The Roaring Meg
This week our entire team has been immersed in the magic of Murihiku; travelling the highways from Tahuna (Queenstown) Ōtepoti (Dunedin) to Hokonui, Awarua, Waihōpai and feeling blessed by the rich beauty of the landscape and the warm embrace of the people.
On the last day we spent an afternoon with Ngā Kete Mātauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust in Invercargill and there was a saying on the wall that summed up our week : “To be where the people gather”.
We started off in the Wakatipu Basin, planning and strategizing for the year ahead. It was great to check out Ngāi Tahu Tourism who shared their space with us to have our wānanga, and so it was only fitting that we end the day exploring the thrill of Te Waka Kimiākau (the canoe of Shotover).
Shotover Jets has recently celebrated fifty years of amazing adventure tourism. Every year 140,000 people ride the Shotover Journey. As we sat in that thrill-seeker ride of a lifetime, there were more than a few similarities with the Pūtahitanga experience: the rush of the rapids, the sudden swerve to move in a new direction when the tides of change appear, the moments when we feel we’re spinning in a 360 degree blast of urgency, and the utter depths of beauty, the profound depths of the sacred waters that ground us and give us meaning.
The second day ‘on-tour’ was in exploring some of the entities, and experiences we are supporting in Ōtepoti. It is only when you are travelling the miles and immersed in the landscape that unfolds around you that you truly appreciate how beautiful this land we all call home is. The shimmering lakes, the rippling waters of the rivers – the Mata-Au, Mataura, Kimiākau – the maunga, the journey of the tupuna, Te Rakitauneke, the kaitiaki that give shape to the stories – each new experience helping us gain a richer understanding of the people and communities whom we invest in. Ki uta ki tai: from the mountains to the sea.
We had a wonderful morning at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti. Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti whānau have a dream, a dream to utilize the beautiful whenua and waireporepo to encourage self-sustainability, holistic wellbeing and healthy lifestyles through the establishment of a maara kai and maara rongoā.
This whole project is based on an addressed whānau need. The whānau have discussed the need and desire to have an established maara at their kura and it has been integrated into our strategic plan. Whakatau te wairua – having their ākonga to have a space that allows them to get their feet in the dirt, reconnect with Papatūānuku, settle themselves while at kura gives them a strategy to reflect, whakatau and manage their reactions and behaviours.
We had the privilege of having an opportunity to visit with the Mayor of Dunedin, His worship Dave Cull, and discuss ideas of mutual interest, including how do we support our rangatahi to thrive and grow past the challenges that can sometimes get in their way. We have some exciting rangatahi leadership projects in Ōtepoti, including He Waka Kotuia, engagements between rakatahi, their whānau and elders through wānanga, noho wānanga education sessions, local rūnaka, NCEA workshops, homework centres and community performances.
On Thursday, we were humbled to accept the invite from Matua Terry Nicholas to attend a dynamic public hui at the Rūnanga in Gore. There were so many of our whānau there from entities and initiatives across Murihiku. It was a great opportunity to connect with the whānau from Hokonui and beyond, and ‘to be where the people gather’.
One of the groups there was from Koha Kai: a community driven whānau initiative led by a team of individuals, coming from backgrounds of disabilities, physical, intellectual and emotional. The initiative is driven by single Mums who are the team leaders and volunteers from the local community. Koha Kai enables whānau to have good quality home cooked meals that are affordable for three days per week, as well as providing opportunities to inform whānau of environmental matters, planting, recycling, composting, harvesting, pruning, and identifying materials of nutritional gain for the brain.
Another great initiative we caught up with at the hui was Waihōpai Rūnaka’s initiative to implement, measure and monitor youth, whānau and community wellbeing, by building ownership and commitment at a local level. The project is supported with a rangatahi advisory roopu as well as teachers from right across the community who have agreed to participate. In many respects the most effective strategies for achieving transformation of whānau have been ones which concentrate on relationships as the key measure.
We ended our visits that day by being amazed at the irrepressible energy of Trish Wright-Tawha and her team at Ngā Kete Mātauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust. They certainly have some exciting things happening : Waiata Wednesday; He Puna Waiora – their low-income GP service; a cooking programme by which issues of wellbeing can be addressed while whipping up a snazzy menu; Toitoi – a social enterprise to support whānau through arts and crafts; Tauira Tautoko – student support services at the Southern Institute of Technology; Taitamariki Oranga youth wellbeing; an endless list of possibilities to support the aspirations of their whakapapa ties to Ōraka-Aparima Rūnaka.
They say, “Na te whakarongo me te titiro ka puta mai te kōrero”. Through looking and listening we gain wisdom. This week we have had the remarkable privilege of catching a glimpse into the lives of our whānau at the southern most points of the land. We have sampled the world-famous Jimmy’s Pies in Roxburgh; we have marveled at the passion of Roaring Meg, we have travelled to the Presidential Highway through Balclutha and finished in the wonder that is called Bluff. Along the way we have been blessed to connect with some of our precious whānau who have welcomed us all with true Southern hospitality and helped create memories that our whole team will cherish. We are indeed lucky.
As we said our farewells, the members of our team prepared for a busy weekend ahead:
Maania is representing Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu at the regional conference of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in Invercargill;
Trisha is heading to Hokitika for the exciting launch and wānanga of Hīkoi Waewae at Arahura Marae, 1pm on Saturday
Te Rā is travelling up to Waikawa Marae in Picton to a strategic planning session
Vania and Alice are speaking at the Homelessness Tribunal at St John of God in Christchurch, 1pm on Friday
And Maire travels with our love and heartfelt sympathies to be close to the whānau in Rotorua as they prepare to farewell a beloved Pōua of Wairewa, Monty Daniels. Haere atu rā e te Rangatira, moe mai rā, okioki mai rā