What is mahinga kai — and why do we care?

Our Shed Day discussing mahinga kai on a Hurunui farm proved very popular with a wide range of people, including school pupils, industry groups, and farmers.

Mahinga kai is a substantial concept, and while many people think it is about food and food gathering, that's just one of the many elements that make up mahinga kai. It is about using natural resources and their relationship to the natural world. Makarini Rupene, our Pou Matai Ko (cultivating & understanding of mahinga kai), expanded on the full meaning of mahinga kai.

"It can be anything from the stones you'd use for fire making and tools, pounamu, the mud you use for dyes, rongo/medicine, and all your birds and fish. Anything that is a natural resource from the environment is mahinga kai. We decided that the best way to include people in the mahinga kai journey was to hold workshops. Unfortunately, our first attempt was scuppered by COVID-19 - and we held it online. This year we were excited to bring part two to the field."

Local student involvement

John McBride Principal of Hanmer Springs School attended the day with 10 students. The school's goals are to become more sustainably minded and to utilize the natural surroundings.

"We have aligned our school classroom names and values with native birds and I would like all of our students to be able to identify at least our five native birds by sight and sound by the time they leave our school. We are one minute from the heritage forest which we are trying to tap into for learning. Our future plans are to take some ownership of the track and trail maintenance as a way of giving back to the wonderful resource at our doorstep."

Hanmer Springs School is impressive - it has an environmental club made up of students who are passionate about reaching positive sustainability goals.

"Last month we introduced a three-bin waste management system in our classes (landfill, recycling, compost) which those students have taken responsibility for managing each week. I would guess most of our students or staff don't know much about mahinga kai, so we thought it was a great opportunity to come and learn."

Hanmer Springs School students

Makarini with a tuna/eel

The great group from Fonterra who helped sponsor the event