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Forest Research resurrects weavers’ flax at Tarere


Forest Research resurrects weavers’ flax at Tarere

A rare variety of flax valued for its weaving properties was returned to its native home at Tarere marae near Gisborne yesterday by Forest Research staff from Rotorua.

Traditionally cultivated by weavers at Tarere Marae the flax (harakeke), known simply as “Tarere”, was destroyed a few years ago during an unsupervised cleanup operation at the marae.

After lamenting its loss for several years, family member Oho Brown tracked down the last remaining Tarere plant in a Forest Research archive.

Forest Research scientist, Greg Steward, says that the Tarere plant had been kept in a living archive since it was collected over 30 years ago by botantist Rene Orchistson.

“We were able to remove several divisions off the original plant and cultivate new plants for re-establishment at their original home,” he explains.

When Steward returned the healthy new plants to the marae yesterday he was welcomed by representatives of Te-whanau-a-iwi and a group of local flax weavers, who were visibly moved by the return of their taonga.

Oho Brown says that he couldn’t believe his luck when he found that Tarere’s harakeke had been preserved in the Forest Research collection.

“The repatriation of the harakeke means that we can carry on the tradition of our tupuna using the materials that they specially cultivated for their weaving.”

Mr Steward says that this example points to the value of institutional collections in helping to preserve biodiversity, not only for its ecological value, but also for its cultural significance.

“We were very honoured to be able to return something of such great value to its rightful place,” he says.

The original Tarere flax plant will remain in the plant archive at Forest Research in Rotorua.


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