An incredible few days of immersion in the rich heritage of Northland, and the most generous hospitality of many. I had been looking forward to Te Hana, near Wellsford, a small rual community as I had heard of a new Maori living history initiative telling the love story of the beautiful Maori princess ‘Te Hana’. And I was not disappointed. After ten years of hard work, thousands of voluntary hours and tireless amounts of fundraising, the astounding Te Hana Te Ao Marama is an authentic Marae and Maori cultural experience, living proof that dreams do come true. Against all odds this rurally deprived community has rebuilt and reinvented itself. Using treasured knowledge from the past, Ngati Whatua ki Kaipara visual and performing arts have been revitalised. The recreated 17th Century fortified pa and maori village replica gives a most culturally enriched glimpse at pre-European Maori life in a 17th Century traditional maori village. The focus of the enterprise is to generate community economic development with emphasis on jobs for youth.
I was deeply moved emotionally as I sat in the meeting house and listened to songs of old, then had the great honour of being hosted on the marae for the evening. The following day it was a great pleasure to speak with Jim Mora live on National Radio. This was the third live interview with Jim, and he has been most supportive. It is incredible how many have spoken to me as a result of listening to his program.
And the highlights just keep coming. I left Pioneer Spirit at the turnoff on State Highway One at the ‘Swinging Cow’ tearooms and hitched to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. Waitaki Councilor Hugh Perkins had alerted the Museum management I was going to viist, and what a world class museum it is. I arrived to a most warm welcome by the CEO Betty Nelley who gave me a detailed and insightful tour of the facility over a three hour period. The museum receives no government or local council funding support and has been operating since 1962. It truly is one of the nations great museums, telling the fascinating story of the Kauri tree and it’s gum, and how the settlers harvested the timber. The kauri is the largest tree in the forest and grows to a huge size. The timber was very important as a building material, here and abroad; for houses, furniture and ships. the trees also bled a gum that was dug from the land and exported to make varnish, linoleum and other products. Settlers came to Matakohe and nearby Paparoa in 1862, around the time Oamaru was being settled. The museum enjoys strong community support, and has over 80 volunteers who help in a variety of ways. http://www.kaurimuseum.com
Waipu was an unexpected treasure. Peddaling in on dusk, and I was soon settled into an iconic old house truck, kindly hosted by the local publican. There was a tangi on for a reverred local, so there were many visitors in the small community. The temperatures are very humid, till late and I thoroughly enjoyed learning of the Scottish heritage of the town. Under visionary leader Norman McLeod, 940 Scottish Highlanders made it to Waipu in 1853 after one of the most extraordinary global migrations in world history. Many of the early settlers had followed the Reverend McLeod from the North Western regions of Scotland to Nova Scotia in 1817, more than 30 years before they finally founded their home in Waipu. They arrived in six ships. Many of them were teachers and seamen, and they quickly became established in farming, agriculture, gumdigging and bush felling. A few turned their hand to ship building, a trade in which many Nova Scotians were skilled.
The week prior to my arrival, a community planning meeting of 90 residents was held to look at revitalising the town, and it was my pleasure to spend several hours advising on strategies to proceed with this initiative using the MAINSTREET PROGRAM as a framework for development. Oamaru has sucessfully used this program on two ocassions. Waipu is 40 kilometers south of Whangarei. http://www.waipumuseum.com
New marketing partnerships with the 17th Century traditional Maori Village in Te Hana, The Kauri Museum and Waipu with it’s stunning museum offer exciting new potential with Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct and Victorian Town At Work initiative.
With approximately 250 kilometers to Cape Reinga, I am excited. It truly has been a most remarkable journey.