Nursery gets growing to restore Pukehapopo

ENVIRONMENT IN HARMONY: Whangara resident and former Lytton High School principal Peter Gibson said the restoration of the maunga Pukehapopo, behind Whangara Marae, was continuing the legacy of the late kaumatua “Papa” Hone Taumaunu. "He said it was really important that tangaroa and papatuanuku were kept in harmony." Picture by Liam Clayton
NATIVES: Kanuka, manuka, karaka, houpara, ngaio, koromiko and many more native seedlings growing in a nursery in Whangara, as part of a project to restore the maunga Pukehapopo.
NURSERY: Whangara resident and former Lytton High School principal Peter Gibson with part of a nursery being developed to restore the maunga Pukehapopo. They are preparing for planting next autumn.

WHANGARA resident Peter Gibson can envision the sacred maunga Pukehapopo once again adorned in native trees, and teeming with wildlife.

For the past 15 years Mr Gibson has been involved with the Paikea-Whitireia Trust in the restoration of Pukehapopo, the sacred maunga (hill) of the Ngati Konohi hapu, which rises up behind Whangara Marae.

“About 15 years ago, the trust became concerned about Pukehapopo. It had a lot of sheep on it, and was prone to erosion.

“If the land did fall, it would go straight on to the marae.”

Mr Gibson, whose wife Haereroa is a trustee of the Paikea-Whitireia Trust, estimates he and a range of helpers have planted 100 pohutakawa a year over the past decade, donated by conservation organisation Project Crimson, that restores pohutukawa and rata to New Zealand’s forests and coastlines.

They have been mostly filling in gaps in an area planted by the Department of Conservation.

While the area just above the marae is now flourishing, the top of the maunga and the southern side are still bare.

Eroding into the river

Eroding land is falling in to the awa (river) Waiomoko, slowly cutting the maunga down and affecting kaimoana beds in and around Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve.

“We are interested in the sea and what comes out of it, so we need to look after it,” Mr Gibson said.

“Silt is flowing into the marine reserve, and plants and animals in there get smothered.

“We have an obligation to look after them.”

They were carrying on the legacy of the late Whangara kaumatua “Papa” Hone Taumaunu.

“He said it was really important that Tangaroa (God of the sea) and Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) were kept in harmony, and to look at the whole environment, not just a piece.

“If we dabble in one area, without doing anything in the other, it gets out of kilter.”

A plant nursery, developed this year at a mara kai (food garden) on the lawns of St Patoromu Church down the road, will help step up the restoration.

“We aim to be able to produce 5000 plants a year,” Mr Gibson said.

“In five years we should be able to cover the whole maunga.”

Kai Oranga course

The nursery is part of the mara kai developed as part of a Kai Oranga course run there since September, teaching participants how to grow healthy kai.

Mr Gibson, who mows the lawns of the church, suggested the site for the mara kai, nursery and a food forest including dozens of fruit trees.

“It was just grass originally. It has been quite a transformation.”

Due to the harsh, coastal environment, they will tackle the Pukehapopo restoration in small sections at a time.

At the moment they have kanuka, manuka, karaka, houpara, ngaio, koromiko and many more all growing in the nursery, preparing for planting next autumn.

Mr Gibson said establishing native bush behind the marae would not only stop erosion, but provide a place for manuhiri (guests) and children to explore and learn about their history and the Paikea legend.

Already there were signs and carvings on Pukehapopo, telling the legend of Paikea.

Mr Gibson said since retiring from his role as Lytton High School principal 15 years ago he has been able to pursue his long-term interest in gardening and native plants.

“This is a wonderful way to be retired. It is good to be busy and I am really pleased with how the community is involved.”

WHANGARA resident Peter Gibson can envision the sacred maunga Pukehapopo once again adorned in native trees, and teeming with wildlife.

For the past 15 years Mr Gibson has been involved with the Paikea-Whitireia Trust in the restoration of Pukehapopo, the sacred maunga (hill) of the Ngati Konohi hapu, which rises up behind Whangara Marae.

