Tuhituhi o neherā – protecting Māori rock art

Art conservation is not a role you would usually associate with environmental planning but in South Canterbury this has become an important focus of the local water zone committee.

The protection of ancient Māori rock art , known as tuhituhi o neharā, has been supported by the Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora Water Zone Committee in the development of its future water management planning.

Hundreds of local drawings on limestone rock, some of which could be up to 1000 years old, are susceptible to damage or destruction from changes to land use, exposure to the elements and environmental changes.  Such sites are a taonga to Ngāi Tahu who are actively involved in their conservation and ongoing management.

Rock art on Limestone

Photo credit: Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust

Following a presentation by the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust, the Water Zone Committee supported the inclusion of measures to protect the art in its recommendations to councils on water management as part of its Zone Implementation Programme Addendum (ZIPA).

South Canterbury has one of the highest density of tuhituhi o neharā in New Zealand and, while some locations are public, the vast majority are on private property.

The art is particularly vulnerable because of the materials used to create it – pigments such as soot and kokowai (red ochre) – and the fragile limestone ‘canvas’ to which the art is applied.

 If you like to know more about the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust visit their website.