You don’t usually associate the South Westland climate with the cultivation of peppers, strawberries and bumper harvests of tomatoes but at Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio’s Te Tauraka Waka a Māui Marae at Bruce Bay, four hours south of Hokitika, hard work on the marae gardens have paid off. In their second season, the two tunnel houses and four planter boxes have produced enough to keep the Makaawhio whanau in fresh vegetables and herbs throughout last summer. Along with all the regulars – carrots, silverbeet, herbs, capsicum, salad greens, courgettes and tomatoes, they’ve had a bumper crop of kamo kamo (also called kumi kumi, or Māori squash) and traditional Māori potatoes.
Established with $2000 TPK Mara Kai funding (used to buy a garden shed and tools) and Healthy Eating Healthy Action funding, which enabled the construction of the tunnel houses, the gardens have been maintained by a core group of local regulars including Rūnanga Chairman and marae committee member, Paul Madgwick, Upoko Richard Wallace, Mere Wallace and Murray Mahuika-Forsyth. Makaawhio Tumuaki, Susan Wallace says rīwai (Māori potatoes) have been a key focus.
“Last year we had a really good crop and we passed out a lot of seed potatoes to our wider whanau so they could also grow them in their own gardens. They all had good crops too and although we haven’t had such a bumper crop this season, we’re still pleased. We have thought about various business plans for growing Repi for the gourmet market but initially, we’re focussing on rebuilding our whanau stocks,” she says.
Susan says their very first potato salad made with their own marae-grown vegetables caused great excitement. “Tasting the fruits of our labour was empowering and being able to subsidise whanau meals with freshly-grown vegetables has made a big difference.”
The marae herb garden is sponsored by the Te Aorangi branch of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, which Susan says has, along with the worm farm and the compost areas, added another dimension to the garden project.
“We’re looking at lots of possibilities now – like bottling. I made tomato relish this year and I’m keen to try a kamo kamo pickle. We’re giving kamo kamo seeds away too, to encourage a good stock of plants again. I’m also keen to put together a growing instruction guide for whanau; and we’re talking about the possibility of establishing a rongoā (medicinal) garden with the help of an expert, based on what grows in the bush here. We’re do have an eye to opportunities and we’re keen to bring the whanau along on that journey.” – Nā Adrienne Rewi