Hikoi offers alternative to courtroom

By Laurel Stowell

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ON THE SPOT: Marama Fox (left) is pictured with Tariana Turia in November 2014, when Mrs Turia handed over the co-leadership of the Maori Party.PHOTO/FILE
ON THE SPOT: Marama Fox (left) is pictured with Tariana Turia in November 2014, when Mrs Turia handed over the co-leadership of the Maori Party.PHOTO/FILE

A Napier group will spend three days next month walking from Turakina Beach to Palmerston North on the Te Araroa Trail.

The mixed group is to include Maori Party MP Marama Fox, about 10 young people from the low-income suburb Maraenui in Napier and others inspired by the new charity Te Araroa Offers Hope.

One of them is its founder and initial funder, Napier man Pat Magill, now aged 90. With him will be Minnie Ratima, the Napier organiser and "glue" that keeps the group together.

They start walking at Turakina Beach on February 13, and finish at Palmerston North on February 15. That Rangitikei-Manawatu stretch of the trail is the fourth to be walked by the group. They started with a walk from Cape Reinga to Ahipara on a suicide prevention mission, after a rash of young people from the Napier suburb of Flaxmere committed suicide.

Their next stretch was through Auckland, and the last one was near Hamilton, walked late last year.

The experience of walking the land and relating to others helped young people from difficult families and gang backgrounds, Ms Ratima said.

"They just need to see and hear that there's a different way of living, and better choices to make - doing something other than following in their parents' footsteps."

The walk was "an alternative to the courtroom" for them.

"The kids here in Maraenui end up in court, predominantly.

"We want to change that so they don't get to that point."

Maraenui went through an upheaval about four years ago, when tenants were asked to leave their two-storey state houses. Ms Ratima was one of those. She said the walking stints had helped her and she wanted to do more.

The February group will include children who are wards of the state, and the children of Mongrel Mob gang members. They have been training by walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Ms Ratima intends to take them on a quick visit to Ratana Pa before they start their trek.

The young people's expenses are covered by donations to the trust.

Others on the walk will pay their own way and Whanganui people are welcome to join them.

A day on foot will be a challenge for MP Marama Fox, but she's keen to get outdoors and talk to other walkers.

The Masterton woman said she was planning to do just one "flattish" day of the Rangitikei-Manawatu walk, and wants to bring some of her nine children.

She had bariatric surgery two years ago and is still working toward reaching her goal weight.

Ms Fox said the Te Araroa Offers Hope Charitable Trust was a fabulous idea. Young Maori and Pasifika people who had been disengaged from family life could get a closed view of things and start to feel hopeless.

She'll tell them not to be limited by what other people think of them, and to see and experience different things.

"I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to get amongst the whenua and have those conversations that help us lift and empower each other."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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