Hoani Langsbury


YOB: 1963
Experience: Surf Life Saver, Surfer, Albatross/Penguin Centre Manager, Kaitiaki
Regions: Otago, Cook Strait, Banks Peninsula
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 01 December 2015
Post Date: 17 May 2017; Copyright © 2017 Hoani Langsbury and Steve Crawford


Ko Aoraki te Mauka
Ko Waitaki te Awa
Ko Tākitimu te Waka
Ko Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Waitaha, Rapuwai, Kati Hawea Nga Iwi
Ko Otakou te Whenua
Ko Otakou te Marae
Ko Hoani Langsbury au ho

LANGSBURY: In my mihi to you, I speak of my ancestral mountain which is Aoraki, my river which is the Waitaki, and my ancestral canoe which is Tākitimu Those are my ancestral links to Te Wai Pounamu through my Ngāi Tahu whakapapa. I have links to other parts of the South Island through the other tribes that I identified in my mihi. My Marae, or my Whenua, is the area that I strongly associate with, which is Otakou, which is at the entrance to the Otago Harbour. But our takiwā, from the coastal perspective, goes from the northern side of the harbour down south, as far as Slope Point. My name is Hoani Langsbury, I'm a Kaitiaki. I consider myself to be a conservationist and a generalist. I have a B.Sc. in zoology and ecology. And a postgrad diploma in geography, all based around my areas of interest and those relate to the coastal takiwā, the coastal areas of my ancestors. But I also have an interest in the terrestrial environment. I have been chair of the Otago Conservation Board for five years, and another ten years that I was a Board Member. I currently sit as a Trustee on the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, the Otago Biodiversity Group, coordinator for the reintroduction of the Buff Weka to the East Coast of the South Island. I am an active Kaitiaki or Tangata Tiaki for the local runaka Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, which has me responsible for the customary fishery areas of Ngāi Tahu that fall within the area of my local marae. I currently work as a manager of operations for Taiaroa Head, and that encompasses two ecotourism operations: the Royal Albatross Centre and Blue Penguins Pukekura. The Blue Penguins operation I established for the Whanau Trust, that are the landowners, as a mechanism to meet their resourcing issues around providing kaitiakitanga on the whenua, or the land, that the species lives upon. The species of interest to them in that area is the Blue Penguin. The other area of the Pukekura that I operated was the Royal Albatross Centre - the toroa which is also a taonga species to local Māori. When I say I'm a generalist, it's because I take a holistic view on conservation, and it's probably the only way to get that term to fit the areas that I work within. As a Kaitiaki, you take a holistic position, so we refer to it as Ki Uta Ki Tai, which is ‘from the mountains to the sea.’ All the rain that falls in a particular catchment brings the Mauri, or the ‘life essence’ down through that catchment, into the river which then flows out to the sea. All those processes are linked. You can say that they are all linked through water. We say they're linked through their Mauri, which is their life essence.

CRAWFORD: Where were you born?

LANGSBURY: I was born in Dunedin in 1963

CRAWFORD: At what age did you start to spend a significant amount of time on or around the water?

LANGSBURY: The first time would be primary age, around seven or eight years of age, and that would be on the Otago Harbour.  We had a crib in front of the Marae at Otakou, which we would spend our holidays at. We would regularly go down when the tide was out, onto the beach and collect Tuaki. My recollection was of the channel being so narrow that you could almost throw a stone across it. We could easily, as young children, swim across that. We learned to swim at about the age of about five. So, by the age of about eight or nine we could effectively swim in the harbour. I grew up as a competitive swimmer, which meant that once I was old enough there was no issue about spending large amounts of time in the ocean. It was a normal transition, I guess, from harbour swimming to surf life saving, which we took up at a young age - probably about the age of 12.

CRAWFORD: Ok. Early on, swimming was a major activity, and it was in Otago Harbour. Specifically, what region of the harbour? Was that on either side of your place at Otakou?

LANGSBURY: The beach is called Omate, but it's also the area that when the Europeans arrived, my ancestors went down and met them. The water was referred to as 'Otakou.' The name ‘Otakou’ or ‘Otago’ was given by the Europeans to that piece of land, even though the actual name of the land in that place is Omate. In the local history, it is a significant area.

