Mahinga Kai

Core Environmental Infrastructure - Co-Led by AvON SSG and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu  



Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the Avon Ōtākaro Network and the Canterbury Waterways Research centre have agreed to work together to develop a proposal for a mahinga kai project in Christchurch.  

The aim is to restore and re-develop a mahinga kai in greater Christchurch to include recognition of cultural and heritage values, and restoration and enhancement of ecosystems, natural habitat, biodiversity, inanga spawning, pathway connections, stormwater treatment, land drainage, food production and active and passive recreation.

AvON considers this as providing the core environmental infrastructure of the proposed ecological reserve from the city to the sea, with restoration of mahinga kai inseparable from the restoration of natural habitat, water quality and biodiversity.

The Natural Environment Recovery Programme for greater Christchurch has as its Project 17 to ‘Act on opportunities to restore and enhance mahinga kai', with Ngāi Tahu (Ngā Papatipu Rūnanga and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu) as the lead agency.

The approach being taken is to develop an exemplar project at Anzac Drive Reserve that demonstrates how a mahinga kai project could be developed and what outcomes would be expected. 

Mahinga Kai

Mahinga kai is a key Ngāi Tahu value for earthquake recovery. It is an important aspect of the Ngāi Tahu Settlement Claim. 

Mahinga kai is the concept that exemplifies the complex, interconnected cultural beliefs and practices of Ngāi Tahu in relation to the environment, describing not only the species gathered but the places and practices involved in doing so. It includes the direct and indirect use of resources for ceremonial, medicinal and sustenance purposes. 

Mahinga kai, meaning to mahi ngā kai (work the food), is a management concept, a way of thinking that involves and understands the simultaneous protection and use of resources. Ngāi Tahu approach this from an integrated management model known as Ki Uta Ki Tai (from the mountains to the sea). 

Ngāi Tahu supports the metaphor of a plaited rope with the weaving of exotic and indigenous species, and of Pākehā and Ngāi Tahu traditions. 

Ngāi Tahu interprets mahinga kai in its broadest sense to include food for body, mind and spirit.  Education, learning (‘food for thought’) and spiritual sustenance are thus as much a part of mahinga kai as the physical food.

Mahinga Kai Exemplar (MKE) Project:

Anzac Drive Reserve


Proposed Outcomes

1. Exceptional, well-used learning resources and outdoor classrooms

    -     Researched, designed and created by young people

    -     A legacy of understanding of mahinga kai, cultural, environmental and social wellbeing values

2. Restored natural environments that tell the stories of the land and water

    -     Surveyed, planted and maintained by young people

    -     A legacy of turangawaewae and kaitiakitanga (responsibility and guardianship) for the land and water

3. Extension of the exemplar into other reserves and communities

    -     Planned, promoted and engaged by young ambassadors

    -     A legacy of outreach and interconnectedness with a growing number of schools and communities.


Mahinga Kai Baseline Survey Report  

Mahinga Kai Exemplar Project Specification

Latest concept plan and map

15 Minute Promotional Video

Workshop Notes Nov 2013


Kathryn Bates   (Mahinga Kai Exemplar Project Manager, Avon-Ōtākaro Network) 021 395 293

Evan Smith   (Avon-Ōtākaro Network Stakeholder Engagement) 029 739 9796

Jamie-Lee Tuuka (Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu)

Te Marino Lenihan   (K4 Cultural Landscape Consultants Ltd)