National | Ruatoki

Tūhoe hunters put safety first

Hapū of Ruatoki have seen the benefits of placing a hunting rāhui along the riverbed of Ōhinemataroa during the summer break.

Last year in December the Ruatoki-based hapu initially placed a 4-week ban on firearm use alongside the riverbed from Ohinenaenae to Te Putere in an effort to protect whanau who usually return to the area for recreational purposes during their holiday break.

Local hunter and kaumatua of Hāmua, Kelly Kaata, has been supportive of the idea.

He told Te Kāea, “The aim was to raise the awareness of safety for our families and youth who travel alongside this river and the dangers of firearms- to prevent a fatality.”

Te Whetu McCorkindale, a spokesperson of Te Komiti o Runga, the office for Ruatoki hapū, says “Local elders of Ruatoki saw the benefits of the rahui and decided to extend it to Waitangi Day- until whanau and tamariki returned back to school.”

Another hunter and local resident Manuka Apiata also sees the benefits of the ban as an avenue to raise the awareness around environmental protection, “I remember when I was still at school and within a short distance you were able to count 50 trout, now it’s a rare find unless you walk a mile,” he says.

In 2014 co-management of Te Urewera and areas within Ōhinemataroa river returned to Tūhoe.

Ruatoki is a small community where hunting and food gathering is a lifestyle.

Mr McCorkindale told Te Kaea, “Firearm incidents while hunting within the area aren’t heard of and the last incident [he recalls] was in the 1960’s.”

Hapu are looking at implementing the ban every year as a safety measure for whānau.  A blessing to end the rāhui took place yesterday at Owaka by local whanau and hunters of Ruatoki.

Shortly after, hunters were back on their horses heading up the river to do what they love.