31 Jul 2015

DOC to meet iwi leaders to discuss kererū

12:29 am on 31 July 2015

The Department of Conservation (DOC) will be meeting with a Ruapehu iwi to avoid future misunderstandings about the cultural use of dead kererū.

Photo from - Otari-Wilton's Bush 2012 Photo Competition held by WCC

Kererū (native wood pigeon) was served at a hui of iwi leaders and government ministers in Ōhākune in 2013. Photo: WCC / Jan Kench

The protected wood pigeons were served at a Ngāti Rangi hui of iwi leaders and government ministers at Ōhākune's Maungarongo Marae in 2013.

The incident came to light following the controversy surrounding Ngāpuhi leader Sonny Tau being charged with hunting and possessing kererū.

Ngāti Rangi spokesperson Che Wilson said his iwi initially approached DOC to have a kōrero and get some clarification around the department's definition of cultural use, after questions were raised about how the dead birds were used.

According to tikanga (custom), kererū were, mainly in pre-European times, always served to important manuhiri (guests) and especially leaders.

Mr Wilson said Ngāti Rangi thought it was doing the right thing by honouring its guests after DOC handed them five dead birds.

"We used the features and we also used the carcass and thought it was appropriate to serve it at such an important hui," Mr Wilson said.

"We're actually surprised about the fuss because we thought we were doing the right thing because they'd been given to us by DOC."

No record of permits - DOC

But the department's director-general, Mike Slater, said DOC did not have any record of authorising dead kererū for consumption and what happened at Ohakune's Maungarongo Marae was possibly a misunderstanding.

Mr Slater said he was yet to determine where the kererū came from.

"We have no record of any permits that relate to the passing over of a bird, so that's where there clearly is a misunderstanding that we need to continue to talk to Ngati Rangi about."

Mr Wilson acknowledged that the birds were protected under the Wildlife Act but he said the iwi's understanding was unclear.

He said conservation had always been a key priority for Ngāti Rangi and the iwi was keen to continue its work with DOC on conservation issues.

The Wildlife Act allows DOC to authorise the taking of protected species for cultural and traditional purposes, such as the use of feathers in cloak weaving.

It also authorises the transfer of dozens of birds to local iwi each year.

In the meantime, DOC said it was not taking legal action against the marae.

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