EPISODE SUMMARY: On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we travel to Mangakahia to visit the site of the Ngā Uri o Te Aurere Pou Whānau Trust papakāinga and learn about the Trust’s transformative vision to create social and economic wellbeing for their whānau through their whenua
GUESTS: Aroha Shelford, Joanne Murray, Bernadette Aperahama
Jade Kake: If you drive out to Mangakahia Valley, between Whangarei and Kaikohe, what you see first is the beautiful countryside, the ngāhere and the paddocks.
What may not be immediately apparent is that this is also an area of high unemployment, housing affordability and quality are both major issues, and education opportunities for our young people are severely limited.
All in all, life can be pretty challenging.
We met with one whānau who believe the solutions are to be found right here at home, and they have a transformative vision to create wellbeing for their whānau through their whenua.
Aroha Shelford: If you have a set vision that you know all of whānau will buy into, then you can add to how that's actually going to happen afterwards. But it's like, that whole dream, what's my dream? What is our collective dream? And the other essential thing is thinking outside yourself. Which is hard in this day in age, cause that's not how we've rolled. It's like, where's my house, and here's mine, and I can do mine but it's like how do we do that as a collective? We can do mine but how we can do so that everybody's got it sorted. What are you going to contribute? How are you going to awhi everybody?
Joanne Murray: Not about ko au
JK: That's always a good question, thinking what am I going to contribute not what can I get?
Joanne Murray: And the whole idea of guardianship not ownership. Because you know, we've been in that colonial construct for so long, where it's all about what I can own and what I can keep and have for my own afterwards. But actually going into that whole mindshift about guardianship rather than ownership. That's the shift.
That's that whole idea of the communal style of living here too. We're going back to the ways of our tūpuna. Where we used to actually grow kai together, share out our kai together, do mahi together. It wasn't unusual to have 20 or 40 of you sitting at one table having a feed one time. Because that's how our whānau operated back then. We have to go back to those systems that our tūpuna used and make that part of our normal lives.
JK: Aroha Shelford, along with her husband Richard Morrell - nō Kahungunu - is the key driver behind this inspiring and innovative project.
Under the umbrella of Ngā Uri o Te Aurere Pou Whānau Trust, Aroha and her whānau are developing sustainable papakāinga. The first stage will see 10 new earth homes built on ancestral Māori land in Mangakahia Valley.
Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode one.
Ko Parihaka te Maunga Ko Hātea te awa Ko Ngātokimatawhaorua te waka Ko Ngāpuhi ratau ko te Arawa ko Whakatōhea ōku iwi Ko Ngāti Hau me Te Parawhau ngā hapū Ko Pehiāweri te marae Ko Jade Kake tāku ingoa
I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.
Over the next few months, we’ll be visiting cities, towns and villages across Aotearoa, from Te Tai Tokerau, to Tāmaki Makaurau, to Kirikiriroa, to Heretaunga, and finally, to Ō-tautahi.
We’ll meet whānau who are developing papakāinga on ancestral land around the motu and defining what home means for them - and it might not be what you’d expect.
We’ll see how iwi are shaping up major projects in our largest City, Tāmaki Makaurau, and revealing a very different urban environment in post-Earthquake Ōtautahi.
We’ll also speak to some of the architects, designers and planners who are helping to turn this vision into a reality.
On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism we travel to Mangakahia Valley in Te Tai Tokerau to visit the site of the Ngā Uri o Te Aurere Pou Whānau Trust papakāinga.
AS: This was just a paddock and they came in and they did sections, the house sites, each of the different house sites. They put in the road, they put in the drainage, they put in the sewerage, and they put in the water tanks. So that's our infrastructure.
So we've got whānau lines houses and we're doing the three. So we were going to do this one, that one, and that one - four bedrooms and then there's another two that we're just going to rent out, but, whānau lines - we're going to have like a homestead. And cause we built ours first, cause I'm doing all the work, we were like ah well, I want this one. But I didn't know it would end up like this, but it was like I want this site. We're living here, so we want to move out of the caravan and back in here. Cause our kids have got our house in town.
