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September 10, 2018 | by  | in Opinion Te Ao Mārama | [ssba]

Tōpū ki te Kōpū

Whenua is important because it represents more than just land. Many generations ago, this great whenua was the space that our mighty tipuna discovered and explored. They explored far and wide and settled in different areas across the country. Because of their explorations, whenua now holds our history. We must look after our whenua, as it has looked after us.

Whenua is important because it represents our past. It also represents our future and all it could entail. Our tipuna migrated across Te-Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa in hope of new adventures, peace and community. The whenua was the entity that drew our people here. It gave them nourishment and fulfilment and a new place to make their home. The whenua is the entity that maintains our settlement and because of their establishment, the Māori people are still here today. We must look after our whenua as it has looked after us.

We as Māori are the kaitiaki of this whenua. We are the caregivers, the protectors and the guardians of our land. The responsibility of being the kaitiaki means we must uphold the mana of all those that have gone before. We must keep Papatūānuku as beautiful as she was created to be, as she is the mother of all things. As well as caring for Papatūānuku, there are other tipuna, and Atua that are represented in different landmarks throughout Aotearoa.  We must maintain this care of our whenua, so our future descendents look back as we did to our tipuna to see how they cared for the whenua. We must look after our whenua as it has looked after us.

Rongokako is a tipuna that many people living in the Hawkes Bay are descendants of. As with many oral histories, there are numerous versions of the story of Rongokako, with each marae around the rohe of Kahungunu having their own story. I will talk of my story and what I was taught growing up – He lays as a maunga that separates different hapū, but connects them in a way of whakapapa. His land is rough, stoney, strong, intense, deep, heavy and spiritual. The whenua stands high as it holds Ranginui and Papatūānuku apart. The maunga that is respected as the great tipuna of Rongokako is a land of many emotions. It holds rich history, stories from our past and kōrero that speak to the people of generations that have gone before us. Rongokako was strong, he was fierce, fearless and proud and he represented whakapapa that stretches across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. Rongokako was the son of the captain of the Takitimu waka, Tamatea Arikinui. Rongokako is a tipuna that is now represented by our whenua.

As the kaitiaki of this land we must uphold everything to do with Rongokako. The large maunga is special to us, it represents who we are as a people and our strong connection to the whenua. It holds wahi tapu and significant sites of our history that as kaitiaki, it is our job to protect. Going off the idea of kaitiakitanga, not all people living in this country believe that this is important. Like many other iwi, Kahungunu have been faced with a rather large challenge. It is like many other stories that involve land, iwi and Pākehā. Kahungunu were not consulted about alterations that have been made to the great tipuna Rongokako. A great scar of a track has now cut through the body of our tipuna and has passed by wāhi tapū. These Pākeha believe that Rongokako is simply a large heap of dirt that is there to be used, altered and abused. A sharp, blunt, narrow and ugly zigzag scar has cut through our tipuna. A rich pākeha, owned and operated winery, secretly teamed up with the local council and established this disgusting and insensitive route. They believe that land should be individually owned by a person that has no connection to the whenua. It has hurt all of the tāngata whenua as we have felt the raging pain of our tipuna. We are the kaitiaki of this whenua and are trying to maintain these responsibilities.

It is happening far too much, in a place where we are the indigenous people. Pākehā both of the past and new arrivals do not have the same understanding, connection, or relationship to the whenua. They are invading our taonga and in 2018 are still not listening to our voices as we do not give consent. They are disrespecting the very land that has looked after us and them for many, many years and going against everything that we believe in. Kaitiakitanga is the basis for our responsibility over the whenua. The whenua is important to us. The whenua represents us. It sustains and it maintains everything that we do so we must uphold this responsibility.  We must look after the whenua as it has looked after us.

Whenua is life.

Nā Pounamu Tipiwai Chambers

Ngāti Kahungunu, Kai Tahu, Whanau Apanui, Ngati Hineuru


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