The Week of the Garden

Kia tika te mārama me hakatō e ngā māra

When the moon is right then plant the crops


This week has been the week of the garden.

te putahitanga


The painter, Claude Monet, once said that “my garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”.   That feeling of pride; of artistic passion and the spirit of creativity that comes with the concept of growth was evident in abundance this week in three different initiatives that Te Pūtahitanga has invested in as a key opportunity to advance Whānau Ora.


We started off on Sunday in sunny Dunedin, with Te Kākano Maara Kai at Araiteuru marae.    The aims of Te Kākano Maara Kai are to enhance the mana of the whānau; improve whānau nutrition and physical activity as well as providing alternative opportunities to engage in health services.   The imagination runs wild as you can see the space transform before our eyes – turning into a hāngī pit; a vege patch and of course always an opportunity for the discussion around healthy lifestyles.

On Monday we headed out to Koukourarata; looking at the separate site where the Biological Husbandry Unit of Lincoln University is supporting the production of the taewa.  They have a great concept - two gardens are being planted; one developed using the traditional Maori production methods and the other using mainstream organic farming practices.     A Steering Group, Te Rōpu Manukuia (which is a reference to a lookout at Koukourārata)  ischaired by Director Peter Ramsden and has the job of overseeing the partnership of KDC, Koukourārata Rūnanga and Lincoln University.


And then on Wednesday we were at Parerarua; immersed in the magic of Mara Oranga e Mara Kai under the auspices of Te Hauora o Ngati Rarua.  The mara kai they are cultivating in Blenheim provides their whānau with a place to grow food, flowers and herbs; to be active and physically healthy; to interact with plants and increase their sense of wellbeing.


It has been the most vibrant week in which Te Putahitanga has seen, literally, the richness that gardening has to offer to foster our whānau.   The different ways in which the gardens are being used creates a sense of whanaungatanga, identity and resilience.  It is, of course, a prime means of cultivating and harvesting food crops; but along the way many other benefits are gained.   It could be about developing skills that lead to employment; it might be about enabling the transmission of traditional knowledge – planting by the moon, healing based on rongoa rākau; or the appropriate karakia to encourage growth.


But most of all the joy of gardening has been found in the sense of giving.   The pleasure of the koroua across the road from the marae showing us the cabbages and potato crop used to feed the people.  The enthusiasm of the whānau in developing their land; the excitement of gaining horticultural skills; the buzz of being part of a community of growers.


At Araiteuru Chris Rosenbrock told the whānau gathered there that ‘in growing gardens we also grow whānau’.    One of the whānau commenting on the success of the Ngati Rarua launch said much the same, “We don’t need to talk about manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga etc these things just happen in oneness and we feel it”.

And that, surely, is the beauty of Whānau Ora – whatever the waka we travel in, it is in the feeling of connection and belonging that strengthens our ability to be one – to be self-determining; to be flourishing, and just to be.