“A pounamu among the rocks”

Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae is an urban marae in the heart of Māngere with a huge vision to recover what has been lost to iwi Māori for many generations – and the drive and determination to make it happen.

It has set as priorities learning te reo Māori, strengthening cultural capability, and improving whānau health, and has brought in marae-based education programmes through Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi to achieve those goals.

Over the past two years, more than 300 people have grasped the opportunity to learn in this unique setting, and marae trustee Hineamaru Ropati says demand is growing.

“My biggest role for more than 20 years has been to ensure that we service the needs of our whānau and community and that the values and aspirations of our tūpuna are not compromised.

“Our marae services the needs of all tribes and all cultures. We break stereotype barriers down for those who have never been on a marae, and for those who never go back to their tūrangawaewae. Many here in the urban setting are fourth or fifth-generation whānau.

“Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae set up extensive community gardens nearly 30 years ago on a hectare of land. As part of the goal to encourage healthier lifestyles, we piloted certificate-level Kai Oranga programmes. Run in partnership with Te Waka Kai Ora – National Maori Organics Authority of Aotearoa, the programmes teach organic food production using traditional Māori values and ethics.

“This led participants to make radical changes in their lives in terms of healthy eating – but on top of this the reo components created a thirst in many participants and their whānau for reo, tikanga and whakapapa.”

Driven by this unexpected outcome, the marae negotiated with Awanuiārangi to have te reo programmes delivered alongside Kai Oranga.

“We had a Te Reo Strategy with the goal that by 2020 over 80% of our whānau will be confident in speaking te reo, in practicing tikanga and in participating on their marae with their hau kāinga. This year we have four te reo programmes at Levels 1, 2 and 3, and two Kai Oranga courses both at Level 3. There are ongoing new enquiries, and a backlog of Kai Oranga Level 3 students waiting for the Level 4 programme to be launched. More than 80% of each class has consistently moved up to the next level every semester. To date, Awanuiārangi wānanga have taken out every weekend through to November.

“Whānau are now contributing to their marae, participating in more events, using their reo and practising tikanga with confidence. Our Kai Oranga students are leading the drive among their whānau, teaching them how to build and plant gardens in their back yards. They are always on the lookout for heritage seeds, and having more in-depth conversations about mahi māra with their parents and elders.

“With the massive increase of students wanting to learn in an environment that is culturally friendly and enjoyable, this has increased whānau participation beyond classes. They come in to help and participate in many of our marae community activities.”

Besides the value of being able to offer these programmes to urban whānau, the partnership with Awanuiārangi has helped Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae to grow and develop.

“Our future plans are definitely to run all the higher academic programmes.”

Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae tamariki enjoying harvesting

Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae tamariki enjoying harvesting