My involvement with the Puhinui catchment goes back about seven years. At that time, I was working for Te Papa Atawhai, The Department of Conservation (DOC). I had the privilege to lead the Tāmaki Makaurau Partnerships Team. DOC had primarily focused on Public Conservation Land, the Hauraki Gulf motu and a small number of mainland reserves.
The Māori whakatauki: “he tangata, he tangata, he tangata (it is the people, it is the people, it is the people) – this resonated in our largest city of 1.7 million. What were we doing to look after Papatūānuku in urban living environments? A partnership was born with three South Auckland urban marae – Makaurau Marae, Manurewa Marae, and Papatūānuku Kokiri Marae. There was a deep commitment to mutual learning, co-design and using marae-based wānanga to guide direction. From this collaboration these marae established the rangatahi-focused organsation Te Pu-a-Nga Maara and they have gone from strength to strength.
I left DOC, worked for Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust for 20 months, then joined SBN in late 2020. The same challenge revisited in our nature regeneration work – what about urban nature? Focusing on the Puhinui was a compelling choice. Te Waiohua iwi had worked with Eke Panuku and others to build a holistic guidance strategy Te Whakaoranga o te Puhinui. Te Pu-a-Nga Maara had grown to be a perfect partner to grow nature careers for rangatahi, and Makaurau Marae Nursery were ready to support provision of native plants for re-cloaking the Puhinui awa and catchment. The Puhinui Regeneration Project was born. It’s been a pleasure to reconnect to this place and the people.
After all those years in the making, this project enables rangatahi to lead nature regeneration in their place. For SBN and partners it enables a journey of learning and growth in how to care for nature through a Te Ao Māori lens and to deepen our own connection to nature.