Draft OARC Regeneration Plan - 2: Practising mahinga kai

People practising mahinga kai

Objective : Create a restored native habitat with good quality water so there is an abundant source of mahinga kai, birdlife and native species.


What is mahinga kai?

Mahinga kai provides a holistic approach to the sustainable management of the river and its natural resources.

For Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu, mahinga kai is an important concept that can be described as the places where natural resources are obtained, and the philosophies and practices that surround them. Mahinga kai means to work (mahi) the food (ngā kai) and refers to the seasonal migration of people to key food gathering areas during the summer, where they would gather and prepare natural resources to sustain them through the colder months.

Ensuring future generations can experience mahinga kai is central to Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu identity. It’s the responsibility of today’s generation to safeguard the mauri (life essence) of the natural environment, and to ensure its security and capability for us, and our children after us.


A unique opportunity

Mahinga kai presents a unique opportunity to adopt a holistic management approach for the whole of the Regeneration Area. As well as focusing on sustainability, it offers a chance for local communities and visitors to learn about restoring and caring for native ecosystems, the traditional Māori concept of mahinga kai, native species and their uses, and the history and culture of the area. As importantly, mahinga kai offers the opportunity to exercise the whakapapa, kaitiakitanga and the other key values that are an integral part of mahinga kai.


Water quality and mahinga kai

Poor water quality in the Ōtākaro/Avon River significantly impacts on mahinga kai. For manawhenua, the restoration of the Ōtākaro/Avon River is critical. A healthy river provides a place for swimming, fishing, playing and experiencing the benefits that mahinga kai can provide whānau.

A diagram explaining the prinicples of mahinga kai


WAIRUATANGA: Connection to place and to the natural environment.

  • Encourage closer connection to the natural environment
  • Create living environments that respond to natural processes
  • Acknowledge and protect mauri (life essence)

KAITIAKITANGA: Custodianship, shared responsibility and respect for our natural environment.

  • Enhance river habitats and water quality
  • Develop a kaitiakitanga approach to natural resource management
  • Nurture ecological vitality for the benefit of future generations

WHAKAPAPA: Identity, history and acknowledgement of tīpuna (ancestors).

  • Celebrate and remember histories and stories
  • Strengthen sense of identity and pride
  • Acknowledge and connect to sites of cultural significance

MANAAKITANGA: Safe, inclusive and welcoming environments, productive landscapes.

  • Develop safe and accessible public places with transport and connections
  • Provide welcoming, caring and safe environments
  • Create productive landscapes so the community can provide for guests

HAUORA: Physical, spiritual and mental health and wellbeing.

  • Create environments that encourage physical activity
  • Promote greater understanding of natural health practices and medicines

WHANAUNGATANGA: Social and whānau connections, community togetherness.

  • Provide places for living and gathering
  • Foster community and whānau togetherness

MĀTAURANGA: Education, cultural practices, the growing and sharing of knowledge.

  • Create education, research and development centres
  • Build learning environments for children and communities to increase their understanding of the natural and cultural environment
  • Promote traditional ecological knowledge and practices.


Objective : Create a restored native habitat with good quality water so there is an abundant source of mahinga kai, birdlife and native species.


What is mahinga kai?

Mahinga kai provides a holistic approach to the sustainable management of the river and its natural resources.

For Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu, mahinga kai is an important concept that can be described as the places where natural resources are obtained, and the philosophies and practices that surround them. Mahinga kai means to work (mahi) the food (ngā kai) and refers to the seasonal migration of people to key food gathering areas during the summer, where they would gather and prepare natural resources to sustain them through the colder months.

Ensuring future generations can experience mahinga kai is central to Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu identity. It’s the responsibility of today’s generation to safeguard the mauri (life essence) of the natural environment, and to ensure its security and capability for us, and our children after us.


A unique opportunity

Mahinga kai presents a unique opportunity to adopt a holistic management approach for the whole of the Regeneration Area. As well as focusing on sustainability, it offers a chance for local communities and visitors to learn about restoring and caring for native ecosystems, the traditional Māori concept of mahinga kai, native species and their uses, and the history and culture of the area. As importantly, mahinga kai offers the opportunity to exercise the whakapapa, kaitiakitanga and the other key values that are an integral part of mahinga kai.


Water quality and mahinga kai

Poor water quality in the Ōtākaro/Avon River significantly impacts on mahinga kai. For manawhenua, the restoration of the Ōtākaro/Avon River is critical. A healthy river provides a place for swimming, fishing, playing and experiencing the benefits that mahinga kai can provide whānau.

A diagram explaining the prinicples of mahinga kai


WAIRUATANGA: Connection to place and to the natural environment.

  • Encourage closer connection to the natural environment
  • Create living environments that respond to natural processes
  • Acknowledge and protect mauri (life essence)

KAITIAKITANGA: Custodianship, shared responsibility and respect for our natural environment.

  • Enhance river habitats and water quality
  • Develop a kaitiakitanga approach to natural resource management
  • Nurture ecological vitality for the benefit of future generations

WHAKAPAPA: Identity, history and acknowledgement of tīpuna (ancestors).

  • Celebrate and remember histories and stories
  • Strengthen sense of identity and pride
  • Acknowledge and connect to sites of cultural significance

MANAAKITANGA: Safe, inclusive and welcoming environments, productive landscapes.

  • Develop safe and accessible public places with transport and connections
  • Provide welcoming, caring and safe environments
  • Create productive landscapes so the community can provide for guests

HAUORA: Physical, spiritual and mental health and wellbeing.

  • Create environments that encourage physical activity
  • Promote greater understanding of natural health practices and medicines

WHANAUNGATANGA: Social and whānau connections, community togetherness.

  • Provide places for living and gathering
  • Foster community and whānau togetherness

MĀTAURANGA: Education, cultural practices, the growing and sharing of knowledge.

  • Create education, research and development centres
  • Build learning environments for children and communities to increase their understanding of the natural and cultural environment
  • Promote traditional ecological knowledge and practices.