CRAWFORD: You had previously mentioned to me about the East and West channels at European contact …

LANGSBURY: At Otakou Marae, we have a toku toku panel designed in the windows of our wharenui or main house. Our wharekai, or our kitchen, has a toku toku panel which represents Aramoana. When you're looking out those windows, you're looking out across the harbour. The reason they did that is, the far channel or the western channel, is no longer there. It was called ‘aramoana.’ Aramoana means “the pathway to th sea”.  When the Mole, or the large groyne was put out adjacent to Taiaroa Head to control the channel, it closed off that far channel and sand built up there. The village of Aramoana is now sited in the location of what the best channel was to get into what is now called the Otago Harbour. The near channel to the Marae, or the eastern channel, was known as ‘Otakou.’ When the first Europeans arrived here in their tall ships, and they went around in their whale boats and out onto shore, my ancestors met them on the beach, and they asked 'Where are we?" My ancestors said "You are in otakou" - meaning they were standing in the near channel. The Europeans took that to be where the person that was uttering the answer was, and put that name on the land around them. It became normalized over time, the land area was called Otakou, and eventually the region got its name in the same manner - Otago. The way I understand it, the concept of where we place ourselves in the environment. As Māori, which means common people, we place ourselves as part of the environment alongside the other species that inhabit it. We don't put ourselves above it, where European thought processes and ways of looking at things in a completely different manner. That's why there were two really different precedents, with regard to the European’s question and the answer in that context.

CRAWFORD: At the age of seven you spent a lot of time around the harbour. Did you spend any significant amount of time outside of Otago Harbour area?

LANGSBURY: We travelled quite a lot. My father was a commercial fisherman. He fished off in an area we call the Chathams, until I was about four years of age. I can recall some parts about him being a fisherman. But the reason he stopped fishing was that he would go to sea for three months at a time. It would take a while to get out to the Chathams, they would fish out there for crayfish and then return back to Otakou, and his two younger children - which was myself and my sister Elizabeth - we didn't recognize him. When he'd come into the house, we'd run and hide. So, he changed from being a fisherman to being a taxi driver, round about that time. But it meant we had a really good understanding of what was going on in the marine environment, from that fishing perspective.

CRAWFORD: Did you ever get up to Karitane? Spend any significant amount of time up there, or down to the Catlins?

LANGSBURY: Not significantly. If anywhere outside of here [Otago Peninsula], my recollections would be around Moeraki, and up some of the rivers.

CRAWFORD: In terms of your activities, swimming definitely - what about boating?

LANGSBURY: Not a lot of boating, not until we got older. Yeah no, pretty much collecting kaimoana or seafood and swimming.

CRAWFORD: And that would've extended from the age of about seven till what? When did things change for you?

LANGSBURY: Thirteen.

CRAWFORD: During that time, was there a seasonal pulse as well? Summer and winter holidays, where you back out at Otakou?

LANGSBURY: Yeah, until we were teenagers. We would have regularly gone to Otakou, and my father was Upoko Runaka. He was a local chief, so we were regularly at the marae. Though we lived in Dunedin City, we would drive to the marae at least one weekend a month. They would be out there doing marae meetings, and we might have to mow the grass or something like that. Once we had done our couple of hours of chores, we would spend most of our time actually just running around on the beach, walking out to Taiaroa Heads, and playing in the gun emplacement or going out to Pipikaretu Point where there's ancestral land. Another gun emplacement's out there, and playing in those areas on the cliffs above the marine environment. From that time, I've always lived somewhere where I can hear the sea. It's normal.

CRAWFORD: That takes you from about seven to your teen years. I would imagine that when you became a teenager, your scope began to expand a bit. Did you spend more time to the south or the north?

LANGSBURY: Well, I was a competitive surf life saver by that time, so I was travelling around all of New Zealand, competing at beaches throughout the whole of the country.

CRAWFORD: That's an important point. When did you start with the surf life saving club?

LANGSBURY: As a nipper, probably 10 or 11 years of age, and I started competing at 14.

CRAWFORD: The competitions would be weekend kinds of things?


