Pā Harekeke

This is the story of Te Pā Harakeke o Te Iwi – a place where people can go to learn, to harvest or simply to wander and enjoy.  Written by Annie Cochrane, on behalf of the Corban Estate Weaving Circle.

Ko te aroha
Mai te kakano
Ki te pua wai

The seed for the project was sown by Ann Uerata in 2006 while weaving with her students (later to become the Corban estate weaving circle).  She said, “It would be great to have a Pā Harakeke for weavers, here in Waitakere City” and so it was to be!!

Working with Project Twin streams Opanuku Stream we accessed a section of city council land close to the stream and cycleway specifically for the planting of harakeke for weaving.  This was to be the first community based Pā Harakeke in the city. Riki Bennett from Ohomairangi (and also a ranger in the Cascades Kauri Park) joined our Pā Harakeke team and we were on our way.  With financial assistance from Waitakere City Council, Auckland Regional Council, Project Twin Streams and the Department of Internal Affairs sustainability fund, we designed and prepared our site.

Katarina Tawiri and Sue Scheele from Manaaki Whenua gave us good advice and 18 harakeke fans from their Rene Orchiston Collection. We were also gifted harakeke by Te Kawerau a Maki, Mana Whenua of the area.  In winter 2008 our plants were blessed and planted.  Later that year we installed identification signage by each cultivar and a large sign describing the area. We wanted our Pā Harakeke to be available to weavers for cultural harvest – but also to be a source of learning and interest for local people from all walks of life. By the following year the plants were flourishing, healthy and beautiful, as were the weeds! A solution was to fill the bare earth with native ground cover plants. Aided by council funding and local helpers, we planted 1700 such plants, all of which are registered as being rare and /or endangered. So a twofold purpose was achieved – protection of the plants, and weed control!

Local Iwi carver, John Collins, carved two beautiful representations of the Rito and Awhi Rito from kauri, topped by a metal korari and tui and these we installed at our entranceway. The Pa was named ‘Te Pā Harakeke o Te Iwi’ by our Kaumatua who on Friday 19th March conducted a Blessing Ceremony for this and a neighbouring streamside area named Te Maara Oranga, which contains Rongoa and other plants important to Maori life and which is cared for by local high school students. Many people from all over the city joined us at the ceremony – from the Mayor to local residents and weavers, and many friends and local high school students who have helped us along the way. It was a beautiful event, a celebration of Raranga, of harakeke and of community.