Ngāi Tahu

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Ngāi Tahu
Iwi of New Zealand
Ngai Tahu Takiwa.jpg
Rohe (location) South Island
Waka (canoe) Tākitimu, Arahura, Āraiteuru
Population 39,180

Ngāi Tahu, or Kāi Tahu, is the principal Māori iwi (tribe) of the southern region of New Zealand, with its tribal authority, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (sometimes known as TRoNT[1]), based in Christchurch and Invercargill. The iwi combines three groups, Kāi Tahu itself, and Waitaha and Kāti Mamoe who lived in the South Island prior to the arrival of Kāi Tāhu. The five primary hapū of the three combined groups are Kāti Kurī, Ngāti Irakehu, Kāti Huirapa, Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Te Ruakihikihi. (Some people claim explicit descent from one or both of Waitaha and Kāti Mamoe whānui, often in conjunction with Kāi Tahu. However, others argue that due to conflict and intermarriage these groups have become incorporated into Kāi Tahu, and are no longer distinct.)

The iwi's takiwā (tribal area), the largest in New Zealand, extends from Kaikoura in the north to Stewart Island / Rakiura in the south, and includes the West Coast area, Tai Poutini. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu comprises 18 rūnanga/rūnaka (councils) representing geographical areas, generally corresponding to traditional settlements.

The New Zealand Parliament passed the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act in 1998 to record an apology from the Crown and to settle claims made under the Treaty of Waitangi. One of the Act's provisions covered the use of dual (Māori and English) names for geographical locations in the Kāi Tahu tribal area.


Sculpture of Tipene O'Regan, rangatira, kaumatua, writer, orator, teacher and principal negotiator of the Ngai Tahu settlement.

Ngāi Tahu trace their traditional descent from Tahupōtiki, the younger brother of Porou Ariki, founding ancestor of Ngāti Porou, a tribe of the East Coast of the North Island. They originated on the east coast of the North Island, from where they migrated south to present-day Wellington. Late in the 17th century they began migrating to the northern part of the South Island. There they and Kāti Mamoe fought Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne in the Wairau Valley. Ngāti Māmoe then ceded the east coast regions north of the Clarence River to Ngāi Tahu. Ngāi Tahu continued to push south, conquering Kaikoura. By the 1690s Ngāi Tahu had settled in Canterbury, including Banks Peninsula. From there they spread further south and into the West Coast.[2]

In 1827-1828 Ngāti Toa under the leadership of Te Rauparaha successfully attacked Ngāi Tahu at Kaikoura. Ngāti Toa then visited Kaiapoi, ostensibly to trade. When Ngāti Toa attacked their hosts, the well-prepared Ngāi Tahu killed all the leading Ngāti Toa chiefs except Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha returned to his Kapiti Island stronghold. In November 1830 Te Rauparaha persuaded Captain John Stewart of the brig Elizabeth to carry him and his warriors in secret to Akaroa, where by subterfuge they captured the leading Ngāi Tahu chief, Te Maiharanui, and his wife and daughter. After destroying Te Maiharanui's village they embarked for Kapiti with their captives. Te Maiharunui strangled his daughter and threw her overboard to save her from slavery.[3] Ngāti Toa killed the remaining captives. John Stewart, though arrested and sent to trial in Sydney as an accomplice to murder, nevertheless escaped conviction.[2]

In the summer of 1831-1832 Te Rauparaha attacked the Kaiapoi (fortified village). After a three-month siege, a fire in the pā allowed Ngāti Toa to overcome it. Ngāti Toa then attacked Ngāi Tahu on Banks Peninsula and took the pā at Onawe. In 1832-33 Ngāi Tahu retaliated under the leadership of Tuhawaiki, Taiaroa, Karetai and Haereroa, attacking Ngāti Toa at Lake Grassmere. Ngāi Tahu prevailed, and killed many Ngāti Toa, although Te Rauparaha again escaped. Fighting continued for a year or so, with Ngāi Tahu maintaining the upper hand. Ngāti Toa never again made a major incursion into Ngāi Tahu territory.[2]

By 1839 Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa established peace and Te Rauparaha released the Ngāi Tahu captives he held. Formal marriages between the leading families in the two tribes sealed the peace.


