A community initiative that has been quietly bubbling away in Kaitaia since the beginning of the year will come to fruition at 11am tomorrow, with the opening of Tuia Whare Taapapa and Maara Whenua.
The community garden, or the 'Garden of the Land,' at the end of Melba Street, behind the RSA is a joint venture between Kia Piki Te Ora and Te Aho Tuu Roa, with support from kohanga reo, puna reo, kura, wharekura and learning communities focused on kaupapa Maori environmental projects.
Te Aho Tuu Roa kaiwhakapuumau Joanne Murray said the vision was to create a living library for the community to promote sustainable living and guardianship practices, while empowering participants by developing capacity, providing support and strengthening inter-generational learning opportunities and networks.
Kia Piki Te Ora, a group nurtured by Te Rarawa Anga Mua, meets every Friday to practice and create rongoa Maori, or traditional Maori medicine.
Te Ahu Tuu Roa is an initiative funded by the Toimata Foundation Charitable Trust that works in communities that embrace Maori culture, language and wisdom.
Kia Piki Te Ora co-ordinator Vivienne Body said the garden was representative of community collaboration. The existing facility renovations and artworks that adorn the garden have been undertaken largely by volunteers, with a minimum of funding.
"We've had to beg, borrow and steal, but we've made it," she said.
"This has been a real labour of love, and the manaakitanga that has come through has been awesome."
The garden features riparian plantings of native trees, including koromiko, karaka, ti kouka, harakeke, kawakawa and tupakihi, which will eventually be used in controlling the lay of the land and for of rongoa Maori.
Carved pou representative of Maori kaitiaki such as Tane, Ranginui and Maui have also been installed, as have carved waharoa, pataka and rua, all standard features of a traditional Maori garden, while two areas have been dedicated to the memory of prominent kaumatua who passed away last year.
The native tree area has been planted in memory of Te Kai Makiha, and the pataka kai in memory of Dr Bruce Gregory, both invaluable members of the rongoa Maori group and key speakers at last year's Mauri Ora Mai Tawhito Symposium.
Joanne said she was delighted with the result.
"We're happy we can put some more positive projects in place and bring this garden to life for our community," she added.
Healthy Families Far North manager Allan Pivac described the new space as an exemplar of a Far North community working in collaboration in each other's best interests.
"A healthier Far North starts in the places where we live, learn, work and play," he said.
"The opening of this precious resource has highlighted who some of our community champions are, and provides a vehicle of inspiration for us to take charge of our health and well-being."