Rotokākahi fed up with consistent rāhui breaches

By Aroha Mane

The Rotokākahi Board of Control has had enough of local residents and tourists trespassing into their beautiful lake, deciding to close down some of the tracks to preserve the mauri and purity of their roto.

“It's upsetting the iwi," Rotokākahi Protection Trust chair Wally Lee says.  

"For too long, the mountain bike fraternity, they have access to all the forests around here, they have access to 14 other lakes in this district. They can go to any one of those lakes, they can go to all the mountain bike trails all around here.

“All we are asking is to stay away from this catchment. It's not too much to ask.”

Rotokākahi is privately owned and since 1926 has been controlled by a board consisting of uri of Tūhourangi and Ngāti Tūmatawera. Swimming, fishing and boating are not allowed at the lake but through social media its location is becoming more popular.

“A lot of tourists come here, it's on Instagram pages, Facebook pages, where tourists come in and it’s been marked as a tourist destination point.

“So people from around the world come here to see it, go for a swim in the lake, take pictures, take snapshots and they share it to the rest of the world,” Lee says. 

The iwi have even had to contend with poachers, or late-night trout fishermen, sneaking into the lake to catch the coveted prize.

Rotokākahi Protection Trust's Marisa Balle says, “We feel like we haven't been able to be proactive in connecting our uri with their whenua. We've spent that time trying to stop people from coming in.

“It's not easy when you don't have the resource or the support from anyone else to make sure that that doesn't happen,” she says.

Balle says the local iwi feel hurt, insulted and betrayed when they hear how others treat their lake.

“When we hear that new tracks are opening, that tourists are helping themselves, washing their dogs, washing their animals that hurts.

“What's worse is when some of our own are enabling that sort of activity.”

Lee says, “The Rotokākahi Board of Control and the Tūhourangi Tribal Authority need to have a full hui-a-iwi so we can discuss the issues and build our relationships.”

The main priority for the Rotokākahi Board of Control is eliminating the contamination of their ancestral lake so that they can help their people reconnect to their homelands.