So when you come back, this one should be hopefully finished. Windows are going in. By the end of the month we should be nearly.
JM: So the progress in two months since I was last here, the roof is up, the floor is in, all the stuff on the outsides happening.
AS: The rendering should be done next week. We were hoping to be doing it now so that people could see it and have a turn. So that will be done by the end of next week, the rendering inside and out. Once that rendering is in then we'll put the roof up, lay the last bit of the floor, the plumbing and the electricals will all go in at the same time, cause they're in like a day or a day and a half. And then it'll be fitout. But it will look pretty cool this one.
JK: Every few months Aroha and her whānau hold papakāinga wānanga to share what they’ve learnt through their papakāinga journey, with other whānau who are hoping to do their own papakāinga projects. The wānanga include on-site demonstrations, and presentations and workshop sessions at the marae.
We sat down to have a kōrero with Aroha during a wānanga at her marae, Parakao, located just up the road from the papakāinga. It belongs to the hapū Ngāti Te Rino of the Ngāpuhi iwi. Parakao marae also shares genealogical links with Ngati Horahia, Ngati Moe, Ngati Toki and Te Parawhau hapū.
JK: Just to start off, ko wai koe? Nō hea koe?
AS: Nō konei nō Mangakahia, Parakao, Ko Te Aroha te marae, Mangakohatu te maunga, Ko Aroha Shelford ahau.
JK: So we went out to your papakāinga development today, and that was my second time out there and oh my goodness a lot has happened since last time
AS: Yeah, slowly but getting there
JK: So could you tell me a bit about that whenua and how did that project kick off? How did it start?
AS: It started with us wanting to come back to the whenua. And so we went to the whānau to ask them about living there and doing the permaculture stuff. So we got the permaculture landscapist Daniel Tohill to come up and do our plan. He did that, and he did an awesome job. We showed you today about what all the different plants, how to plant them, the spacing, rongoa, all of that. So he developed all of that for us. So we got that down on paper, and we took that to the whānau, said this is what we want to do. They were all in agreeance at that. And then the housing opportunities came up.
Don’t chuck houses at people. It doesn’t help fix anything, so we’re doing more papakāinga and a development in a holistic worldview. It was about what are people going to eat, and how are they going to be healthy, and how are we going to live in each others lives and tackle some of the social issues, our education and training and economic development. It’s all tied in together, and that’s what we see as a papakāinga.
See even that disconnect, because a lot of people are not brought up on their papakāinga anymore. So it's trying to re-establish those roots as well, get some identity, feel confident about who you are. So that's what I see, I want change how our social issues are looking. Why are we so high in the stats for violence, and for abuse of children. Why? That's not who we are. And how did we get there? Well we all know how we got there in that relatively short period of time. We need to stop it. We need to go back to... leave some of those things that were in the past that didn't work, and use all the ones that did. And if our whole, all Māori landowners had that going on, that would be so cool.
JK: Back to that whenua, how big is the block?
AS: It’s around 45 acres. The permaculture plan probably takes in about 4 acres of it, and the other 5 was left for housing.
JK: And how many whakapapa to that block?
AS: At last count, around 700. But you know, babies are born every day.
JK: I thought that was really interesting how you were saying well we wanted to get back on the whenua, but the first thing you thought of was not whare, but it was actually about the kai, and what you would need to nourish your whānau.
AS: Yeah, because a lot of our whānau blocks are small, other than the ones that are big corporations, doing primary industries of either forestry, farming and now honey. Those are the big ones, they’re all about money and we’re more about people being back on whenua and developing communities that will benefit everybody, as opposed to just the one.
AS: Training and education and economic development part of the papakāinga development hired our own whanau as workers on the project. It also tries to keep them involved. The boys, they’re all in their 20s most of them, and they know, this is their whenua, this is the skills you get when you’re building houses for our own.
JK: So there's a real focus on leveraging the collectivity that we have as Māori. I think often that's forgotten that we have that as a strength.
