Patuharakeke is a hapū in Tai Tokerau with multiple streams of mahi that seek to address and repair the impact of environmental degradation ki uta ki tai (mountains to sea) within their rohe.
Based in Takahiwai on the south side of the Whangārei Harbour, the Patuharakeke hapū rohe extends along the coast, from northern Mangawhai Heads through to the entrance of the Mangapai river and inland to the Piroa/Brynderwyn range. Patuharakeke hapū have lived continuously in the rohe mai rānō, remaining committed to the preservation, protection, and uplifting of both te taiao and te ao Māori.
Against this backdrop, kōrero around climate change and its impact on the environment has been increasing over the past decade. In recent times, the physical effects and impacts of climate change have been felt through both devastating weather events and gradual changes to the environment and its ecosystems, as well as cultural and community values and wellbeing.
A place of preparation and action
In 2014 the Patuharakeke Te Iwi Trust Board created their Hapū Environmental Management Plan. With the knowledge that ‘healthy people need a healthy environment’ the plan seeks to engage multiple strands of mahi aligned across atua domains to strategically address the negative environmental outcomes witnessed throughout the rohe, whether it be in the ngahere, awa and moana. In order to be more pro-active to the increased pressure climate change is placing on their rohe, the hapū is now updating their management plan with specific resilience and adaptation policies.
In 2023, Foundation North began providing multi-year support across all the programmes and initiatives being undertaken by the Patuharakeke Taiao Unit. The Taiao Unit are focused on exercising kaitiakitanga, revitalising and integrating tikanga and mātauranga-a-hapū practices into the restoration of the local environment.
A critical element of this mahi are the local taitamariki who whakapapa to Patuharakeke. As the Taiao Unit journey through their mahi, they engage taitamariki in culturally informed educational programmes that encourage interest in the environment while passing down their mātauranga to ensure the next generation can support environmental regeneration through a mix of traditional and Western practices.
"Intergenerational knowledge transfer is essential to hold fast to our mātauranga and tikanga practices that have sustained our whānau for many generations and are adapted to our unique whenua and rohe. In the face of climate change, we see it as critical that this engagement is two-way, to allow our youth to bring their ideas to this knowledge exchange to meet the challenges that climate change will bring."
Wānanga for the future
The Taiao Unit understands that engaging with taitamariki for climate action through tikanga and mātauranga is a process that calls for wraparound support. Knowing this, the Unit hosts taitamariki wānanga at the marae and around Takahiwai.
These wānanga encourage the taitamariki to observe their surroundings through a holistic lens, practice and understand monitoring their taiao (through Cultural Health Indicators), and learn about the Atua of the environment, and the significance of the Atua for the future of the hapū and te taiao.
Passing down traditional knowledge systems and practices in a way that is interesting and motivating to taitamariki helps to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Unit into the future. This will help preserve tikanga and mātauranga, while increasing the capacity and capability of the hapū.
Enabling taitamariki to have an understanding of not only their local environment, but their whakapapa, helps keep te ao Māori alive and thriving to be passed down to the generations yet to come.
Out in te taiao
The second taitamariki wānanga kicked off in July 2023 over Matariki. The taitamariki gathered at Takahiwai marae to be formally welcomed into the space for two days of learning, experiencing and connecting. Led by members of the Taiao Unit, the group engaged with Cultural Health Indicator monitoring for the first time. Travelling down from the marae to the mouth of Takahiwai awa, the group walked across the whenua, encouraged to be aware of what they were seeing, hearing, and feeling as they moved toward the water.
Cultural Health Indicator monitoring measures the health of the environment through a holistic lens, blending Western scientific practices with mātauranga Māori. Using mātauranga Māori measures in this way acknowledges Patuharakeke as kaitiaki of the rohe, and carries forward the environmental knowledge – specific to the Takahiwai area – that has been passed down intergenerationally. During this time, the taitamariki reflected on how the environment has changed over time, informed by traditional and historic stories and experiences that have been collected over multiple generations.
Following this monitoring at the Harbour and surrounds, the group then travelled on to Planetarium North to learn how to observe Matariki and understand more about the Atua guiding the Patuharakeke environmental mahi. Later on, the taitamariki rose before dawn, making their way down from the marae back to the Harbour, to watch Matariki rising, and kōrero about its significance, sharing history and stories and acknowledging those who have passed on.
"We believe there is no better way to support the continuity of our traditional knowledge than through hands-on learning for the taitamariki. It reinforces our belief, inherent in Te Ao Māori, that tāngata and taiao are not separate, people are a key part of our environment. Taitamariki hauora and mauri is replenished by being out in the taiao. Equally, given that restoring the mauri of our taiao spaces is our goal, us being there and giving back to the taiao enhances the mauri of the taiao. This is our expression of kaitiakitanga."