This was meant to be a farewell to Northlanders.
But it has become a "hello" to Hawke's Bay Today readers.

This past week has been my last as editor of the Northern Advocate newspaper in Northland.
As of May 28, I am editor of Hawke's Bay Today.

One of an outgoing editor's last rites is to say goodbye.

That will have to wait because I am compelled to say "hello" to Hawke's Bay readers first.
The catalyst is not just my family's impending move to your beautiful region.


The debate around the walking track on Te Mata Peak has intrigued me.

My perspective is that of someone, until May 28, looking at it curiously from the outside.
I am a Pākehā New Zealander who has tried to learn a little tikanga, I am married to a beautiful Dannevirke-born woman of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahungunu descent.

I am also a so-so but keen mountain biker, albeit one currently in hiatus.

There are no decent tracks where I live, and a 10kg-12kg weight attached to my bike hampers my enjoyment. That extra 10kg-12kg is also attached to my bum and midriff.

And yes, I know, to lose the weight I need to get on the bike.

I write this from a building that has a 2.5m by 1.5m photograph of the prow of a Waitangi waka.

Just like the NZME building in Hastings that hosts Hawke's Bay Today staff, the photographs on the building represent the region.

The building houses a commercial operation – the waka photograph was taken in a news/reporting context.

New Hawke's Bay Today editor Craig Cooper.
New Hawke's Bay Today editor Craig Cooper.

There is no written protocol or law that requires me to seek permission to use the photograph.

Under New Zealand copyright law, we can pretty much do what we like with it.
But just because we can doesn't mean we do.

We sought permission to use the photograph out of respect for the culture it represents, and the change in context of its use.

It was a matter of finding the right person to ask, explaining the use, and receiving an email that said "it should be fine".

My understanding of the Te Mata track debate is the Hastings District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council were not legally required to invite a view over Craggy Range's new track, and did not.

There is sufficient respect for the iwi and understanding of local tikanga that the owners of Craggy Range Winery – who built the track – had their premises blessed by Ngāti Kahungunu when the business opened in 1997 .

I can see why some people find it odd no pre-construction "blessing" was sought for the track.

It is, as I understand, on a maunga considered to be the prostrate form of chief Rongokako, the grandfather of Kahungunu and ancestor of Ngāti Kahungunu iwi.
So it is not an unnamed hillside with no past.

I grew up in a town with popular walking tracks on a maunga called Parihaka.

The local iwi had to fight to get the name changed from the incorrect Parahaki.

(Some white, middle class Northlanders still insist on calling it "Parahaki" in an ignorant act of latent racism.)

The tracks on Parihaka that locals spill sweat on each day had blood spilt on them first, during inter-tribal conflict.

Locals stick to the paths that have been blessed, they are safest.

So my upbringing means I won't ride or walk a track that has not been blessed.
I won't venture onto the Te Mata track unless the issue is resolved.

But I will happily scale existing, sanctioned tracks, and visit Craggy Range.

So there you go, not all mountain bikers are cut from the same lycra (or own SUVs).

I think it is a tribute to Craggy Range Winery director Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson and Ngāti Kahungunu iwi leader Ngāhiwi Tomoana they are still open to dialogue over the issue.

As much as editors like to encourage debate in newspapers and online, it is a dialogue that will likely happen privately, kanohi ki te kanohi – face to face.

It is not that long ago a resolution was being aired, and there seems to be still potential for the track to represent something other than a scar, from a wound.