Maunga Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu. Source/Bubs Smith, used with permission.
NB: This article has been updated to include an interview from Te Ngaehe Wanikau of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. The interview was conducted in Māori and his exact words are indicated in bold type. A contextural translation is included below each quote.
In acknowledgement of the recent death in Tongariro National Park, Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Tūwharetoa have placed a rāhui on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Te Ngaehe Wanikau from Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro placed the rāhui on the area and spoke with Te Ao Māori News concerning the extreme dangers involved with climbing Tongariro.
"Ahakoa kua whiti te rā, he pai te mahana kei te pūtake, he rerekē! He rerekē te āhuatanga o Tāwhirimātea o te maunga!"
"Despite the fact that sun is shining and the weather is fine at the base of the mountain, the atmospheric conditions at the pinnacle of the mount are an entirely different matter."
Wanikau lamented the death, saying that Tongariro is not an easy mountain to climb. He further cautioned the aged and unfit, to reconsider climbing Tongariro, lest the difficulties cause harm.
"Ko tērā tētehi o ngā raru i runga i a mātou ko te nuinga o te rōpu, he pakeke. Ehara i te hikoi mō ngā pakeke."
"That was one of the issues we had - that the majority of the climbers of this particular group were old. This is not a track for older climbers."
According to Wanikau, Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro are affected deeply when people suffer calamity on their ancestral peak.
"Ka heke te wairua o ngā āhuatanga o te maunga o te maunga me ngā tangata e noho ana kei te pūtake."
"The spirit of the mountain itself is affected, as well as the disposition of the people who live at the mountains' base."
As part of his hapūs' responsibility as kaitiaki for Tongariro, Wanikau explains that when he performed the karakia to impose the rāhui, that the bereaved whānau accompanied him. He says that he explained to them, that the rāhui was necessary to help heal the land after the death of their loved one. He continued to explain to them, that the rāhui, was also, to help with their healing after their tragic loss.
"Anei ngā tāngata o taua whenua e tuku ana i te arohā me te manaakitanga ki ngā tāngata e noho kei roto, kei raro i te mamae."
"Here we are, the people of the area, giving our love and care for those that are stricken with grief."
The rāhui will be in force until it is lifted on Monday 17 February at sunrise.
All hikers are asked to respect the rāhui by using alternative tracks until it is lifted.
Rāhui is an ancient Māori practice where a prohibition was placed over an area. While it is common to impose rāhui over an area where a death, accident, or tragedy has taken place, they can be enacted for other reasons.
Rāhui can be placed on the hunting or fishing of certain animals to enable regrowth, much like how the kiwi has protected species status.
They are often commenced and concluded with karakia.
The Impact of Mass Tourism on Maunga Tongariro
The death of this person on Tongariro Maunga raises questions on how tourism in Tongariro National Park is being managed. Te Ngaehe Wanikau speaks on the impact mass tourism has had on his maunga tīpuna.