Dawn ceremony to officially open Pourewa

It was dark on a still, cold morning, thick white fog back-lit by the full moon, as I left home and drove gingerly to the Pourewa site on Kepa Rd. As dawn ceremonies go, it couldn’t have been more dramatic if they’d scripted it for a film. The fog hung in the air as we guests arrived and assembled with members of Ngāti Whātua at the top of the sloping Māra Kai (food garden). As dawn broke we all processed down the wide path, deeper into the fog, led by iwi members chanting karakia invoking the spirit of the garden, and its abundant provision of vegetables and herbs for food, and plants for natural medicine (rongoā). The haunting sounds of the conch shell trumpet (pūpūtarakihi) and the long wooden trumpet (pūkaea) interspersed with the karakia at intervals, as did the collective calls for unity: “Haramai te toki! Haumi-ē!, Hui-ē!, Tāiki-ë!”  The path took us to every part of the garden, including the nursery, eventually rising gently towards the headquarters, as the fog now took on a delicate pink tone, thanks to the rising sun. Soon, the fog disappeared, replaced by warm sun and  a blue sky - the perfect backdrop for Act 2 of this perfectly-choreographed day.


After a breakfast of excellent coffee, muesli and fresh fruit, MC Kingi Makoare led  a programme of speeches, a mihi whakātau (Te Arepa Morehu and Te Aroha Grace), acknowledgement of kaumātua present and past, and the support of individuals and other bodies, including Ōrākei Local Board. Speakers included Ngarimu Blair, Marama Royal and Tom Irvine. The formalities concluded with rousing waiata by wāhine Ngāti Whātua, led by Tarumai Hoani Kerehoma. There were more songs and a haka as young and old helped to plant three Ti Kouka in large pots. Eventually these three trees will flank Pourewa’s entrance, symbolising the qualities of tika, pono and aroha (justice, truth and love).


 Māra kai manager Etienne Neho took a group of guests on a second tour of the gardens, pointing out features like the watercress and two kinds of puha planted at the request of kuia, the garlic which has had to be protected by shade cloth from the attentions of mischievous pūkeko, who keep pulling it out, rows of mid-winter lettuces, whose roots are kept warm by a layer of straw, and an extensive herb garden. The garden has its own large water storage tanks, and a sophisticated compost system that manages to include fish scraps without any resulting smell. No chemicals or pesticides are used, great attention is paid to soil quality, and despite — or because of — the garden’s no-dig system,  weeds are minimal. Etienne showed us the space in the heart of the garden, where a large maramataka (Māori lunar compass) will be installed to indicate the dates and conditions auspicious for planting particular crops. 

Story and pix by Jan Power (EBSP)