Schedule 80 Tōpuni for Aoraki/Mount Cook

ss 238, 239

Description of area

The area over which the Tōpuni is created is the area known as Aoraki/Mount Cook, located in Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, shown as Aoraki on Allocation Plan MS 1 (SO 19831).


Under section 239 (clause 12.5.3 of the deed of settlement), the Crown acknowledges Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu’s statement of Ngāi Tahu’s cultural, spiritual, historic, and traditional values relating to Aoraki, as set out below.

Ngāi Tahu values relating to Aoraki

In the beginning there was no Te Wai Pounamu or Aotearoa. The waters of Kiwa rolled over the place now occupied by the South Island, the North Island and Stewart Island. No sign of land existed.

Before Raki (the Sky Father) wedded Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother), each of them already had children by other unions. After the marriage, some of the Sky Children came down to greet their father’s new wife and some even married Earth Daughters.

Among the celestial visitors were four sons of Raki who were named Aoraki (Cloud in the Sky), Rakiroa (Long Raki), Rakirua (Raki the Second), and Rārakiroa (Long Unbroken Line). They came down in a canoe which was known as Te Waka o Aoraki. They cruised around Papatūānuku who lay as one body in a huge continent known as Hawaiiki.

Then, keen to explore, the voyagers set out to sea, but no matter how far they travelled, they could not find land. They decided to return to their celestial home but the karakia (incantation) which should have lifted the waka (canoe) back to the heavens failed and their craft ran aground on a hidden reef, turning to stone and earth in the process.

The waka listed and settled with the west side much higher out of the water than the east. Thus the whole waka formed the South Island, hence the name: Te Waka o Aoraki. Aoraki and his brothers clambered on to the high side and were turned to stone. They are still there today. Aoraki is the mountain known to Pākehā as Mount Cook, and his brothers are the next highest peaks near him. The form of the island as it now is owes much to the subsequent deeds of Tū Te Rakiwhānoa, who took on the job of shaping the land to make it fit for human habitation.

For Ngāi Tahu, traditions such as this represent the links between the cosmological world of the gods and present generations, these histories reinforce tribal identity and continuity between generations, and document the events which shaped the environment of Te Wai Pounamu and Ngāi Tahu as an iwi.

The meltwaters that flow from Aoraki are sacred. On special occasions of cultural moment, the blessings of Aoraki are sought through taking of small amounts of its “special” waters, back to other parts of the island for use in ceremonial occasions.

The mauri of Aoraki represents the essence that binds the physical and spiritual elements of all things together, generating and upholding all life. All elements of the natural environment possess a life force, and all forms of life are related. Mauri is a critical element of the spiritual relationship of Ngāi Tahu Whānui with the mountain.

The saying “He kapua kei runga i Aoraki, whakarewa, whakarewa” (“The cloud that floats aloft Aoraki, for ever fly, stay aloft”) refers to the cloud that often surrounds Aoraki. Aoraki does not always “come out” for visitors to see, just as that a great chief is not always giving audience, or on “show”. It is for Aoraki to choose when to emerge from his cloak of mist, a power and influence that is beyond mortals, symbolising the mana of Aoraki.

To Ngāi Tahu, Aoraki represents the most sacred of ancestors, from whom Ngāi Tahu descend and who provides the iwi with its sense of communal identity, solidarity and purpose. It follows that the ancestor embodied in the mountain remains the physical manifestation of Aoraki, the link between the supernatural and the natural world. The tapu associated with Aoraki is a significant dimension of the tribal value, and is the source of the power over life and death which the mountain possesses.