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Māori and the coast

Coastal areas are significant to Māori both spiritually and as a source of food, weaving and carving materials. People have reduced the coast’s natural values and its ability to provide food and other resources but there are many things we can do to help restore our coasts and respect traditional beliefs.

Midden in sand dunes, Aotea

Coastal resources continue to provide sustenance and identity to coastal Maori. Rare weaving materials, such as pingao, grow on coastal dunes. Harbours and estuaries are important breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for fish and birds such as patiki (flounder), matamata (whitebaitf) and kuaka (godwits).

Māori regard the coastal environment as 'baskets of food' providing kaimoana for the coastal community. As a food source, tfhe coast needs to be treated with respect. For example, it is inappropriate to discharge waste into coastal areas.

Sand dunes contain many important cultural sites including:

  • middens - New Zealand’s early domestic rubbish dumps
  • remains of general living areas with stained sands from ovens
  • urupa (burial grounds).

These sites are very significant spiritually to Māori. They also provide a tangible reminder of our history and help us understand the past better.

Changing our coast

Over the years we have lost a lot of the natural character of the Waikato Region’s coastal environment.

We have changed our coasts by:

  • removing coastal plants
  • filling in areas that were once mangrove forests and salt marshes
  • mining coastal minerals (such as iron sand).

Mahinga kai (food collection sites) have been depleted by:

  • sewage and storm water disposal
  • farm runoff
  • sedimentation
  • dredging
  • introduced plants and animals
  • over-harvesting.

Many people are concerned about the desecration of urupa (burial grounds) in caves and beneath sand dunes along the coastline.

Pingao and flax weaving

What can we do to help?

Waikato Regional Council is working with Iwi Trust Boards to produce ‘memoranda of agreement’. These will provide guidelines on how we can best work together.

We also take into account the significance of sites to tangata whenua and request that applicants consult with iwi as part of resource consent applications.

There are lots of ways we can all help.

  • Respect any rahui (harvest bans) in place.

  • Never harvest more than you need.

  • Don't use our coastal areas as rubbish dumps.

  • Don’t use the sea as a toilet.

  • Take part in a coastal planting day. Local Beachcare groups plant pingao and other coastal plants.
  • Don’t disturb any koiwi (human remains) you may find in dunes or caves. If you are concerned contact the Police.

For policy information on a Māori perspective on the coast check out our Regional Coastal Plan.

Find out more about Māori use and perspectives on management of the Waikato region’s resources in:


Iwi   Tribe/people
Kaimoana   Seafood
Rahui   Ban or prohibition on collecting resources
Tangata whenua   People of the land
Urupa   Burial ground