Ngāi Tahu speak or spoke a distinct dialect of Māori (sometimes referred to as Southern Māori). Harlow argues that this dialect has become extinct.[4] The dialect displayed sufficient differences that an early missionary, Rev. James Watkin, based at Karitane, found materials prepared by North Island missions unusable in Otago.[5]

Southern Māori contains almost all the same phonemes as other Māori dialects (namely: /a, e, i, o, u, f, h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w/), along with the same diphthongs. But it lacks /ŋ/ ("ng") — this sound merged with /k/ in prehistoric times:[5] for example: Ngāi Tahu as opposed to Kāi Tahu). This change did not occur in the northern part of the Ngāi Tahu area. Debate continues about the possible presence of additional phonemes /b, p, l, r/.

Some have interpreted the presence of non-standard consonants in the spellings of South Island place-names, such as g (as distinct from k, e.g., Katigi, Otago), v (e.g., Mavora), l instead of r (e.g., Little Akaloa, Kilmog, Waihola, Rakiula), and w or u instead of wh as reflecting dialect difference.[6]

Until the last decade or so, authorities discouraged Southern Māori in favour of standard Māori, but it has gained acceptance in recent years, leading to changes in the official names and translations of several southern places and institutions.

Papatipu runaka

Papatipu runanga/runaka, as constituent areas of Kāi Tahu, each have an elected board which then elect a representative to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Unusually, Kāi Tahu has a very corporate structure, in part due to the death of the last Upoko Ariki (paramount chief), Te Maiharanui,[citation needed] at around the time of the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand. Geographical descriptions below come from the Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu (Declaration of Membership) Order 2001, with some English-language equivalents of place-names included in brackets.

Canterbury runanga

Te Runanga o Kaikoura 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Kaikoura centres on Takahanga and extends from Te Parinui o Whiti to the Hurunui River and inland to the Main Divide.
Te Ngai Tuahuriri 
The takiwa of Te Ngai Tuahuriri Runanga centres on Runanga Tuahiwi and extends from the Hurunui to Hakatere (Ashburton, New Zealand), sharing an interest with Arowhenua Runanga northwards to Rakaia, and thence inland to the Main Divide.
Rapaki Runanga
The takiwa of Rapaki Runanga centres on Rapaki (near Lyttelton) and includes the catchment of Whakaraupo and Te Kaituna.
Te Runanga o Koukourarata 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Koukourarata centres on Koukourarata (Port Levy) and extends from Pōhatu Pa to the shores of Te Waihora, including Te Kaituna.
Wairewa Runanga 
The takiwa of Wairewa Runanga centres on Wairewa (on Banks Peninsula) and the catchment of lake Te Wairewa and the hills and coast to the adjoining takiwa of Koukourarata, Onuku Runanga, and Taumutu Runanga.
Te Runanga o Onuku 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Onuku centres on Onuku and the hills and coasts of Akaroa to the adjoining takiwa of Te Runanga o Koukourarata and Wairewa Runanga.
Taumutu Runanga 
The takiwa of Taumutu Runanga centres on Taumutu and the waters of Te Waihora and adjoining lands and shares a common interest with Te Ngai Tuahuriri Runanga and Te Runanga o Arowhenua in the area south to Hakatere (Ashburton).
Te Runanga o Arowhenua 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Arowhenua centres on Arowhenua (Temuka and extends from Rakaia to Waitaki, sharing interests with Ngai Tuahuriri ki Kaiapoi between Hakatere and Rakaia, and thence inland to Aoraki and the Main Divide.
Te Runanga o Waihao 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Waihao centres on Wainono, sharing interests with Te Runanga o Arowhenua to Waitaki, and extends inland to Omarama and the Main Divide.

