More than vegetables will grow from the seeds planted at Te Rereatukahia Marae as part of a new Mana Whenua project.
Hohepa Hamiora and Chris Jacob of the marae and Anne Billing of Katikati Taiao who are working on the project, say growing food will help bring the community together and become the catalyst for many other initiatives.
Thanks to $5,000 from the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, a 10 square metre shade house will be constructed at the marae in which seedlings will be raised for home gardens and a mara kai, (community food garden).
“Traditionally our people grew and shared their own vegetables, but the Covid-19 lockdown made us realise how much we rely on supermarkets today. We need to re-learn the old skills and become more self-sufficient by growing food,” says Hohepa.
Gardening is also a chance to learn about the importance of Maramataka – the Lunar calendar, and Matariki, the Maori New Year and star cluster of the same name.
Chris is excited about the project too. “Growing our own vegetables will help bring our community together, teach our tamariki about gardening and encourage our kaumatua and kuia to share their stories from the past.
“The hands of our people have worked this land for hundreds of years so growing food is nothing new, we just have to learn how to do it again,” says Chris, who is Tamawhariua Health and Social Services manager.
Anne says during the Covid-19 lockdown seedlings were grown by Katikati Taiao volunteers and delivered to Te Rereatukahia Marae where the vegetables are now being enjoyed. The latest project will build on that success.
Future plans include planting fruit trees too, so children can pick fruit on the way to school. Growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables will create opportunities for celebrations based around food, which will be open to the entire Katikati Community.
“As mana whenua we are the hosts of everyone in our community and we want to bring everyone together, to break down barriers and encourage locals to visit our marae and learn more about Maori culture,” says Chris.
“He kai kei aku ringa – there is food at the end of my hands” source: Inspiring Communities Principle document.