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Traditional Māori Gardening Course at Rewa’s Village

Media Release 30 April 2014

Traditional Māori Gardening Course at Rewa’s Village in Kerikeri

NorthTec Kerikeri is excited by the scope of the recently started Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) course at Rewa’s Village in the Kerikeri Stone Store basin. Helen Davis, the NorthTec Horticulture tutor running the course, says - “Our vision is to create a living learning centre here. It’s a chance for us to set up a traditional garden including both food and medicinal plants and for us all to learn more about pre-European gardening in New Zealand.”

Helen - “Rewa’s Village offers a unique site for running a horticultural course. It is in an historic location, it has a cultural component, and it is open to the public so the students get a chance to engage with visiting locals and tourists.”

Helen is already teaching horticulture at a NorthTec course based at Waitangi, and she has a background as a tour guide and as a holistic therapist. “The idea to offer this course in Kerikeri came about following discussions with the local hapū, Ngāti Rēhia, who are currently the custodians for Rewa’s Village. The opportunity for Ngāti Rēhia and NorthTec to work collaboratively on this project was unanimously agreed to by both parties.”

“We have started clearing sites for construction of raised-bed gardens and we will gradually re-vamp, restore and develop the current Discoverers’ Garden. We will also look at setting up a small plant nursery. The students will each be allocated a plot to research and develop, so that eventually the site will be filled with native plants from this area, including medicinal plants used for Rongoa - Māori herbal medicine.”

The course at Rewa’s Village started in mid-March and Helen is intrigued with the multi-cultural range of students so far. “We have students with English, Australian, Pilipino, Chilean and Maori origins. We have a commitment to include a strong Māori cultural component in the course and this was set in motion with the students being welcomed to the Village by Ngāti Rēhia with a Powhiri.”

“When we have cleared the space for the food gardens, we’ll build the raised beds with ponga logs and rocks, and we’ll include up to eight varieties of kumara, plus taro, yams, potatoes and gourds in the plantings.”

The course covers four papers – traditional Māori gardening, small concreting tasks, practicum, and raised bed gardening. Helen - “At the moment the course runs for two days a week but we hope to add SRD at level 3.”

Helen is working closely with Kipa Munro, the on-site custodian of Rewa’s Village. Kipa - “Because of the magnitude of this place, we need to involve the community to bring it to its full living breathing potential. I’m here to oversee development on behalf of Te Rūnanga O Ngāti Rēhia (TRONR), the governing body, and I came on board just over a year ago when the administration was handed back to the iwi.”

“Volunteers have done a great job of maintaining this place since 1969, and with this collaborative project we hope to bring Rewa’s Village into a new era. Our vision is to create an authentic and thriving museum, a place of learning right here in the historic centre of Kerikeri, so there is scope for also introducing other courses.”

Kipa manages the staffing and development of both the fishing village museum and the land at Rewa’s Village, and he brings his own specialist knowledge in Tikanga Māori to the role. “We are gradually exploring the site and have already re-discovered a pond, a creek, and recovered an old waka. As we do the research, we’ll restore the fishing village buildings and the gardens and upgrade the displays and signage. We envision an authentic outdoor museum and environmental learning centre here that will magnetize more visitors and entice people to stay around the Kerikeri Stone Store basin for longer.”

Helen – “Watch this space!”

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