What does our history hold?

OK, I have to admit it, I do love the shimmering harbour of Whanganui-a-Tara.   

This was our view on Tuesday this week, when I attended the meeting of the national council of Family Works; the child and family services arm of Presbyterian Support.  Family Works is a Federation of seven independent organisations, four of which are located in the South Island.  Te Pūtahitanga as a “nationally significant partner” was invited to present to their annual hui.  Our key conversation was around the importance of whānau, doing it for themselves rather than being forced into a prescription not of their making.

Later that day I attended the Evidence in Action conference at Te Papa Tongarewa, where one of Te Pūtahitanga’s Board Directors, Parekawhia McLean, shared the experience of Waikato Tainui in investing in the cultural, physical, spiritual, social, and environmental wellbeing of the people (‘walking the talk for future generations’).   Parekawhia talked with passion, about the dream of Te Puea Kia tupu, kia hua, kia puawai; To grow, to prosper, to sustain.   With respect to Waikato that means a clear purpose: grow a prosperous, healthy, vibrant, innovative and culturally strong iwi.   Te Pūtahitanga Board members were in great attendance at the hui – Donovan Clarke was MC Extraordinaire; and Ngāti Toa’s Taku Parai formally opened the hui as mana whenua.

While I was at the conference, during the morning tea break a woman asked me, “when was the last time you learnt something which made you go “WOW?”   In all honesty I could tell her that just the day before I had been shown the world-breaking revelation that you could host up to five people on your mobile phone call by using the “add call” function.   Wonders never cease!

She then followed that question up with “When was the last time you learnt something which made you change the way you do things, every day?”



It made me think.   And think a bit more.   And eventually connect to the universal truth of Whānau Ora – that if we are seeking transformation for all of our whānau to create the future they want, then we need to appreciate just how significant that change can be.  It is unsettling. It is new.   But it is also powerfully exciting to feel the tingle up your spine, when you know this ‘new way’ of communicating; this sense of self-discovery will reap rewards for years to come.  That’s the value of whānau planning.   But it takes practise and it takes a strong sense of self-belief – as our navigator from Te Āwhina Marae in Motueka, Pikiora Spooner, showed us when posing under one of our posters in the office last week.

On Thursday and Friday this week we have been cherishing time in Te Tai Poutini.

The view from the place where I was born, Kaiata – just out of Greymouth.

The view from the place where I was born, Kaiata – just out of Greymouth.

While I might be a little biased to say it is indescribably beautiful, well pictures don’t lie!

We had a special time at Arahura Marae with the Kaumātua Health and Wellbeing Hui; met up with our navigators Rauhine Coakley (Ngāti Waewae) and Jackie Douglas (Makaawhio); had a great session with new Poutini Waiora Chief Executive Carl Hutchby and even attended the WestReap AGM where we caught up with the incredible Tihou Messenger-Weepu, via video as he was at that time climbing up Aoraki (as you do!).   Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu is so proud to be supporting the project led by Tihou, Tuia Te Tai Poutini, the Rangatahi Māori Leadership Development Programme. These wānanga focus around building a sense of self-worth and identity as young Māori by exploring what it means to be connected to whakapapa, whenua and community.. Read about what Tihou has been up to on his blog.

Friday afternoon was spent talking together with key stakeholders in Te Ha o Kawatiri, a community and whānau development approach we have been investing in over the last year.  Te Hā O Kawatiri captures the essence of the people and its natural resources: Te Awa O Kawatiri (River); Ngā Pae Maunga O Paparoa (Mountain Range); and Ngā Tai O Poutini (Sea). Te Hā representing the lifeforce, the breath which is at the essence of the people of Kawatiri.  Te Hā O Kawatiri is a Māori led community wide initiative for anyone living in the Buller District;  driven by the focus on outcomes; that is to reflect the aspirations for whānau wellbeing.

Another very precious experience of our time on the Coast was to spend time at the wāhi tapu, Lake Mahinapua.   Because of the significance of battles that scarred the sense of place dating back to the late 17th Century, Mahinapua is regarded as sacred.   The lake bed was vested in Ngāi Tahu ownership as part of the Treaty Settlement.   Being on those still shores, and looking out over the lake and foreshore moves you to the soul, as you think of the memories that are associated with that place; the histories that still far too many of us have not learnt.   We must never forget or be too scared to ask, what does our history hold?