CRAWFORD: In what regions would you have swum competitively?

LANGSBURY: Predominately around the Dunedin beaches, which were St. Kilda, St. Clair, Brighton. There used to be as surf club between those two called Moana Rua, which then moved out to Warrington, and there was a surf club at Warrington Beach to the northwest. We would travel up to Canterbury and compete on the Canterbury Beaches. There was a small surf club at Oreti, so we would compete at Oreti Beach. And throughout the North Island at national championships, but predominantly in the South Island.

CRAWFORD:  How long did you continue with the surf life saving club?

LANGSBURY: When I left New Zealand and went to Australia, I was a member of a surf club at Wanda Beach, which was at the Royal National Park, South of Sydney.

CRAWFORD: At what age did you move to Australia?


CRAWFORD: That's a natural breakpoint then, because you were gaining experience in a local context, but at a different place. How long were you gone?

LANGSBURY: I was only at Sydney for about two years, and then moved back and lived in Christchurch for a couple of years. And then 11 Years in Wellington, before returning home [Dunedin] in 1999.

CRAWFORD: With your time in Christchurch and Wellington, did you spend any significant amount of time on or around the water?

LANGSBURY: I did. Even though I say I was surf life saver, I would have spent more time surfing than I would have surf life saving. I would've been on the water every day, from the age of 15.

CRAWFORD: That's important to clarify, thank you.

LANGSBURY: From the age of 15, I would've spent probably a minimum of two hours on the water every day - through till I was probably 21 or 22.

CRAWFORD: A minimum of two hours doing what?

LANGSBURY: Paddling around, on the surface of the water - waiting for the right waves to come in.

CRAWFORD: Engaged in surfing?


CRAWFORD: And on top of that, you would also be doing surf life saving and swimming?

LANGSBURY: That's right.

CRAWFORD: When you were in Christchurch, when you were in Wellington, what types of on- or near-water activities were you engaged in?

LANGSBURY: In Christchurch I was still surfing, but it was about the time that windsurfing was becoming popular, so I learned to windsurf on the estuary there. But I also went out on Lyttleton Harbour, or out to various beaches. Sumner, Scarborough - places like that.

CRAWFORD: Are we talking one day a week, or so?

LANGSBURY: Every day.

CRAWFORD: Refresh my memory please, how much time did you spend in Christchurch?

LANGSBURY: I spent a couple of years there. Before I went to Australia, I spent about a year in Christchurch, a couple of years in Australia, and then a couple of years back in Christchurch before moving to Wellington.

CRAWFORD: in Wellington, what kinds of coastal activities?

LANGSBURY: In Wellington I raced centreboard yachts, so predominately a sunburst, which is a two-man yacht - kind of like a dinghy, but slightly larger. And then I progressed onto racing shark cats, which are a stretched paper tiger [catamaran] - that's a wooden hull yacht.

CRAWFORD: Was sailing your principal focus when you were in Wellington?

LANGSBURY: It was, though I coached dragon boating on the harbour for the Victoria University for seven or eight years while I was up there, and took that group on a world tour.

CRAWFORD: Any other activities, were you surfing?

LANGSBURY: I surfed occasionally. I might have been able to get out to surf once a week, or once every couple of weeks. I tended to go over to the Wairarapa to do that - Castlepoint and places like that.

CRAWFORD: What regions, specifically?

LANGSBURY: I lived just north of Wellington, at Paremata and Porirua Harbour, and out towards Mana Island in Cook Strait. I also was a founding member of Tufatasi au Moana Waka Ama Club in Wellington when that became popular. As new watersports came along, I found that I was involved with those. When I was in Wellington, I also got my PADI certification as a scuba diver.

CRAWFORD: Did you spend any time in Marlborough Sound? Tasman Bay?

LANGSBURY: Not really. On occasion I hired small boats - went out and trawled for scallops, that sort of thing.

CRAWFORD: When you were spending time in Christchurch, when you were spending time in Wellington - were you on a regular basis coming back home and also spending significant time on the water around the Otago Peninsula?

LANGSBURY: Yes, I was. Every day I was there.

