From the CEO

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett


As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to take a moment to reflect on the year. For me there has been much to celebrate over these past 12 months, and as we look ahead we can now anchor ourselves for the next three years. We recently welcomed Lisa Tumahai as Kaiwhakahaere and Matapura Ellison as Deputy Kaiwhakahaere. Already we have heard clear messages that there will be a new leadership style, with a focus on collaboration and unity to take us forward. This means extending beyond the corporate institution and taking ourselves back to the hapū, to ensure we are embracing and reflecting the intergenerational intent of what our tūpuna intended. I am quite invigorated by what lies ahead, especially noting that there is an intent to partner alongside our haukāinga.

There have been many highlights over the year, and a stand-out for me is the strong steer towards growing regional development and strengthening rangatiratanga and mana motuhake at our flax roots. It’s easy to get caught up in one’s own importance and actually forget what our real purpose is – and the best way to solve this is to open up and broaden the participation. I’m expecting this to be a game changer, noting we have spent the last 20 years building a central foundation; and now it’s time to make some change!

Back on the home front, I am mindful of the challenges that whānau and rūnanga have been grappling with when it comes to the preservation and protection of our traditional mahinga kai gathering practices. In the deep south, the traditional tītī season continues, but there is now a genuine concern over the future of harvesting alongside the climate change impact. Over in Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour), whānau are dealing with local authorities who have chosen to ignore our kaitiakitanga responsibilities by going ahead with dredging and then dumping in sites that are near the peninsula’s fisheries, where pāua, crayfish, mussels, and flatfish are harvested. This is a potential erosion of our mahinga kai gathering traditions. There is a relentless perseverance from whānau who volunteer their time so that our Ngāi Tahutanga practices can remain current.

I remember as a child when the muttonbird season finished and a tin of birds would arrive in our garage, and we would spend the next month eating these in a salty boil-up night after night until they were all gone. Similarly, kina would turn up on the doorstep, and Dad would be made to eat those prickly creatures in the garage. Gathering puha and watercress was a common practice for Mum and Dad. They seemed to pop off somewhere with their gumboots on and a freezing worker’s butcher’s knife in hand, and the next minute they would appear back with a hoard of watercress or puha. Each year when the whitebaiting season came around (usually in the school holidays), we would spend days on end catching the stuff. As I get older there are more stories to share. However, the point here is that if we are going to continue enjoying these experiences, we must be proactive in regenerating these traditional practices. Over the holiday period, give some thought to this, and let me know your ideas.

I hope you have a safe and relaxing Christmas, and be sure to care for one another.