Traditional Māori wellbeing practices are literally paving the way for health and wellbeing for Hokianga Hospital patients.
Hauora Hokianga is planting more native trees to develop the hospital wellbeing and healing pathway - Ara Rongoā Hikoi Whakaora - which will eventually loop around the entire site.
The aim is to reframe the hospital from being a place of illness to a place of wellbeing and healing.
Volunteer Kairongoa practitioners established the Taumata Rongoā service last year, and it recently became part of Hauora Hokianga health, thanks to funding from the Northland DHB rongoā Māori pilot programme.
Taumata Rongoā o Hauora Hokianga service spokesman Hone Taimona said the traditional practice of rongoā Māori recognised the reciprocal relationship between people and their environment.
"The land can keep us well, but we have a responsibility to keep the land well," Taimona said.
"We want to enable rongoā in all its forms and that means considering more than just physical health. We want to beautify our spaces to become places of connection, healing, peace, and refuge.
"The Ara Rongoā Hikoi Whakaora can support all people regardless of where they are in their health journey. From new life through to the end of life, access to rongoā is available throughout the whole spectrum of the human experience.
"The utilisation of the land around the hospital as an ara rongoā will provide a natural and holistic environment that facilitates healing, learning, understanding and connection. When we heal the whenua, we heal the people."
Manutaki (project manager) of the Ara Rongoā Hikoi Whakaora Jessie McVeagh said the ara rongoā would envelop the full hospital site as a literal pathway and wellbeing pathway.
"We have just planted more native trees and have the beginning of a mara kai - food garden," McVeagh said.
"We will be planting fruit trees and establishing gardens with plants we can use in our wellbeing plans."
Having the Taumata Rongoā service within Hauora Hokianga enables treatment choice for patients, with conventional medicines now offered alongside traditional healing practices.
Hauora Hokianga partnered with local rongoā practitioner Amy Bristow and Ringa Atawhai Mātauranga training establishment to support the service.
Ringa Atawhai Mātauranga runs wānanga rongoā level 3 and 4 certificate programmes where more than 25 hospital staff and 70 local community members are learning traditional healing practices.
These partnerships educate the community and staff on the benefits of rongoā while increasing the number of qualified practitioners, making the service sustainable.
McVeagh said Hauora Hokianga was keen to see the community actively engaged in reclaiming their spaces of health.
"We would love to see our whānau coming in to utilise the gardens and to enjoy the kai grown in the mara," she said.
"We also want them to use the fruit from the trees and to contribute to its growth by giving their time to plant and harvest kai, or by bringing cutting of plants or seedlings from home.''