AS: Collective strengths, and all the reasons we’re not like that anymore, we're all well aware of. Let's get back to it. And it will be hard, the living together will be hard, because we're not used to it. And it's like 'where's mine?' How about talking about, 'where's ours'? What are we going to put into it to develop it, what are we going to do every day and get up and help with that garden or help with that maintenance. Because this is ours, and you haven't got an individual mortgage but we collectively have a responsibility to keep this going.
JK: And shifting that mindset, from thinking 'oh but I'm paying rent on my own whenua' to no, 'we're collectively paying off our mortgage, we own all of this together.'
AS: And whatever excess is put into economic development of businesses, using the resources that we're already planting, or, the rongoa, or stock, whatever. Come up with ideas of how to generate funds that are going to be our play money because our rent is low, our power's free, the insurance is taken care of, you're living well within your means, even if you're on a benefit. That's what we were aiming for.
JK: So you don't need too much of that outside money
AS: No. If we're growing our fruit and vegetables and meat, eggs, and milk, there's not a whole of a lot else that you have to buy. And so if we can generate money out of that as well, like an income or businesses for our kids or our mokos, enough for you, it's your play money.
JK: So we can all be free and prosperous again
AS: Absolutely, and we're living in communities, and rural communities cause that's where all our land is, and actually making a community where it's vibrant and active again. I’m not naive to think you can do it without some sort of income but we can lessen that burden by having good housing, good food, support systems in place, and you know when you're young and you think 'I can do that', it's like, 'yes, you can.' We're all living here in a collective, what do we need to do to help you to make this happen. And let's do it. You know, the long term dreams, well if after 30 years we're managing to cover all of our costs as a papakāinga, what are we banking? Someone comes up and says, we actually, we really want to go and study this, and do this and this. Sweet, we can all help you, because we've got some funds now. We can send you off to go and... develop that. Don't forget us. But if you're brought up in that kind of situation, you have a sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility to the wider whānau other than yourself. So that's where I'm looking at, our mokos. It's a 10-year, a 20-year plan.
JK: So it's reinstating our interdependence that maybe we have lost in some ways and focussing on our tamariki that are coming forward, cause that'll just be normal for them. And I think it's similar with te reo Māori, the ones that are growing up with it. You see those babies, just sort of playing and scrapping and they all kōrero i te reo Māori and it's like holy heck
AS: Or English ranei. It doesn't matter. They don't care, because they're comfortable in both or any of those worlds and so they can move forward, and that's when you stop killing their dreams. 'I want do this' - well sweet, let's do it. How can we make that happen?
JK: Just raise really culturally grounded people connected with each other. You know, it's all these things that our strengths that have been eroded.
AS: And gives more confidence back into the rangatahi and the babies.
JK: Awesome, amazing vision, I can see it.
AS: It's a big dream, but it's quite simple really. If you're back there and stuff. And you know, everyone has things in their whānau and different people that are doing different things. But you know, good modelling and good practice of healthy relationships is going to make it go forward. Like I say, our two year old mokopuna, are they going to live in that kind of environment. By the time they're 20, it's the norm.
JK: This is how we're going to heal our whānau
AS: This is the norm, and this is how we're going to heal
JK: As we saw today, you've used earthbag and poured earth construction. And that's not a very common construction technology. So, why earth?
AS: Okay. Why earth? We built our earth home in Kamo 18 years ago. And when we started researching that would have been 25 years ago, easy. Just the benefits of working with Papatūānuku really. They're healthy, low maintenance, and should be cheap, if they're allowed to be built in a way that they have been around the world. But, regulations and building codes have made it extremely difficult. And people's understanding from an engineers and architects perspective as well as Council. But you know, Council gets it after architects and engineers have been at it. So we don't have people skilled enough in that area in my opinion, and that needs more upskilling. Because everyone tries to make it fit in their box of concrete, wood and steel which they're used to dealing with, and earth doesn't work that way. And so that knowledge has, the implications of that have meant that we've spent huge amounts of money. To get them to understand that this will still be solid, it'll still work, it'll still be safe. Waterproofing. We were hindered too with the earthquakes in Christchurch, and the leaky home building. So that's the big push for engineers - what about the seismic properties, how's that going to work? Because they're so heavy, if we have an earthquake is it going to crush the people inside, and all of this. I'm like, ah, well the research out there internationally says otherwise. And all the buildings that fell over were actually wood, and tin, and steel. And they caused damage too. So those have been issues and huge cost for us.
