Last week Tāmaki Makaurau, and Aotearoa, reduced the level of severity for one of the most significant changes to our personal freedoms and our way of life that most of us will have experienced and hopefully will ever need to experience again.
It has been a process that we have all, to different degrees and enduring different levels of loss, uncertainty and fear, entered willingly. We as a nation have come together to act as one, sacrificing hopefully short-term financial loss to save lives and to provide better certainty for the long-term health of not only our people, but our economy.
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There has been immense compromise and sacrifice by many. Our essential workers have worked tirelessly to keep key operations and services functioning, when many more have been required to stay at home.
At Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, our people and our team have worked tirelessly, as have many iwi and Maori providers to do what they can to ease the fear and uncertainty, and to provide much-needed support across our peoples.
Our tūpuna experienced immense loss of resources and freedoms; the complete dislocation of their way of life. It is at the heart of the concern and reaction across Māori communities, the desperate efforts to help our own, despite no longer having the massive resources and connection we once commanded.
Checkpoints, which have been widespread across the motu, are a demonstration of this desire to protect the ones we love. It is a simple but immensely powerful demonstration of an effort to block foreign invaders to our lands. It is not hard to understand the origins of this reaction from Māori.
These weeks of solitude, of uncertainty, of not knowing when the rāhui will end, and what we as a community and a nation will face when we start to move to the new normal, has been a chance to reflect. It has been for myself and many others, a chance to lose some of the fear of the change and different ways of doing things, which seemed impossible just a few weeks ago.
In our isolation, we have allowed our environment to take some deep breaths, we have been allowed to see a city without almost constant congestion, of waterways where fish stocks have had no chance to replenish, and constant maritime movements that push their shrinking habitats to the margins or completely out of our harbours.
We have been better able to appreciate the simple pleasures of walking with our whanau, of taking in the beauty we have to enjoy across Tāmaki Makaurau and our many communities, to savour the remaining green spaces and the role they have in cleansing and nurturing our wairua, the air we breathe.
In adversity, it is natural to seek the familiarity and wisdom of the past and our whakapapa to help guide us forward.
It is time for the dispute, which has seen protestors block access to Ōwairaka, and which has led to repellent graffiti on buildings on the maunga, to come to an end.
The way forward is, in the same ways as we all have done in recent weeks, compromise. Compromise to find a solution that benefits us all.
For the past 20 years, Ngāti Whātua has worked tirelessly to re-populate Takaparawhau with close to one million native and fruit trees, which have slowed erosion, improved soil structure, provided habitat for native birds and insects, and created jobs with mana all while cleaning our air.
We have sent a letter to the chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, Paul Majurey, to Mayor Phil Goff and to the head of the protest group on Ōwairaka, Anna Radford, seeking compromise so that we can progress the essential mahi of replanting on Ōwairaka.
We propose that Takaparawhau holds the solution to this deadlock. In 1991 with the return of our land at Bastion Pt we also earned the right to remove exotic trees as a permitted activity. But just because we have that right hasn't meant we have. In fact we have left significant stands of gum trees and even noxious species like privet and wattle where they are, to continue to provide benefits including slowing erosion until the native understorey grows or high canopy relief for manu escaping cats and other introduced predators.
As ahi kā, and those who live in Tāmaki, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are faced daily with the hurt and loss of this impasse, and it is time for this to end and calm wise heads to guide us forward.
The maunga authority has not acted decisively and as a result the chance to bring all in the community along with its solution has been lost. Locals will be the ones who daily will need to care for the new trees. Like at Bastion Pt, our wider community has planted and weeded the trees with us, together, in friendship and understanding of the future we are trying to recreate.
Understanding will take time, which is what our trees need – so as planting season looms let's grab our spades and do it together and begin putting back what old Te Kawau was so eager to show Samuel Marsden in 1820 when the Ngāti Whātua chief walked up Ōwairaka to show the Reverend the wonder of his lands before him.
• Ngarimu Blair is deputy chair, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, and a director of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Rawa Ltd.