Kereru are a protected species but some iwi want to hunt the birds for cultural reasons

Wood pigeons or kereru have been a protected species since 1922, but some Māori are now calling for the Department of Conservation to allow hunting of the birds for cultural practices.

The wood pigeon has been protected since 1922, but some believe Māori should be able to hunt them on their own land. Source: 1 NEWS

The bird’s considered sacred to Maori and believed to have healing powers.

Some Māori are continuing to hunt and eat kereru or kukupa, as the bird's called in Northland.

Hinerangi is a Māori elder and the daughter of Dame Whina Cooper and says she had kereru about two weeks ago.

“I was brought up in Panguru, we used to have it on our table and we didn’t know as children it was a bird that was forbidden.”

There's no kereru left in Panguru so Hinerangi only has it when she visits her whānau and friends.

In 2016 Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau was fined by the Department of Conservation for hunting wood pigeon, the first prosecution in 10 years.

The Department of Conservation says it takes the poaching very seriously but catching the offender isn’t always easy and relies on information from the public.

Hinerangi believes Māori should be able to go onto their own land and hunt kereru for cultural occasions.

Aaron Taikato from DOC says if you don't have the numbers in the population for active hunting of kukupa then it's just not sustainable.

There are only 15,500 kereru left in New Zealand and it's unlikely it'll ever legally be on the dinner menu.