Maori/European settlements, where people of mixed marriages were granted residency rights on the island by Rakiura Maori.

The key elements of the Settlement were:

  • The name of the Codfish Island Nature Reserve has been changed to the Whenua Hou Nature Reserve.
  • The Crown provided Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu with a Deed of Recognition (DoR) over Whenua Hou as well as a Statutory Acknowledgment (SA). Both of these statutory instruments recognise the Ngāi Tahu association with Whenua Hou and provide for the ongoing recognition of that association (see Mana Recognition for more details on DoRs and SAs).
  • The establishment of a committee of the Southland Conservation Board made up of one representative from each of the four Murihiku papatipu rūnanga, and four from the Southland Conservation Board.
  • This committee may advise the Southland Conservation Board, the New Zealand Conservation Authority and the Minister of Conservation on all matters to do with the control and management of Whenua Hou.

Whenever it is practicable, the Southland Conservation Board, the New Zealand Conservation Authority and the Minister, must consult with and have particular regard for the views of the committee on matters to do with the control and management of Whenua Hou.

Crown Tītī Islands

All of the tītī islands have been an integral part of the Ngāi Tahu economy for centuries. The tītī (mutton birds) harvested from these islands were not only an essential food source, but were also a tradeable commodity. The traditional rights to bird the islands are founded on genealogy.

Since the purchase of Rakiura, and the adjacent tītī islands, the customary rights of Rakiura Māori to bird these islands have continued to be recognised and protected by the Crown as a burden on the Crowns title. The return of the title to the Crown Tītī Islands will ensure that the rights of Rakiura Māori to harvest tītī on a sustainable basis will be protected in perpetuity.

Under the terms of the Crown’s offer Rakiura Māori were given the statutory responsibility for control and management of these islands.

The key elements of the Settlement were:

  • The transfer of the freehold title, exempt from marginal strip requirements, to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu at no cost to the tribe.
  • The islands are managed by Rakiura Māori as if they were a nature reserve subject to the proviso that this management objective does not adversely affect the customary rights of Rakiura Maori to take tītī on a sustainable basis.
  • An administering body, made up of ten Rakiura Māori, has been appointed to control and manage the islands.
  • In recognition of the dual management objectives the Crown paid for the initial costs of setting up the administering body and for a proportion of the ongoing costs of managing the islands.
  • The administering body had two years to agree to a constitution and to prepare the initial by-laws before they took over the management of the islands from DoC.
  • The administering body and DoC may both put forward annual work programs to be carried out on the islands. These work programs must be consistent with the management objectives of the islands as a whole.
  • The administering body will prepare a management plan within five years of taking over the management of the islands.
  • The Crown has agreed to pay the costs of developing this management plan.

Crown Tītī Islands : Question and Answer

Q: Who has the ultimate say in how the islands are managed

A: Rakiura Māori will be have full responsibility for the control and management of the islands, including the power to make by-laws. However, they must act in accordance with the terms and conditions of the transfer of the islands, and the normal laws of the land.

Q: How will DoC be involved

A: The Department of Conservation already works closely with Rakiura Māori on issues which affect all of the titi islands. It is important for Rakiura Māori, and for other groups, to ensure that this relationship continues, as the environment and the habitat which supports titi also supports other important indigenous species. The provision for developing agreed annual work programs will enable both parties to work together for the integrated management of the islands.

Q: Who pays for the work programmes

A: The decision about who pays for each programme will depend on several factors. If it is a programme solely for the benefit of the people who harvest titi, then it is likely that Rakiura Māori will be asked to pay. If it is a programme which is solely for the benefit of the islands, consistent with their nature reserve status, then the Crown will pay. If there are mutual benefits then, this is a matter to be agreed at the time.

Wāhi Taonga

The 1996 Deed of On-Account Settlement provided for the return to Ngāi Tahu of Tutaepatu (Woodend Lagoon) near Kaiapoi in North Canterbury. . At the time of Settlement the crown gifted $250,000 to be used in restoring the environment of the lagoon, and a further $50,000 was provided for the preparation of a management plan.Legislation giving effect to this arrangement was introduced to Parliament in 1998( The Ngāi Tahu (Tutaepatu Lagoon Vesting) Act 1998). Under this Act the Te Kohaka o Tuhaitara Trust was mandated to manage and administer the new reserve. The trust consists of representatives of both Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the Waimakariri District Council ownership and/or control of 41 areas of land have been returned to Ngāi Tahu as part of the Crowns Settlement (see map). These include a range of wāhi tapu (sacred sites), wāhi taonga (special sites) and mahinga kai (places where food resources are gathered), as well as title to three lakebeds: Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere), Muriwai (Coopers Lagoon) and Lake Mahinapua.

Various legal mechanism are being used in relation to these sites, providing for the different types of sites and the diverse interests which Ngāi Tahu has in them, while also recognising the interests of the wider public. For many areas, freehold title will be transferred to Ngāi Tahu, without the usual requirement to set aside a marginal strip, but with public access and conservation values protected by covenants and other legal mechanisms where relevant.

For two sites where title was not available, Ngāi Tahu will instead be granted a long term lease at a peppercorn rental.

Some sites will be vested in Ngāi Tahu to be controlled and managed as reserves under the Reserves Act. This mechanism allows for the purposes and values for which these sites are to be managed – historic or scenic for example – to be quite explicit and to be protected for all time.

In a small number of cases, title was transferred to Ngāi Tahu, but a significant management role has been retained by either DoC, a local council or a community board. In relation to DoC, this has been achieved through Protected Private Land agreements, setting out the respective responsibilities of Ngāi Tahu and the Department. For the other sites, section 38 of the Reserves Act has been used to enable these sites to be managed as if they were reserves. Such arrangements reflect the partnership which Ngāi Tahu seeks to establish with government agencies and the wider community in the management of the environment.

The majority of these sites have been transferred to Ngāi Tahu at no cost. A small number will be valued and paid for by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The Settlement provided a unique opportunity for Ngāi Tahu to reassert its rangatiratanga over a range of significant sites by regaining direct control over their management.