Ka mua, ka muri — development starts with land restoration for Te Urumingi Whānau
Published: Sep 17, 2020
The descendants of Te Ratana Te Urumingi have big aspirations for a block of ancestral land in Paetawa, which they are preparing to support potential farming, honey and forestry developments.
The road map for this development is informed by the land’s historical uses and a long-term plan which stretches up to 60 years into the future. This is the practical embodiment of the whakatauki (proverb), ‘Ka mua, ka muri’ — looking back in order to move forward.
Ben Potaka, Project Manager of Te Urumingi Whānau Trust’s development of Paetawa Station, says the project is about providing economic opportunities for the iwi while restoring the land to its former glory.
"We know what the land used to look like, we know what sort of forest was here and we know what the land was used for. We still have kaumātua who know this," says Mr Potaka.
The descendants of Te Ratana Te Urumingi are linked to the land at Paetawa Station by their whakapapa (genealogy), which is evident in Mr Potaka’s pepeha:
Ko Ruapehu te maunga
A Paparangi te Iwi
Ko Ngāti Tuera raua ko Ngāti Hinearo nga hapū
Ko Whanganui te Awa
Ko Kurukuru te puke
Ko Te Kauarapaoa te manga wai
Ko Paetawa te whenua
"There was a big kahikatea forest here, as well as rimu, miro, tōtara and rewarewa. This land was also a mahinga (cultivation) site for tuna (eel), kākahi (freshwater mussel), ngaore (smelt) and kōaro (whitebait)."
A Provincial Growth Fund Whenua Māori grant of $457,477 was announced in February 2020 for Heeni Investment Company, the commercial arm of Te Urumingi Whānau Trust. Funding will be used to prepare the land so it can be used for sustainable farming and forestry, while also supporting ecological restoration.
"We’ve been privileged to receive funding from Whenua Māori to help with fencing, treating the gorse and fertilising the property. It’s helped establish thirteen new paddocks so far – that’s a major achievement for us," says Mr Potaka.
"It gives us more options for growing revenue streams. At the moment we’re investigating native tree forestry, and have lodged an application with Te Uru Rākau.
"If we grow tōtara, we’ll be able to harvest in 50 years – around the same time we think our marae along the Whanganui River will need recarving.
"We’re looking at the long-term. Not just five or six years into the future – more like 60."
Really our aspirations for this whenua, Paetawa, goes back 20 years. We know what the land looked like 40 years ago. We know what sort of forest was here. We still have kaumātua who know all this stuff.
So we want to try and bring it back to its former glory. Whether it will or not, time will tell.
We’ve been privileged to be able to get some funds from Whenua Māori, from the Provincial Growth Fund, to help us with the fencing, treating the gorse, fertilising the property. It’s a start.