Dedicated to the Memory of Beloved Kaumatua, John Apiti
16 September 1915—16 July 2007
Passed Away Aged 91 years and 10 months
Kawhia kaumatua John Apiti dies 
Maori living around the Kawhia and Aotea Harbours are mourning the loss of one of their senior Kaumatua.

John Apiti spent most of his 91 years farming, and had a lot of input into environmental issues affecting that part of the North Island west coast.

Nephew Davis Apiti says he was highly regarded for his knowledge of te ao Maori, and was a familiar figure at hui throughout the Waikato region.

John Apiti is the last of his generation in the Apiti whanau, and the last to have learned his farming skills from the Mormon Maori Agricultural College.

"He's the last of the old boys from the MAC, that's the college down there in Hastings, and he talked about the good times he enjoyed down there before before the earthquake," Mr Apiti says.

The funeral for John Apiti will be at the Latter Day Saints church in Kawhia at 11 tomorrow, after which he will be buried at the whanau urupa at Matakowhai Point, overlooking Aotea Harbour.
Text version of the letter image above:
My name is JOHN APITI, my address is Aotea, Kāwhia and I have lived at this address for most of my seventy-eight years. The depletion of fish stocks in this area is of grave concern to myself and to family and members of Maori tribes in general. I am therefore moved to write in support of any move which will give some sort of refuge to the many species of fish which can be found in the waters of the Aotea Harbour and the contiguous Tasman Sea.
The first commercial venture was undertaken by some local Maori people (Mr Tom Herbert) but was not carried on with any scale. This was in 1935. In the late nineteen forties, it is believed that a Mr Shadgett was successful in obtaining a dispensation of a 'Rahui' situation, through the good offices of Princess Te Puea. The Maori Economic Social and Welfare Act (1945) allowed the setting aside of reserve areas. At the present time, the current quota system does not distinguish between harbour boundaries and quota holders can move freely within the quota region.
Because of the Harbours early isolation, it was a natural sanctuary and each hapu jealously guarded what was generally regarded as its own particular fishing area. A self imposed rationing and conservation system evolved over the years. I have had a lot of contact with recreational fishermen and with the passage of time, the message is quite clear: ALL FISH STOCKS ARE DEPLETED.
It is with all sincerity that I ask that appropriate organizations move with the utmost celerity and declare the Aotea Harbour an area of RECREATIONAL FISHING ONLY.

John Apiti
Ōkapu Marae

John Apiti (courtesy of Penny Mataira)

23 April 1992
RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION in the Aotea Harbour in particular was always conducted with care since the migration. These landlocked harbours were natural sanctuaries for fish that provided a livelihood to those who lived around its shores for generations spanning a thousand years. The method of catching fish were set nets, once a month or three tides. The nets were made from flax. The hinakis were made for catching eels from mangemange, a tangled creeper that was unravelled and beautifully woven.
And when the fish and eel were caught they were dried for preservation in the sun - a task that required skill for this was the only way to preserve large catches which occurred every full moon. They also grew crops by the phases of the full moon whom they referred to as Rakaunui, meaning full tides and full moons. This of course was a skill to manufacture for on these nets rested the responsibility of feeding the whole tribe ... and there were many tribes.
They did not exist only on fish or eels, they also gathered the berries of the bush, the tubers of the kingfern and also of the ordinary fern which had grown for centuries. But the fish were given special care and none of it was wasted. When dried correctly it would last indefinitely and there was always a lot of dried fish to use of share. Because of the sparing use there were always a great supply.
The fish would leap out of the sea and fall back with a splash out of the water and there were no signs of depletion. They also realised that they were not to catch fish more than two days a month and great care was taken that no dead fish were left on the beach. The same treatment was given to all types of shellfish. The pipis grew large, the mussels grew larger than one’s foot and their method of conservation of their resources meant there was nothing left to be desired to be improved.
But when commercial fishermen made their appearance it was noticed with some concern that the commercial fishermen did not stop operations, and their operations on many occasions drove the fish out to the open sea. At this point Maori went out into the open sea to replenish their supplies. Their operations took them among the islands where there were much fish. The supplies seemed to be unlimited.
The island of Karewa on horizon was surrounded by groupers, but great care had to be exercised as they fished for the groupers. When they hauled up their fishing lines and found sand on the bait it was time to return to the shore as these signs showed that the sea was moving in. Before they reached the shore they were followed by hug waves, but they were within safety.
When they seized to fish for a month and more the fish returned to its habitats in the shelters of its landlocked harbours. Since that strategy was forgotten the fish became depleted and no more can fish be observed to leap our of the sea in reckless abandon.
Since the fish were depleted Mr Rohe Takiari found it necessary to apply for a taiapure so as stocks will have the opportunity to breed again. In around the coast of New Zealand there is but one taiapure established and that is in Wairarapa. It stretches for five miles. This one on the west coast goes from Taranaki Point to Tirua Point and two miles out to sea, around Gannet Island with a circumference of two miles out. This was what was originally applied for. Whether or not we get the whole area remains for the judge.
The reason to support the taiapure is to replenish the depleted stocks of fish.
John Apiti
Ōkapu Marae

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