Koutu Nui takes part in Raui meeting in Moorea
The Cook Islands delegation to an international conference held in Moorea, Tahiti on 6 and 7 March 2009 on the ancient practice of ‘Raui’ were very well received. Our delegation members were Apai Mataiapo (Koutu Nui), Tania Temata (NES), Sylvia (WWF) and Jacqui Evans (Public Health) who joined groups from all over the Pacific including members of Pomare family, the ancient royal family of Tahiti
Apai said the conference delegates were fascinated to hear that our traditional Chiefs are recognized in law and have retained their mana and take an active role in traditional areas.
He explained that it was the late Papa Arapati Henry who insisted on the establishment of the House of Ariki in 1966 for our Paramount Chiefs in recognition of their high status. A few years later, in 1972 the Koutu Nui for the Mataiapo and Rangatira was established and recognized in an amendment to the House of Ariki Act.
The recognition and the ability to impose traditional bans and be accepted by the public was of huge interest to the other Pacific countries especially the Pomare family who said their mana is has been overtaken by the Mayors and other government officials in their country.
The revival of the ancient practice of ‘Raui’ came about some ten years ago with a noticeable decrease of the fish stocks and shell fish in the lagoons. The situation had become critical and Marine Resources and the Environment Service were trying to find a solution to the problem. Enter some of the Mataiapo of the Koutu Nui who could see the wisdom of applying the ancient practice of ‘Raui’ and to call for a ban on fishing for certain areas.
Protocol was to visit the Paramount Chiefs of Rarotonga for their blessing and then to discuss the matter with the other members of the Koutu Nui. The Mataiapo who have land rights in their area to exercise their customary rights and declare a ‘Raui’ of the area of lagoon. WWF assisted with the scheme by providing signage declaring the Raui which were posted in the areas.
Most villages readily accepted the ban but other villages raised objections and asked where they were going to feed their children, to which some Mataiapo replied that if they kept over fishing the lagoon, they would have nothing left to feed their children anyway.
The scheme has been a great success and the fish stocks have increased greatly at certain times, the Raui is temporarily lifted for a limited time and then reinstated. Other areas are subject to permanent Raui such as in Avana and Muri. .
Apai told the conference that the concept has been a success in regenerating fish stocks and the Koutu Nui would like to continue to educate the younger generation about the role of the Aronga Mana as the stewards of our natural resources and to promote respect for our traditional customs and traditional leaders.
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