Koha is an important part of tikanga Māori, and an example of reciprocity.

Koha is tikanga Māori and involves the act of giving. Formal koha is the giving of gifts or money by manuhiri to a host marae as part of a pōwhiri.

Koha is also a common practice in Aotearoa in many informal ways. We often bring a koha of food or gifts when visiting friends and whānau. Very rarely would people arrive to visit without bringing something, however small.

Instead of charging an entrance fee to events and venues, a koha may be requested. This usually means that we give what we can afford. It’s still a freely given gift rather than a charge for services or entrance to an event.


Koha is an example of reciprocity, which is an important part of tikanga Māori. Giving gifts by the manuhiri (visitors) to the hau kāinga (host marae) was traditionally in the form of food, although taonga (treasured possessions) are sometimes offered as koha. In more modern times a koha of cash is likely to be given.

The koha reflects the mana of both the giver and the recipient, reflecting what the giver is able to give, and the esteem in which they hold the person or group to whom they are making the gift. This important acknowledgment is part of forming good relationships and is taken very seriously. Misunderstandings related to koha have the potential to cause offence.

The traditional practice of koha happens today in Māori contexts. At hui, any money given helps with the actual costs associated with the meeting, and for the benefit of non-Māori unfamiliar with the custom, some marae may suggest a particular amount be given as koha.

Koha is part of the pōwhiri process

This image from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand depicts pōwhiri, te kawa o te marae (marae protocol), and the act of koha.

University of Auckland, Department of Anthropology, Anthropology Photographic Archive
Reference: 441745
Photograph by Maureen Lander

Helpful resources for whānau