“About 15 years ago, the trust became concerned about Pukehapopo. It had a lot of sheep on it, and was prone to erosion.

“If the land did fall, it would go straight on to the marae.”

Mr Gibson, whose wife Haereroa is a trustee of the Paikea-Whitireia Trust, estimates he and a range of helpers have planted 100 pohutakawa a year over the past decade, donated by conservation organisation Project Crimson, that restores pohutukawa and rata to New Zealand’s forests and coastlines.

They have been mostly filling in gaps in an area planted by the Department of Conservation.

While the area just above the marae is now flourishing, the top of the maunga and the southern side are still bare.

Eroding into the river

Eroding land is falling in to the awa (river) Waiomoko, slowly cutting the maunga down and affecting kaimoana beds in and around Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve.

“We are interested in the sea and what comes out of it, so we need to look after it,” Mr Gibson said.

“Silt is flowing into the marine reserve, and plants and animals in there get smothered.

“We have an obligation to look after them.”

They were carrying on the legacy of the late Whangara kaumatua “Papa” Hone Taumaunu.

“He said it was really important that Tangaroa (God of the sea) and Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) were kept in harmony, and to look at the whole environment, not just a piece.

“If we dabble in one area, without doing anything in the other, it gets out of kilter.”

A plant nursery, developed this year at a mara kai (food garden) on the lawns of St Patoromu Church down the road, will help step up the restoration.

“We aim to be able to produce 5000 plants a year,” Mr Gibson said.

“In five years we should be able to cover the whole maunga.”

Kai Oranga course

The nursery is part of the mara kai developed as part of a Kai Oranga course run there since September, teaching participants how to grow healthy kai.

Mr Gibson, who mows the lawns of the church, suggested the site for the mara kai, nursery and a food forest including dozens of fruit trees.

“It was just grass originally. It has been quite a transformation.”

Due to the harsh, coastal environment, they will tackle the Pukehapopo restoration in small sections at a time.

At the moment they have kanuka, manuka, karaka, houpara, ngaio, koromiko and many more all growing in the nursery, preparing for planting next autumn.

Mr Gibson said establishing native bush behind the marae would not only stop erosion, but provide a place for manuhiri (guests) and children to explore and learn about their history and the Paikea legend.

Already there were signs and carvings on Pukehapopo, telling the legend of Paikea.

Mr Gibson said since retiring from his role as Lytton High School principal 15 years ago he has been able to pursue his long-term interest in gardening and native plants.

“This is a wonderful way to be retired. It is good to be busy and I am really pleased with how the community is involved.”

Maunga Pukehapopo

The maunga Pukehapopo rises over the settlement of Whangara.

It was named by the whale rider Paikea because of its similarity to the hill of the same name in his homeland of Hawaiki.

Paikea once took refuge on that hill from the wrath of his younger brother Ruatapu in the aftermath of a sea battle.

The battle came about when Ruatapu was shamed by a barrage of verbal abuse from his father.

In a bid to inherit his father’s mana, Ruatapu plotted to murder his own brothers — one of whom was Paikea. Ruatapu
fixed the waka so when it went to sea it flooded.

During the panic he clubbed his brothers.

Paikea performed karakia that helped spare him from his brother’s murderous intent.

When the waka became surrounded by whales, Ruatapu realised Paikea’s power was greater than his and accepted his fate.

Paikea rode one of the whales safely to shore.

His brother is said to have drowned in the fury of the sea in the battle known as Te Huripureiata.

Source: Walton Walker’s Nga Maunga Korero o Te Tairawhiti, published in The Gisborne Herald in 2007.

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R. OKeefe - 5 months ago
Ka mau te wehi Uncle Peter and whanau. We R Whalers.

Meri Haapu, Stokes Valley - 5 months ago
Thanks to Peter and all those involved in this project.

Sharon Leach - 5 months ago
Ka mau te wehi Whangara whanau.

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