An Absolutely Positively Open Letter To Wellington City Council

To whom this may concern – e tā, e whae rānei (*sir, or madam);

I am writing this open letter to express my deep disappointment at the current state of affairs on one of our city’s most significant historic landmarks, Te Ahumairangi Hill.

You won’t know this, but Te Ahumairangi Hill is a massive part of our unique, innovative, kaupapa Māori ‘wheako ā-taiao’ (*nature experience/explore) curriculum at the Thorndon-based ECC that I currently manage.

Three and four year-olds from our ‘whare’, our place, head up our maunga (and yes, we refer to Te Ahumairangi as “our maunga”) every week to connect with the environment there, increase their sense of ‘atuatanga’ (*relationship/understanding of our Māori deities like our Earth Māmā, Papatūānuku), enhance their fitness and well-being, and just bliss-the-fuck-out, really.

You see, as a centre we whakapapa to this place: put simply, we have purposely and purposefully woven cosmic, spiritual threads between ourselves and the landscape there.  We know the nor’west wind, Ahumairangi (*originating from the heavens), the very breath of life that sustains our maunga.  We know too that the traditional Māori name for its apex is Te Pae o te Huia (*the ridge/range/perch of the (*now extinct) huia bird), due to the abundance of huia that used to inhabit there.  And, we know that our maunga resides in Pipitea – originally Pipikatea, after the translucent pipi shellfish that were endemic to the sandy harbour flats of the original waterfront and haukāinga.

So you see, we’ve bothered to have robust, revealing conversations regarding the history of the geographical spaces surrounding our centre (Te Ahumairangi Hill is one – clearly there are others), to up-skill ourselves as teachers, and then impart this content to our tamariki accordingly, contextually, and experientially, with every trip we take to them.

For this reason, I reckon we reserve the right to some ‘mana whenua’ (*the physical/ethical authority to assume ‘kaitiakitanga’ (guardianship)), not simply because we’re close, but because we care.

I’m not sure what disturbs me the most: the piles of dog crap on the Northern Walkway – also part-and-portion of the Te Araroa Trail (*hello*, have some fucking pride – we do(!)) – or the blue plastic (latex gloves and polyethylene bags) that various dog owners in all their mindlessness are placing right fucking next to their pooch’s impromptu poo.  When we initially began our weekly hikes, we took a makeshift ‘pooper-scooper’ with us to clear the tracks for our kids – but, this got way too revolting for us to maintain.

Then there are the dog roll wrappers that invariably are mixed with the tūtae (*poo), the 30+ cm discarded wire-ends from the weed-eaters that the track maintenance workers use, the never-ending supply of glass bottles and their broken shards, the disposable coffee cups, the cigarette butts, the plastic shopping bags…

No wonder one of our awesome tamariki recently turned to one of her mates and asked: “Why do you think people are so mean to Papatūānuku?”

The response: “I think they see her as the rubbish dump.”

They decided between them, then and there, that the responsibility of picking up all this rubbish – other people’s rubbish – was theirs.

And get a load of this story, this example of their profound sense/s of kaitiakitanga and atuatanga

Of giving a shit.

Make no mistake, Wellington City Council, there’s absolutely-positively more to be done here on Te Ahumairangi Hill to restore this ‘wāhi-tapu’ (*sacred space) to something resembling a communal space that tangibly has the respect of its residents, and the ‘aroha’ (*affection/s) of the community at-large.

Rather than simply (apparently(!)) that of our preschoolers.

‘Cos honestly, not only are we well and truly ‘over’ picking up bags upon bags of garbage every time we go there, but unlike our nation’s Great Walks, sadly there’s no transferring the blame to the vast numbers of tourists hiking these tracks.

No-no, this problem’s all ours.

Increase your presence up there, place more bins ’round the place (i.e., at the bottom and the sides as well as at the look-out), organise a volunteer crew to do regular clean-ups (or openly expect visitors to do their part and take their own garbage with them (we do(!)) by offering incentives or applying penalties) – do something.

Draw a figurative line in the grass at the bottom of the Northern Walkway…

It’s time.

Dedicated to you Te Ahumairangi, with gratitude for everything you give us to sustain us, e te maunga tapu;


Te Ahumairangi Hill: Kaitiakitanga VS. Misguided Maintenance

Whānau, I want to tell you all a story;

Every week, my Bro from work and I journey up our local ‘maunga’ (“peak”), Te Ahumairangi Hill, with probably the coolest and most enlightened bunch of ‘tamariki’ (“kids”) you’ll ever meet.

They’re legit as fuck.  Especially when you consider they’re literally only three and four years old.

A couple of weeks ago, our little “kōhanga crew” started noticing the many council-contracted maintenance workers who were up there clearing the tracks for the upcoming spring-summer (*peak) walking season, and thus tending to the many slips and fallen debris our poor maunga has endured this winter.

Of course they had their machines and their tools with them, and our tamariki edged past these tentatively, rushing further up the track in an effort to return to the serenity and the silence of the place that we have all come to know with intimacy since our journey began in February of this year.

Bar the birdsong, obviously.  Kākā parrots are the main contributors, playful and ever-screeching as we ascend slowly to our special space, our very own “summit” away from the exposed, vehicle-friendly ‘Ridgeline Track’, and further back into the bird-friendly bushline – a deliberate effort to remain in the forest, and to therefore foster a deep(er) sense of connection with our Māori ‘kaitiaki o te ngahere’ (“celestial guardian of the forest and all forest creatures”), Tāne-mahuta.

One particular day – a moment from this most recent time period – is currently – powerfully – etched in my memory.

On our travels, we passed by a ‘mamaku’ (“fern”) that had had some precious adult branches “tended to” in an apparent effort to trim back some foliage from the track…

And, there was trauma seeping from every single wound.

So, our little group of adventurers stopped to assess and appraise the situation.  One of our ‘tikanga’ (“practices”) whenever we’re walking our maunga is to never, ever pick from ‘tipu’ (“plants”), but to always gather our ‘taonga’ (“treasure(s)”, or “thing(s) of value” (*relative to you/them)) from the track – the very bosom of our Earth Māmā, Papatūānuku.

And here, right in front of us, was our ‘why’.

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