Marlborough iwi plan to raise sea guardian in fight to stop salmon farm relocation

Dolphins are a common occurrence in the Pelorus Sound. (File photo)
DALE GUTHRIE

Dolphins are a common occurrence in the Pelorus Sound. (File photo)

Legend has it that a tribal deity has been holed up in the Marlborough Sounds for centuries, protecting seafarers.

And now the spiritual guardian or taniwha known as Kaikaiawaro could be used to try to block the relocation of six salmon farms.

It's understood Ngati Kuia, who are opposed to the salmon farm on the grounds that it is being driven for "short-term profits", will cite the creature as one reason why the development shouldn't go ahead.

A Marlborough iwi believe a tribal deity, similar to this one which once appeared on a stamp, has lived in the Sounds ...

A Marlborough iwi believe a tribal deity, similar to this one which once appeared on a stamp, has lived in the Sounds for centuries.

A Ngati Kuia spokesman said the salmon farms were a threat to the long-term health of the Sounds.

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New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said his company was trying to find out how many Ngati Kuia ...

New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said his company was trying to find out how many Ngati Kuia members still believed in the deity.

"The world is changing with increasing demands and new technologies. It is increasingly important that we take a long-term view and look after our special place, our home, our taonga.

"In our view this proposal is being driven for short-term profits and over the long-term will have major consequences on our environment, social, economic and cultural wellbeing." 

King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said an iwi member had raised the subject of Kaikaiawaro with him, at a late stage of the consultation, and it had come as a surprise. 

Pelorus Jack swims in the bow wave of a steamer in 1912. He is believed to be the latest incarnation of Kaikaiawaro.

Pelorus Jack swims in the bow wave of a steamer in 1912. He is believed to be the latest incarnation of Kaikaiawaro.

The company was trying to find out how many Ngati Kuia members still believed in the deity, Rosewarne said. 

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"I doubt whether a majority hold that belief." 

If Ngati Kuia members truly believed in Kaikaiawaro he would expect them to do something to indicate their belief, for instance as Christians celebrated Easter and Christmas, Rosewarne said. 

A view over Waitata Reach at the entrance to Pelorus Sound. Blowhole Point is close to the peninsula in the foreground.
MICHAEL STEVEN

A view over Waitata Reach at the entrance to Pelorus Sound. Blowhole Point is close to the peninsula in the foreground.

Maori historian Dr Peter Meihana, a lecturer at Massey University, said there were believed to be many different incarnations of Kaikaiawaro over time. 

"For Ngāti Kuia, their identity is based firmly on their relationship with the 'white dolphin' — Kaikaiawaro — and the waters he frequented," Meihana said. 

In their written submission on the salmon proposal the iwi said they had the "unenviable task" of being in the position of  kaitiaki, or guardians of the area.

What lies beneath: Life below the surface in Waitata Reach.
SUPPLIED

What lies beneath: Life below the surface in Waitata Reach.

They were going to expand on their submission to the hearings panel, where they are expected to talk in greater detail about the importance of the site. 

Meihana said he believed Ngati Kuia's objections were predicated on the cultural significance of the site, and the iwi's history and association with Pelorus.

Kaikaiawaro is known as the "kaitiaki" of local iwi Ngati Kuia, appearing to give assistance at times of need.

Heading out into the Pelorus Sound. (File photo)
FAIRFAX NZ

Heading out into the Pelorus Sound. (File photo)

Kaikaiawaro is said to live in a cave at the entrance to the Pelorus Sound, and has helped travellers cross Cook Strait.

According to local legend, the latest incarnation was the well-loved risso's dolphin Pelorus Jack, famous around the world for guiding ships through French Pass at the turn of the 20th century.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is proposing to relocate six salmon farms at low-flow sites for better environmental outcomes. 

The dolphin Pelorus Jack was said to help sailors navigate the French Pass, a short but tricky stretch of water between ...
ANNA MCINTYRE

The dolphin Pelorus Jack was said to help sailors navigate the French Pass, a short but tricky stretch of water between the outer Pelorus Sound and d'Urville Island.

Two of the relocated salmon farms would be near the western entry point to Pelorus Sound. There were three further farms proposed for Pelorus Sound and one proposed for Tory Channel. 

The Pelorus Sound was often described as an "industrial sound" but Ngati Kuia took issue with that, Meihana said.

Tribal deities have caused headaches for the Government in the past, with Transit New Zealand moving part of State Highway 1 in 2002 after Ngati Naho of Meremere claimed it was cutting through the domain of one-eyed taniwha Karu Tahi.

In the same year, a Northland iwi unsuccessfully claimed a prison should not be built at Ngawha because of a taniwha.

While some taniwha are depicted as monsters, they are also often interpreted as protectors of different iwi.

A North Island version of Kaikaiwaro is known as the taniwha Tuhirangi.

Kaikaiawaro was said to have arrived in New Zealand with Kupe, an early Polynesian navigator, and is credited with guiding both Ngati Kuia ancestor Matuahautere and mythical swimmer Hine Poupou into the Sounds.

Pelorus Jack disappeared at the time of WWI, and one interpretation was Kaikaiawaro travelled to Europe to protect the Ngati Kuia men who had enlisted in the armed forces.

In January this year MPI called for submissions on its proposal to relocate the farms, after concerns three were failing to meet best-practice guidelines, and three more would fail to meet them in the future.

Nearly 600 submissions were received on the proposal, and two- thirds of them were in favour of King Salmon.

However submissions have been received from residents and environmental groups concerned about the proposal's environmental impact- and the harbourmaster and Port Marlborough have raised concerns about two farms potentially disrupting navigational routes in the Sounds. 

A hearings panel is listening to submissions from residents, businesses and other groups in the community until May 17.

Rosewarne claimed he had tried to build a better relationship with Ngati Kuia, but the iwi had not communicated with King Salmon in the way the company would have liked.

"It takes two to engage," he said. 

 - Sunday Star Times

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