Otago runanga

Te Runanga o Moeraki 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Moeraki centres on Moeraki and extends from Waitaki to Waihemo and inland to the Main Divide.
Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki 
The takiwa of Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki centres on Karitane and extends from Waihemo to Purehurehu and includes an interest in Otepoti (Dunedin) and the greater harbour of Otakou. The takiwa extends inland to the Main Divide, sharing an interest in the lakes and mountains to Whakatipu-Waitai with Runanga to the south.
Te Runanga o Otakou 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Otakou centres on Otakou and extends from Purehurehu to Te Matau and inland, sharing an interest in the lakes and mountains to the western coast with Runanga to the north and to the south (includes the city of Dunedin).

Southland runanga

Waihopai Runaka 
The takiwa of Waihopai Runaka centres on Waihopai (Invercargill) and extends northwards to Te Matau sharing an interest in the lakes and mountains to the western coast with other Murihiku (Southland) Runanga and those located from Waihemo (Dunback) southwards.
Te Runanga o Awarua 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Awarua centres on Awarua and extends to the coasts and estuaries adjoining Waihopai sharing an interest in the lakes and mountains between Whakatipu-Waitai and Tawhititarere with other Murihiku (Southland) Runanga and those located from Waihemo southwards.
Te Runanga o Oraka Aparima 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Oraka Aparima centres on Oraka (Colac Bay) and extends from Waimatuku to Tawhititarere sharing an interest in the lakes and mountains from Whakatipu-Waitai to Tawhititarere with other Murihiku Runanga and those located from Waihemo southwards.
Hokonui Runaka
The takiwa of Hokonui Runaka centres on the Hokonui region and includes a shared interest in the lakes and mountains between Whakatipu-Waitai and Tawhitarere with other Murihiku Runanga and those located from Waihemo southwards.

West Coast runanga

Te Runanga o Makaawhio 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Makaawhio centres on Mahitahi (Bruce Bay) and extends from the south bank of the Pouerua River to Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) and inland to the Main Divide, together with a shared interest with Te Runaka o Kati Waewae in the area situated between the north bank of the Pouerua River and the south bank of the Hokitika River. The runanga's marae, Te Tauraka Waka a Maui, at Mahitahi, officially opened on 23 January 2005. Southern Westland, only thinly settled by Māori, had — uniquely in the iwi's region — lacked a marae for 140 years.[7]
Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae 
The takiwa of Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae centres on Arahura and Hokitika and extends from the north bank of the Hokitika River to Kahuraki and inland to the Main Divide, together with a shared interest with Te Runanga o Makaawhio in the area situated between the north bank of the Pouerua River and the south bank of the Hokitika River. Ned Tauwhare is currently chair of the Runanga.

Trading enterprise

Ngāi Tahu actively owns or invests in many businesses throughout the country. In the 2008 financial year, Ngai Tahu Holdings had a net surplus of $80.4 million, of which $11.5 million was distributed to members of the iwi via runanga and whanau.[8]

Tahu FM is iwi's official radio station. It began as Christchurch's Te Reo Iriraki Ki Otautahi on 6 February 1991. Between 1996 and 2001, it formed a broadcasting partnership with Mai FM and began playing more urban contemporary music.[9] It changed its name to Tahu FM in December 1997, and briefly changed its name to Mai FM in 1999 before reverting back to Tahu FM.[10] It broadcasts in Christchurch on 90.5 FM. In 2000 it began broadcasting Kaikoura on 90.7 FM, Dunedin on 95.0 FM, Invercargill on 99.6 FM, and around the country on 505 Sky Digital.[11] Tahu FM resumed broadcasting five days after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, with assistance from Te Upoko O Te Ika and other iwi radio stations, and operated as the city's Māori language civil defence station.[12] In December 2014 it was recognised as the country's highest-rating Māori radio station.[13][14][15]


New investments made in 2009 included:

  • Wigram Air Base in Christchurch.

