Raising mahinga kai awareness in Waimakariri

Life has turned full circle for our Poū Matai Kō (mahinga kai facilitator) Makarini Rupene, as he moves his focus from Kaikōura to the Waimakariri area, where he grew up and still lives today.

Makarini’s role centres on raising awareness of how to use the land and environment in a way that cultivates an understanding of mahinga kai and sustainability. He’s excited about being back on home soil after spending the past 18 months working with farmers in Kaikōura.

“Being back in my tūrangawaewae (place of standing) is very special as I have a strong connection to the land and waterways of Waimakairiri. I’m passionate about helping landowners to incorporate the enhancement of mahinga kai values into their daily practices.”

What is mahinga kai?

Makarini explains that mahinga kai is a much broader concept than just food gathering.

“It’s everything and there’s no way to put it into a boxed definition. Thinking about it as the value of all the natural resources that sustain life is a helpful way to see how it is all connected. We share our history and culture through gathering resources and mana and manaakitanga – being able to welcome people with respect and hospitality.”

Based on his interactions to date, Makarini says it’s clear that most Waimakariri residents from children through to lifestyle block owners, farmers and those living in urban areas want to ensure that the land and water is healthy and supports life.

“I see cultural values as very aligned to sustainability and by protecting and enhancing these values we’re seeing the bigger picture where biodiversity, cultural values and sustainability are all linked to the same overall idea which is the improvement of our entire environment.

“We’re all connected to the land and the waterways – it’s literally life and when we don’t have a healthy eco-system, we are not healthy as a people, a community and a country. Unhealthy rivers impact us all and damage our sense of connection to the natural world.”

Find out more about mahinga kai.

Teaching mahinga kai values

Each day is different for Makarini as he continues to meet with a wide variety of people from all over Waimakariri.

“I might be giving a presentation to school children, then taking them out to see mahinga kai in action or visiting farmers to help them identify areas of mahinga kai to protect on their farms.”

With the enhancement of mahinga kai now a requirement when implementing Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) in Canterbury, Makarini says meeting face-to-face with farmers to look at opportunities for them to protect mahinga kai is an important part of his role.

“Some farmers are already ahead of the game on this and they may not realise that what they’re already doing on farm such as fencing off streams and wet areas, along with planting projects could qualify for the mahinga kai protection aspect of their FEP.

“Others might not be sure where to start. I am very down-to-earth and approachable, so I am happy to meet with people who need a helping hand.”

Sharing stories of the land and the environment with landowners is one of the most rewarding aspects of Makarini’s role.

“I really enjoy going to see farmers in their space and hearing the stories of the different species they have spotted in their streams and rivers. It doesn’t have to be a huge project. We can work together to make small changes that can have a really positive impact on the wider ecosystem and go from there.”

Look out for mahinga kai "shed talks"

Makarini is looking forward to working with the rest of the Waimakariri Zone Team to launch a series of “shed talks” where farmers can visit farms that have already started their mahinga kai enhancement projects so that everyone can learn from each other.

“We’re all on a journey together and helping landowners get ahead of the game while learning from each other is going to benefit all of us in Waimakariri. Healthy land and healthy water is our lifeforce and we need to join forces to protect it for future generations.”