JK: And what do you think is the payoff? So obviously you're bearing it as a whānau for your project, but thinking more widely, through this project what change do you think might be achieved and how might this benefit other whānau and other Māori landowners?
AS: One of our major design philosophies was affordability and longevity, and health. So hopefully if we can keep slogging at it and get it into building code, New Zealand building code, alternatives that are going to be cost effective. Like what we were saying, we're trying to get earth bag domes into New Zealand building code. They worry about the seismic stuff, they worry about waterproofing, and the weight of a dome and how it will fall. Well Inuits have been living in domes for mai rano, and a lot of the earth buildings around the world have been there for centuries, thousands some of them. The Romans are still living... there's proof around the place. It's just catching up. And I find a lot of the Europeans that come over they have problem, because it's familiar to them. They don't see it as a risk. So our goal for the future is to prove that all of this stuff works, hand it over to as many people as we can get it out there too, and say here, this is a different tact, this is a different path, maybe you want to consider doing something like this and looking at the holistic that will attack some of our social issues, some of our health issues, our housing issues, all of the issues that Māori are suffering from, and putting it in as a package. Here - if you've got a small block, why not think of doing something like this.
JK: How have you found that process and that interaction with Council, and what are your thoughts on the new plan change part b that's gone through?
AS: When we went through it, 'you're the first ones to go through the new papakāinga plan blah blah blah'. Okay, that's cool. What does it actually mean? It didn't mean a hell of a lot to us at the stage to be honest. We still had to have the tick boxes, but go through because there was a real disconnect between policy and on-the-ground workers. If you went to go and talk to any of the on-the-ground workers, they wouldn't even know if they had a papakāinga plan in place, let alone what that meant. So, we attacked it originally based on the plan, where there was no restrictions
JK: And all of these good intentions. There's huge value in that, for central and local government, because a lot of these people they're so disconnected from the realities. Often they're really well-meaning people, but they just have no idea. And you really see the change in thinking when they come out the marae, or they come out to whenua Māori, or come out to papakāinga and they're like 'oh heck' and even come out to some of our homes that are in not very good condition and see how people are living. It's just a bit of a wake up call.
AS: They have no idea people are still living in garages or sheds or no running water or no power.
JK: This project is significant because it’s the first to be realised under phase one of Whangarei District Council’s papakāinga plan change. Phase two has recently become operative, which means projects like this one won’t need to go through the resource consent process. We spoke with Bernadette Aperahama, nō Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa raua ko Te Arawa, who was the consultant planner on the project.
Bernadette Aperahama: It was exciting for me to work on a project that I believe, exceeded all outcomes articulated in the Whangarei District Plan. From my perspective anyway. It was really easy to support. The challenges, I think, in preparing a resource consent application, were that the papakāinga objectives and policies, which had been operative for four years at that time and that at the time nobody had used, they were awesome in terms of enabling the whānau to do what they wanted to do on their whenua, and to the capacity of their whenua. What I understood to be tricky for the Council planners was that there were no rules associated with those provisions.
In terms of the project itself, I wasn’t concerned whether or not it was outside of the anticipated building envelope, or broke a whole lot of rules, because I felt overall the project exceeded the outcomes for the zone, was in alignment with objectives and policies for papakāinga provisions, and in terms of environmental outcomes it was going to create a positive environmental outcomes, despite the project having 9 more houses than was expected on the site.
Something that was really challenging for the applicants was around the notification process. So with each resource consent, particular activity status, you need to consider whether or not you need to notify people.
JK: Is that publicly or just the neighbours?
