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In Māori culture, a rāhui is a form of tapu restricting access to, or use of, an area or resource by unauthorised persons.[1] With the passing of the 1996 Fisheries Act, a rāhui can also be imposed by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries.[2] In the Cook Islands, Raui (rahui) have been put in place by the National Environment Service.[3]

Rāhui may be imposed for many reasons, including a perceived need for conservation of food resources or because the area concerned is in a state of 'tapu', due, for example, to a recent death in the area, out of respect for the dead and to prevent the gathering of food there for a specified period.[4] Rāhui may be placed on land, sea, rivers, forests, gardens, fishing grounds, and other food resources. A rāhui is given its authority by the mana of the person or group that imposes it. (Barlow 1994:104).

An area may be set aside for a special purpose or function. Trees may be set aside as a carving resource; or flax bushes for the weaving of a special cloak for a chief. Areas may be placed under rāhui requiring them to be left to lie fallow so that the resources may regenerate.[5]

The custom of rāhui is still used today, and it has similarities to the bans imposed by the present day legal system on the gathering of food resources for conservation purposes; however Māori often perceive such bans on the gathering of traditional resources such as shellfish and native birds as 'another denial of their customary rights.'[6]

A sign or physical symbol may be displayed to show that a rāhui has been imposed. Sometimes a carved or decorated wooden stick or post may be placed in the ground. Natural features of the landscape can indicate the boundaries of the area that is under restriction. Additionally, people will be informed about the placing of the rāhui.[7]

The imposing of rāhui by Māori iwi has no official legal standing, and penalties are not formally imposed upon anyone breaking a rāhui,[8] but it is seen as culturally insensitive to do so, and in general all members of the public tend to respect the tradition.[9]


  1. ^ Rāhui – prohibitions
  2. ^ "Rahui To Protect Kaikoura Coastline", 17 September 2002
  3. ^ The Rahui : legal pluralism in Polynesian traditional management of resources and territories. Bambridge, Tamatoa,. Acton, A.C.T. ISBN 9781925022919. OCLC 931672644.
  4. ^ Rerekura, E., "Iwi puts rāhui in place after death at Tora," Radio New Zealand, 4 August 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  5. ^ Cleve., Barlow, (1991). Tikanga whakaaro : key concepts in Māori culture. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0195582128. OCLC 26130392.
  6. ^ Cleve., Barlow, (1991). Tikanga whakaaro : key concepts in Māori culture. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press. p. 106. ISBN 0195582128. OCLC 26130392.
  7. ^ Cleve., Barlow, (1991). Tikanga whakaaro : key concepts in Māori culture. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press. pp. 105–106. ISBN 0195582128. OCLC 26130392.
  8. ^ "Rahui placed over area where body of Dunedin woman Nic Hedley was found," stuff.co.nz, 3 May 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Rahui clears Waimarama Beach after drowning," New Zealand Herald, 15 January 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • C. Barlow (1994). Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Māori Culture. Reprint with corrections. First published 1991. Auckland:Oxford.