Kererū dish prompts tikanga debate

8:57 pm on 21 July 2015

A Ngāti Hine leader in Northland says he is vehemently against kererū being served at events such as Iwi Leaders Forum events.

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

Kererū (native wood pigeon) Photo: WCC / Steffan Kraberger

Waihoroi Shortland said achieving leadership status did not justify eating the native bird.

It has been revealed that kererū was served at an iwi leaders' hui in Ōhākune in 2013 after the Department of Conversation (DoC) handed Ngāti Rangi five dead birds to store in the tribe's freezer.

The Department of Conservation is looking into how the protected wood pigeon came to be served at the hui of iwi leaders and government ministers at Maungarongo Marae in Ōhākune.

Waihoroi Shortland

Ngāti Hine leader Waihoroi Shortland Photo: Supplied

The kererū is protected under the Wildlife Act from hunting and consumption, but DoC does allow its feathers to be given to weavers under certain conditions.

Waikato iwi leader Tom Roa, who attended the 2013 meeting, said he viewed it as an honour to be served kererū.

But Mr Shortland, who did not attend, said being a tribal leader did not make anyone more important or special enough to be given that privilege.

"If iwi leaders are considered special enough to be given to kererū to eat, then surely the iwi that they're supposed to represent are more deserving than even the leaders," Mr Shortland said.

"If it's just by way of saying you've reached a particular status in Māoridom in which you get the privilege being served a delicacy, simply on your position, I don't think it warrants it under those kinds of circumstances."

However, a cultural advisor from the Whakatāne iwi of Ngāti Awa, Pouroto Ngaropo, said when it came to gatherings of rangatira or iwi leaders, serving up kererū was the appropriate thing to do.

He said according to tikanga (custom) kererū was always served to important manuhiri (guests) especially leaders.

Mr Ngaropo said Ngāti Rangi was just showing its utmost manaakitanga (hospitality).

"It's a Pākehā perspective in my view that it's coming upon Ngāti Rangi, in terms of the right that they have to serve their kai," Mr Ngaropo said.

"Good on them. Ngāti Awa supports that. What a chiefly gesture."

Dame Tariana Turia was one of three ministers who attended the hui where the bird was served though she was not at the dinner itself.

She said that while she believed depleted resources such as kererū should be left alone, she was not opposed to allowing elders access to certain foods that were traditionally part of their diet.

Mr Shortland said he supported that, but only under certain conditions.

"Under the circumstances of 'he ōhā' (death bed wish) to the dying, absolutely, that has been tikanga from way back when," he said.

"But it's usually the dying who make the request and it's judged on that basis - you don't go and kill the birds and then go and look for the dying."

Mr Ngaropo said it was time for iwi to sit down with the Department of Conversation to look at changing the laws to allow some iwi to be able to take a small quota of kererū for events such as tangihanga or hui.

He said there could be a case for some iwi to add a kererū quota clause to their treaty settlements.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs