Ministers served kererū at iwi leaders' hui

8:57 pm on 20 July 2015

"Ko te kai a te rangatira ko te kererū."

The kererū is considered a food of the chiefs, and it was served and consumed by chiefs at an iwi leaders' hui in the central North Island two years ago.

Sitting alongside the iwi leaders were Crown ministers Amy Adams, Nathan Guy and Tariana Turia.

Kereru

The kererū is a protected species under the Wildlife Act. Photo: SUPPLIED / WCC

A spokesperson for the marae in Ohakune said between three and five birds had been handed to them by the Department of Conservation.

Tariana Turia

Dame Tariana Turia Photo: RNZ

Marae spokesperson Che Wilson said the feathers were used for weaving, while the bodies were saved for a special occasion.

He said the kererū were mixed with chicken and miromiro berries and served as part of the hakari (feast).

Ngāti Maniapoto leader Tom Roa said he gladly took part in eating the kererū and said he did it knowing that his relations at the marae would also be cognisant of their responsibilities regarding the sustainability of the resource.

The iwi leaders' forum was held in 2013 and it is believed around 40 iwi leaders attended, along with the three ministers.

The kererū is a protected species under the Wildlife Act.

Last month, Northland leader Raniera Sonny Tau was caught with five kererū as he was returning from Invercargill to Northland. He has since taken a group of supporters back to the local marae in Riverton, where he apologised for his actions.

Ngāi Tahu has described Mr Tau's actions in a leaked document as "deeply disappointing".

They believe the kererū were from a specific flock, which travels across the Foveaux Strait to Rarotoka and Rakiura and back.

There have been 56 prosecutions for possession and hunting of protected species since 1987.

The Department of Conservation said in a statement that there were provisions in the Wildlife Act to authorise the possession of dead birds for cultural purposes, such as using feathers for cloak weaving or bones to make tā moko instruments.

It said it was unaware of any application concerning dead kererū for consumption and would not support the consumption of dead birds handed into its offices for food safety reasons.

It said it would not comment further until it had assessed the claims.

Radio New Zealand contacted the offices of Ms Adams and Mr Guy, which both said the ministers were unaware kererū had been served. Ms Adam's office said the minister would not have eaten it if she had known.

Dame Tariana, who has since retired from politics, also said she did not realise kererū was on the menu at the hui.

"Definitely not. I don't recall anybody talking about it at the hui and I don't recall getting access to any of it."

Prime Minister John Key said his ministers may not have known that kererū had been dished up at the hui - and they also may not have eaten it.

"I don't think you could say they actually ate it. If the marae is saying they served it, they would certainly know. But - as all of you will know - when you go to a marae, usually it's communal dining with lots of different dishes put in the middle."

Mr Key said the Department of Conservation often provided kererū that had been killed on the road to iwi, for the use of their feathers only.