Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hui-a-Rohe 2008, Omaka Marae, Blenheim

Tahuri Whenua members outside Te Aroha o Te Waipounamu.

The latest Tahuri Whenua hui-a-rohe was at Omaka marae, Blenheim, from April 15th to 17th. Brilliantly organised by Richard Hunter, we were hosted by Ngati Apa in the beautiful whare nui, Te Aroha o Te Waipounamu. The first full day saw us visiting the research facilities at the Marlborough Research Centre where a number of speakers to presented their work, including Richard Williams (Potatopak, biodegradable packaging from potato waste), Elsie Hall (lavender oils and cosmetics), and Mondo Kopu (vineyard manager for Tohu wines). Also displayed was an olive oil made to raise funds for the RSA, and a lesson in local wines by Kerrie Stronge that showed the connection between taste and the whenua. Aerial view of Marlborough Research Centre.

The afternoon involved an extended visit to Danny Watson’s ‘island’. Danny (of television ‘Spot On’ fame) is of Waitaha descent and is bringing several hundred acres of land at Maori Bay, Pelorus Sound, back into production, with planting and cattle strategies implemented. The land is not actually surrounded by the waters of Marlborough Sounds but is only accessible by boat, so the hikoi was ‘book-ended’ by a leisurely cruise on the very comfortable cruising yacht ‘Foxy Lady’.

Foxy Lady parked in Danny's driveway.

The second day began with a trip to the local Farmers Market. Here we saw top-end products, including various nuts, cheeses, wines (of course), fruit and vegetables. Our kuia in particular enjoyed the convivial surroundings and continued their constructive exchange of information. The diversity of stalls was an excellent indication of regional productivity and resourcefulness.

Moana Puha, Ngati Porou, at the Farmers Market, Blenheim.

I shot through back to Otautahi/Christchurch but the rest of the roopu visited a strawberry farm on the outskirts of Blenheim which included PYO and niche product options. This was followed by a short visit to Clem Mellish’s carving studio in Havelock. The majority of the hui participants then relocated to Marahau, about 15k’s west of Motueka, staying at a backpacker facility owned by Wakatu Incorporation, a locally based Maori Incorporation representing local or regional land interests held by Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Ngati Rarua and Ngati Koata iwi. Wakatu Inc. and Ngatahi Orchards a JV between NRAIT (Ngati Rarua Atiawa Iwi Trust) and Wakatu were the hosts for the hui for this final leg of the hikoi (journey). A whakatau (welcome) was given by Ropata Taylor of Wakatu and Richard Brown (Ngatahi) to the hui participants to their operations and the opportunity was taken to present them with a copy of a thesis written by Nick Roskruge (Chairman of Tahuri Whenua) – called ‘Hokia ki te Whenua’ which included Wakatu incorporation as one of its case studies on Maori land utility.

Cape Gooseberry at Danny Watson's.

A full day was given to presenting the incorporation and orchard(s) to hui participants including field trips to several production systems; hops, pears, apples and kiwifruit. The afternoon was devoted to visiting a newly established vineyard under the Tohu Wines label. Participants were taken through the establishment mechanisms for creating vineyards from scrub lands by the manager Johnny, including the pitfalls and advantages aligned to such a task. The vineyard staff then took everyone through an exercise in wine tasting – how to identify characteristics of specific wines and the accepted process tasters generally follow in their sampling role.

The hui was brought to an end after the obligatory wine tasting and another night at Marahau before people journeyed home.

Carved kete on the bargeboard of te aroha o te Waipounamu.

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