New investments made in 2008 included:

  • Christchurch Civic Building, purchase of the post office building in joint venture with Christchurch City Council
  • Mahaanui Office development for the Department of Conservation
  • Armstrong Prestige Showrooms developed for Armstrong Prestige
  • Building 4, restoration of old court house at Queenstown and conversion to restaurant/bars facility
  • Hot Pools, construction started on Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools
  • Lincoln Dairy Farm purchase for 600-700 residences subdivision in 50-50 partnership with Lincoln University
  • Ryman Health Care, increasing shareholding to 40 million shares
  • Christchurch, Governor's Bay and Akaroa, purchase land for residential, townhouse developments



  • Ngāi Tahu Seafood

Property and other investments

Ngāi Tahu Property currently has assets with a market value in excess of $550 million. Ngāi Tahu has an investment portfolio of prime properties including:[17]

  • Christchurch Police Station
  • Christchurch Courts Complex
  • Armstrong Prestige Moorhouse Ave, Christchurch
  • National Trade Academy Wigram, Christchurch
  • Turners Car Auctions - Addington, Christchurch
  • Tower Junction Village Whiteleigh Ave Addington Christchurch
  • Tower Junction Megacentre Bulk Retail Centre Christchurch
  • St Omer Wharf, Lake Esplanade - Queenstown
  • O'Regans Wharf, Lake Esplanade - Queenstown
  • Dunedin Police Station - Great King Street Dunedin
  • Queenstown Courts Building - Stanley Street Queenstown
  • Police Station - Camp Street Queenstown
  • Pig and Whistle - Queenstown
  • Forestry, investments in 31 forests throughout New Zealand, totalling more than 100,000 hectares
  • Ryman Healthcare
  • Iveagh Bay Terraces
  • Tumara Park
  • Wigram Village
  • Sockburn Business Park 559 Blenheim Road[18]

Notable Ngāi Tahu


  1. For example: "Research". Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Retrieved 2014-06-16. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (TRoNT) is regularly approached by researchers and organisations seeking engagement, advice or support for various research projects.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Tau, Te Maire, "Ngāi Tahu]", Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Captain Stewart and the Elizabeth - a frontier of chaos?". Ministry for Culture and Heritage, NZ History online. Retrieved 21 Jan 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Harlow, R.B. (1979). ""Regional Variation in Maori". New Zealand Journal of Archaeology, 1, 123-138.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harlow, R. (1987). A word-list of South Island Maori. Auckland: Linguistic Society of New Zealand. ISBN 0-9597603-2-6
  6. Some of these seem much more likely to have resulted from the adoption of English phonemes and phonotactic rules by speakers who are more familiar with English. Similar spellings and pronunciations also occur in the North Island (e.g. Tolaga Bay, Booai (Pūhoi)). Another feature allegedly characteristic of southern Māori, so-called apocope (the dropping of the final vowel of words) which has supposedly resulted in pronunciations like 'Wacky-white' for "Waikouaiti", but in fact the devoicing (rather than apocope) of final vowels occurs in the speech of native speakers of the Māori language throughout New Zealand, and the pronunciation of the names of North Island towns by locals often omits final vowels as well, e.g. "Paraparam", "Waiuk".
  7. "Marae project". Retrieved 2014-01-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu, Annual Report 2008, page 85
  9. "Tahu FM in joint venture with Auckland Station" (Vol. 5 No. 9). Te Māori. p. 7. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Reedy, Lisa (1999). "Tahu FM becomes Mai FM; Aroha mai, aroha atu - 'the things we do for love'" (10). AUT University. Te Karaka : the Ngai Tahu magazine. pp. 12–13. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Kaitaia". Welcome to the Radio Vault. New Zealand: The Radio Vault. 23 July 2009. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Iwi radio stations stand together in wake of earthquake". Human Rights Commission. Nga Reo Tangata: Media and Diversity Network. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Iwi Radio Coverage" (PDF). Māori Media Network. 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Peata Melbourne. "Tahu FM named top iwi radio station in the country". Television New Zealand. Retrieved 19 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  16. [1] Archived August 8, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  17. [2][dead link]
  18. [3] Archived February 20, 2009 at the Wayback Machine

External links