BA: Both. You have to do an assessment of both. It was challenging for the applicants to be thinking that they have to engage with neighbouring, or even potentially the wider community, who are not from there, who were operating different agricultural type activities of a far greater scale with these huge unattractive farming buildings which you can do as a right, which you can build as of right - it doesn't require them to engage with the whānau. And, creating environmental outcomes that are leading to the degradation of their awa. Whereas we had an application that was enabling for the repatriation of their ancestral whenua, where their ancestral kāinga was located. The development was the matauranga of their whānau, their connection with the whenua, and yet they were the ones who would then have to go and have the conversation with the neighbours.
Sometimes there's quite possibly a long history around how the community were able to establish themselves around them, and what advantages they had, and what disadvantages the whānau had to be able to use their own land. So it was quite distressing, for them to be thinking - okay well we just want to go home, and we want to do something that's good for our people, and good for our whenua, and yet we're going to have to go and have the conversation with these people, who we don't know, who have absolutely no responsibility to their environment.
Not necessarily unique to Whangarei is that the Council staff weren't particularly aware of what a papakāinga is. Within one of the first pre-lodgement meetings that I attended, and this was the third one for the project, we brought regional Council and district Council together, which was very, very helpful, and I'd definitely recommend doing that always, so everybody could hear what the other team/group/whānau were saying, and we all had the opportunity to ask questions at the same time. Our lead architect starting talking about the project, and I realised that there were lots of blank faces. So I just said - does anybody in here actually know what a papakāinga project is. Nobody said that they did, and it's possibly because they were too shy to try and explain what they thought it was, but no-one put their hand up or acknowledged that they did. Fortunately, the applicants had an amazing video saying in pictures, showing us visually, what they intended to do. And that was extraordinarily helpful. But not everybody has the resources to be able to prepare a video like that.
AS: We had the district Council and the regional Council in one hui. Actually Bernadette and JP who were going to be here tonight, they helped organise that, Bernadette did so that we weren't going to the roading people, and the consents people, and the contributions lady, and all of that. All at the same table, all talking about the same thing, and finding out which is the way to do it.
JK: For many Māori whānau throughout the country, building papakāinga and living on their ancestral whenua is a long-held aspiration. Aroha’s whānau - despite the challenges - are actually doing it. Without dedicated community drivers, like Aroha, these projects simply don’t happen. There is much mahi to do, but together we can achieve it - as the whakataukī goes - Nā tou rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi.” On that note, I’ll leave the final word to Aroha.
AS: That's right. It's like, what if our whole valley - and this is what we’ve dreamt of while we're developing stuff. It's like, right, my whole Mangakahia Valley. What if all the Māori land that is still owned under multiply-owned ownership, that's being leased to farmers to do milking or whatever they do, what if we took all that back and it was all grown in permaculture gardens? Therefore, none of our valley would be hungry, and they would have all of that stuff. What if we had all of these houses in here and we all lived collectively back as hapū or whānau units, and hapū along our road? We would be so rich, in every way. So, dream big. We do dream big. Dream big. Get a really set vision on what that dream is, and then try to work towards it.
JK: You can find out more about the papakāinga project and follow along for updates, including upcoming wānanga dates, on the project facebook page at facebook.com/ukudevelopers.
Indigenous Urbanism Aotearoa Edition is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.
For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to indigenousurbanism.net. You can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.
JK: Coming up next on Indigenous Urbanism, we visit Mihi Te Rore at her whare on ancestral Māori land in Kaihū, located in the Kaipara district of Te Tai Tokerau.
Mihiata Te Rore: Here as we walk into the kitchen, I had a couple of jacks, two jacks underneath the house here, because that was a bit unstable. So that the fridge would wobble, and the stove would wobble.
Things haven’t always been easy for Mihi and her whānau, but thanks to the housing repairs programme, delivered by her iwi, Te Uri o Hau and funded by Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori development, she now has a warm, dry, and safe whare for her whānau to call home.
MTR: Seeing what has been given to me and my family. My family now, we’re confident. We feel confident. It’s hard when you’re in a house that’s falling down around you. You come home to an ancestral land, and you've been here or your tūpuna have been here, and it’s like nobody cares.