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;

IM.

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’.

Continue reading “Te Ahumairangi Hill: Kaitiakitanga VS. Misguided Maintenance”

Mount Climie: Gallery Of A Welly Winter Wonderland

Mid-July 2017, and after a week or-so of hugging our heaters here in Welly, we’ve just emerged from the arse-end of yet another miserable winter polar precip – something of a regular/annual occurrence, these days (who’s the orange-tinged ninny that keeps insisting climate change isn’t real(?) – *ugh*, gummon yo).

What that means for tops of ranges like the iconic “Rimutakas” (*actually remutaka, orthographically-speaking, but that’s another story) here in our nation’s capital, is: snow.

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Walking To Wellness

Yesterday was a little like ripping off a band-aid – and not for the first time, either.

The ‘tinana’ (body) is a strange and funny thing, despite all its awesomeness.

And to be utterly fair, the key is in knowing your own one intimately enough to be aware of where yours is at – be that in some state of recovery (*currently me, in this second official month of winter here in NZ), or in your very best shape despite the odds, or the season.

Recently I chose to abandon all social media except Instagram, and damn if that wasn’t both personal and purposeful.  To be honest, I have been well over the negativity and crap that comes with Facebook for a while now, so the decision to finally say “fuck you” and leave was simply a matter of ‘when’, and not ‘if’.

I also did my absolute best to experiment with Snapchat (for the #EverestNoFilter campaign, solely), but once Ballinger et al. were done, I was too.

And, what I’ve since found is, there’s so so much to be gained in the way of wellness simply from being – becoming – less available.  Sure, some will struggle to wrap their mind around the many mental/emotional benefits of leaving the land of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ behind – in this day and age of the ego-driven selfie-groufie-groupie, the notion of others not being driven to the depths of self-loathing due to the/their “lack of” is confusing-af.

Life is, after all, a permanent popularity contest – right?

But: what if, in all that newly-discovered, unhindered stillness, lay the opportunity to do something – anything – on the daily, just for you?

And, not even from a place of ego – yeah, nah.  What I’m talking about comes from an angle of ‘aroha’ – of compassion, and empathy, kindness, self-acceptance, and of mindfulness, and turning those very things on yourself, unconditionally, no matter how tricky or strange that might feel at first.

Just, walking your own walk to wellness, eh.

For me, ripping off said band-aid is in fact one way of doing this; ultimately, hiking and (of course) connecting with Papatūānuku is how I manifest and live my existing relationships with both my māmās – my Earth Mother (who nurtures and sustains), and my Mum (now in spirit).

I love the route to Belmont Trig – even post-face-lift, which has clearly served to make the bush-walk portion more accessible to/for more of the surrounding community, be they ‘tamariki’ (children), dog owners, runners, or bush-lovers like me.

Belmont Trig (457 metres) – the highest point in Pōneke.

Despite now feeling slightly less “intrepid” in those initial phases (*starting at Oakleigh Street), the throat of Te Mana still feels sufficiently steep in others – I was certainly marvelling with my mate about our capacity to “deal to” mountains one minute, and then huff and puff our way up a hillside – this fucking hillside – on an entirely different day.

But, that’s real life.

To conclude on the whole “wellbeing” note: one thing that’s along this particular route in abundance is our native ‘kawakawa’ (pepper tree, Macropiper excelsum), whose leaves you can pick to make a tea-brew that’ll not only enhance your personal connection to/with Papatūānuku and ‘Tāne-mahuta’ (atua/deity of the forest and all forest creatures), but add some honey, ground ginger, and turmeric for a pretty bloody superb tummy tonic that’ll also rejuvenate, and energise:

  • Three kawakawa leaves;
  • Three servings/tips of ground ginger (MasterFoods’ shaker);
  • Quarter of a teaspoon of turmeric;
  • One teaspoon of mānuka honey.

‘Haere pai atu, hoki ora mai nei’ (or: Go gently, and return safe and well), always;

IM.

Mount Lowry: Measuring Nature-based Fitness & Environmental Success

So, whānau: where’s the one place you hike to, to measure your own fitness, and potential success?

‘Cos clearly, for ‘challenge’ and ‘aspiration’ to cohesively co-exist, you need yardsticks – otherwise, how do you even see that ever-lurking ledge-cum-tipping-point distinguishing “fine” from “fucking disaster”, and ultimately separate the two, when you’re in full-swing out there in the wilderness and absolutely need to?

Experience has shown me the value in having a particular route that provides personal, pertinent answers, so I can therefore assess rather than guess (thus avoiding the many levels and layers of “situational shit” that tend to accompany ignorance, arrogance, sheer carelessness, and (*or) selective stupidity.

For me, that’s Mount Lowry.

Continue reading “Mount Lowry: Measuring Nature-based Fitness & Environmental Success”

Chasing Light (*Earthquakes(?), What Earthquakes?)

Something of a Saturday roam “sesh” — November 19, 2016.

Decided to brave Wellington’s prevailing earthquake aftershock routine, and pursue some nature-based “normality”.

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