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Kaitiaki o Tangaroa – Protecting the sea

Kia Ora!

My name is Beth and I’m on a mission to learn, grow and share my love and understanding of all things Māori.

Tangaroa is one of Ranginui and Papatuanuku’s children. Tangaroa is sometimes called the Guardian or God of the sea, but from what I understand he is the sea.

There is belief that the sea is the source and furthermore, for some a foundation of all life as we know it. In the Māori legend, The fish of Maui, it is said that the North Island of NZ is the ika (fish) of Maui and the South Island is the waka.

The sea holds a lot of significance to tāngata Māori and ngā tāngata o Aotearoa in general! In NZ we are surrounded by the ocean, our rivers and waterways all lead to the sea. We use the sea for many recreational activities in our life but importantly it holds life and that life nourishes and sustains us.  


My whakaaro:

Tangaroa has always played a very important part of my life. I love visiting the beach, sitting and listening to the waves brings me peace and clarity, walking and collecting shells helps me to appreciate the present and keeps me in awe of the beauty of nature.

Over the years I have noticed life around beaches have declined and this change has been very sad to watch. When my children were born I became a bag lady! My children are growing up bearing witness to me taking bags wherever we go and picking up rubbish. My partner used to raise an eyebrow but now embraces my need to care. My 5 year old thinks it’s very normal now and will pick up rubbish when we all go out too. I have heard her make reference to the sadness Papatūānuku and the children of Tangaroa feel when rubbish is flying or lying around. When she says these things at spontaneous times I know my message is making an impact and I loveand encourage her empathy for the earth.

One particular Saturday our whanau went for a hikoi around Monaco beach, just around from where we live. My older tamāhine loved running up and down the sand/mud, splashing in the water, making stepping stones, looking for taonga and as the day wore on watching pāpaka pop in and out of their holes in the sand. But on arrival to my disappointment the 30 metre stretch we occupied was littered with  rubbish. Just from this tiny space I collected 4 single use plastic bags in the sand, two glass bottles, a can, a plastic bottle and a large handful of broken glass pieces in many different colours L Its heart breaking to think that my tamariki can’t run barefoot and carefree down the beach or anywhere out in public without the potential of hurting themselves on waste others have left behind. What will it be like in the future when I have Mokopuna?

For having no shoes and socks on is how we connect with our environment, to be barefoot and to feel the whenua beneath our feet is what keeps us grounded and connected.

Things to consider

Of course as humans we are not the be all and end all and the real innocents to the waste issues are nga tamariki o Tangaroa. Plastic especially is something that does not degrade over time and especially not in the water. Ika, aihe, honu, not to mention the many manu, are but a few creatures that get tangled in or eat the plastic from our seas.

Over fishing is another issue that threatens our wildlife and ecosystems.

I am a big believer that when possible we should always leave nature in a better place than when we came or if not at least leave as little a mark on it as possible. I believe we are all Kaitiaki (Guardians). Tangaroa me ngā tamariki o Tangaroa need protection.


What you can do:

Small things can add up. Tamariki will take their lead from you. If you aren’t already, here are just a few things you could do to help:

  • Reduce use of plastics where possible, reuse items whenever you can and recycle.
  • Consider using alternatives than single use plastic bags.
  • Consider using other reusable sustainable materials at home. Some could include, reusable sandwich wraps or reusable containers instead of plastic food wrap.
  • Take your own rubbish home with you after you have visited the beach.
  • Consider picking up rubbish from others too. By yourself or in a group.
  • Recycle anything you can. In 2017 Nelson’s supermarkets started supporting the soft plastic initiative. A lot of supermarkets have these stations to drop off soft plastics. These include a lot of everyday plastics like the bags around toilet rolls and nappies, rice, biscuits and bars. This has cut down a lot of waste in my whare. Find out more information on the initiative, what can be taken there and a drop off store locator near you here. It is possible to promote this in your whare or at your kura.
  • While still talking about Recycling I came across Terracycle who have school recycling programmes that are FREE! You collect the items from whanau in your school and the company pay for postage. I have seen them advertise at times incentives for raising money for schools alongside this initative, but I think the real bonus is they recycle things like fruit pouches, colgate products, coffee pods and glad products. Items that are not taken from weekly recycling runs.

 I do believe that we are only as healthy as our environment because it is and we all are connected. We all have a role to play in our quest to having a healthy sea and healthy people.

Protecting Tangaroa and our environment is something we should consider on a daily basis but Seaweek here in Aotearoa (February/March) can be used to remind us of the seas importance and gives us an opportunity to be mindful of the topic ourselves and consider positive behaviours for our tamariki, as well as bringing up the topic with others and then to take responsibility for the things we can all do to make it better.

I love the fact that the next generation are so open and being proactive in getting amongst their taiao. With encouragement and guidance from Kaiako, kaitiakitanga can be a foundational value in mainstream society.



To learn more about this kaupapa or to extend on learning for yourself and/or tamariki I have put helpful resources you can buy from me down the left hand side of this blog page and related articles on the right.

Feel free to kōrero about this kaupapa in the comments.

Ngā mihi mahana,

Some useful Pānuitanga

The Seaweek website is a great place where you can find events, related items and clean up roopu in your area.

Moana New Zealand have developed a great visual resource for learning the ika (fish) you can find around Aotearoa. You can download the PDF here.

The Kiwi conservation club is another place information can be found by Kaiako and Matua. This particular page has a nice clear message to tamariki ma ‘Be fantastic – use less plastic’ with a colouring page featuring sea creatures and facts about plastic in our oceans.

Our seas our future has a very interesting and informative Facebook page about issues around New Zealand and updates with pictures on local clean-ups. Click here to take a look.

‘Sustainable seafood Now’ has more information about local issues in regards to commercial over fishing and even has a free app that can help you make more informed decisions when buying fish from the supermarket or when you are out at a restaurant. You can get this from there website, but here is the link to their Facebook page.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Any chance of a glossary at end of newsletter? Understood 80% of te reo but would love to learn some more. Great read x

    1. Kia Ora Melanie,
      Thank you very much for the feedback about the Newsletter. I am also glad to hear you would like to learn more te reo. I am also learning myself. I hadn’t considered a glossary but its something to think about if a number of others are in the same waka as you. So thank you. In the meantime I wanted to share this link with you to an awesome online Māori Dictionary I use regularly to increase my vocabulary. A feature I especially love about it is, you type in a word, it gives you the meaning but ALSO next to the word it has a little speaker and if you click it, it also gives you the pronunciation of the word. A really cool wee tool if you wanting to learn new words and practice. Ngā mihi, Beth 🙂

  2. What a great idea to make Maori kaupapa and resources more accessible to everyone. Thank you!

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