CRAWFORD: What about recreational fishing, line fishing for sport or for food - at any point in time?

LANGSBURY: As a young child, predominantly in the harbour basin in Dunedin. Because we were good swimmers, our parents didn't mind if we went and played on the edge of the harbour for seven or eight hours a day. They would have no idea where we were. Predominately you got leather jackets, that sort of thing in that area. Not a really good eating fish, though there are ways now that you can cook them or bake them, and they taste better. Line fishing would have been at that early age through there. In the North Island once I was scuba diving, I was spearfishing. In more contemporary times, I have a 5.7 m aluminium  boat that we fish off now with my children.

CRAWFORD: How long did the Wellington years run until?

LANGSBURY: 1999, so 11 years in Wellington.

CRAWFORD: Then what happened?

LANGSBURY: Leaving Wellington and returning home, meaning Dunedin. My wife and I were at an age where it was appropriate start having a family. This area here through here, which we refer to as 'the ditch' - Cook Strait - is very expensive to get across. And both our families were from South Island, so it was logical to come back to the South Island somewhere. We were going to go to Christchurch or Dunedin. There was an opportunity that arose when I came down to one of my kuia’s hundredth birthday. I identified a property on the [Otago] Peninsula that was on the market for sale. When I returned to Wellington, I told my wife about it. Within a few months of Aunt Magda celebrating her hundredth birthday, she passed away and we had to return back down here for her funeral. My wife came down at that point and we had a look at the property and made an offer on it, and that offer was accepted. So, while we were living in Wellington, we kind of had two houses. The opportunity came up to become the manager at Otakou Marae, which I applied for that position. About 400 metres as the crow flies from the house to work; where in Wellington we were travelling for a couple of hours in traffic. It was logical to come down here. It was kind of timely, it was the right thing to do. I had almost finished my undergraduate degree, I only had an applied statistics paper to go, which I managed to miss out the last six months of. I went to Otago and sat the exam, and passed it.

CRAWFORD: Where did you start your undergraduate degree?

LANGSBURY: I started as a mature student at Victoria University in about 1996.

CRAWFORD: Part-time or full-time?

LANGSBURY: Initially part-time. I kind of came into the role, I had been in the IT industry for probably a dozen years. And I was involved in dragon boating through Lambton Harbour, which was the Harbour Management Group. I was approached by the Victoria University dragon boat manager to see if I would coach their team for them. I spent the season coaching a whole pile of university students. I kind of liked what I saw of the lifestyle, and I had always made a promise to my mother that even though I left school at 16, once I was older I would go to university. It kind of lined up you know, so I went to university and chose to study something that I had an interest in. I would have preferred to have been more strongly in marine biology, but they did have a marine unit out at Island Bay, so some of my papers were marine-based, some were terrestrial-based. But it ended up being in zoology and ecology. And all those sorts of things I can apply to my Kaitiaki responsibilities.

CRAWFORD: When you moved back to Dunedin, it was about 1999?

LANGSBURY: 1999, yes.

CRAWFORD: From that time to the present, has it been fairly consistent in terms of near or on water activities? 

LANGSBURY: Yes, once I returned home, probably wasn't so much time to be out on the water as I had before we had children. I found myself ensuring the kids were all very good swimmers. I had to introduce them to surfing and all that sort of thing, so I'm justified in having to spend large amounts of time on the beach and other places, because that's where the children need to be. One of them has turned out to be a very good athlete, so I probably spend more time coaching athletics and coaching a bit of swimming. But where I live, we oversee Otago Harbour. I work surrounded by water on 270° and I'm involved with marine species.

CRAWFORD: When you do spend time on the water now, would it mostly be sailing, would it be swimming, or … 

LANGSBURY: Predominantly power boating now. If I had more time, I would probably still be surfing. There are good surfing beaches I can see from my office, that I just never get to. Not too far away, just on the other side of the harbour.

CRAWFORD: But they might as well be on Mars because of your work schedule?


CRAWFORD: Did you spend any significant amount of time around Stewart Island, Foveaux Strait, those kinds of regions around South Island?

LANGSBURY: Not too much, no

Copyright © 2017 Hoani Langsbury and Steve Crawford