Connection to land vital for Whanau Ora
Over 70 people gathered at Tutehuarewa Marae at Koukourārata (Port Levy), Banks Peninsula on Saturday for the launch of a new venture Te Wānanga Taiao ō Koukourārata that will support Koukourārata whānau to develop land enterprises through a market garden concept.
The close relationship between whānau and whenua (the land) provides the foundation for the new model of whānau health and the South Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, Te Putahitanga o te Wai Pounamu are showing their support by investing $237,000 in the first stage of the initiative.
The market garden, utilising a site originally used to sell food to early colonists as far back as the 1880s, will become the catalyst for hapū-led food farming ventures, education and research opportunities, and Te Putahitanga Chair Norm Dewes is enthusiastic about the potential of the project.
“The cultural mapping research that Koukourārata Rūnanga had done, told them that whānau want to return to their lands. Their proposal ticks many boxes – more whānau eating healthy kai, a sense of wellbeing from working the land, increasing knowledge of their history and whakapapa, and the prospect of employment opportunities” he says.
The project will be driven by a Steering Group including Lincoln University, the Lincoln-based Bioprotection Research Centre and specialist organic education provider, the Biological Husbandry Unit. The rūnanga will work with the university to discover suitable crops that coiuld be turned into business opportunities.
Koukourārata Rūnanga spokesman, Peter Ramsden says māra kai (cultivation) is just another healthy step towards a healthy community.
“What we really want is for our whānau to get their hands dirty, toiling the land, finding out for themselves about māra kai , permaculture, sustainability, papakāinga, and the whole range of food farming from traditional kai through to organic food production,” he says.
“We also see it as a great opportunity for our whānau to gain experience in biological sciences as a great platform for further education, enterprise and employment in a priority sector.”
Using the historic 5-hectare garden site, tunnel house and existing community garden, the partners will grow the market garden concept into future farming activities in the takiwā, which potentially includes hundreds of hectares of Māori papakāinga and land reserves.At the same time, the rūnanga is developing a new Whare Wānanga, which along with serving as a centre for other marae events, will be the outreach of the Wānanga Taiao kaupapa. Construction will begin on the new building in August and it is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“This is about making our marae and community a vibrant place of learning, mātauranga (education) and whanaungatanga (kinship) inspired by our unique environment and history,” says Peter Ramsden.
“We want to bring our people home to the bay and we want to maximise their potential as kaitiaki (guardians) of the whenua and moana. It’s about investing in the future of our rūnanga and our future generations.
Te Putahitanga Relationship and Contracts Manager, Maania Farrar spoke of the significance of the event at the launching on Saturday.
“We’re very pleased to invest here. We recognise the significance of Whanau Ora and how it is intrinsically led by Māori for Māori and this project is a natural fit,” she said.
A management group will now be formed to oversee the Wānanga Taiao project, to design the programme and bring the vision to life.