More than 100 fruit trees will be delivered to Ngāpuhi whānau living at Taheke and Otaua tomorrow, weather permitting, as part of a Rural Regeneration programme and partnership between Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi o Ngāpuhi and Te Puni Kōkiri, designed to provide practical help and support to vulnerable Ngāpuhi whānau living in the rural areas of the Hokianga, Horeke, Otaua, Waima and Tautoro.
Launched in January last year, the programme has already helped 20 whānau living in homes in dire need of urgent and essential repairs, and created opportunities to help them address immediate health and social needs.
That assistance has included repairing leaking roofs, remedying inadequate clean water supplies, upgrading wiring to be safe and compliant, installing sewerage systems and flush toilets, replacing failed septic tanks and installing hot water systems.
Some of the programme's 'wrap-around services' also encourage the development of initiatives to help whānau sustain themselves, and to make productive use of their land.
"Many of these whānau, located in deep rural situations, remember when their tūpuna, kaumātua and kuia grew a variety of food that augmented their living situation," Ngāpuhi Rūnanga Housing Coordinator Kara George says.
"The community thrived because the gardens thrived," said Ngāpuhi Rūnanga housing co-ordinator Kara George.
The "supermarket mentality" had seen an erosion of the pride and practice of growing food and living off the land. The urban drift of 1960s and 70s had also played a part in abandonment of the land, but in recent years descendants had returned, re-occupying the old homes and rejuvenating the land, marae and communities.
Discussion and feedback with whānau provided strong support for the planting of fruit trees around their houses, where they can be easily maintained, Mr George added.
They suggested that citrus, such as oranges, lemons and mandarins, feijoas, plums and apples would best serve their needs.
More than 200 fruit trees had been delivered so far, with another 200 due over the coming weeks.
Rūnanga CEO Lorraine Toki said many whānau had once had fruit trees surrounding their whare, and small garden plots, and an opportunity o partner with Te Puni Kōkiri and help bring back some of the traditional food practices, to provide healthy, sustainable kai options, had presented itself.
Whānau who have received urgent home repairs and fruit trees had noticed a tremendous lift in their lifestyle approaches and spirits, especially amongst kaumātua and kuia, in being able to demonstrate and realise the practices of awhi (support), manaaki (care) and tiaki (guardianship).
One kuia from Utukura had been heard to say to her mokopuna: 'Mā te Atua e manaaki i a mātou i n ā wā katoa — mā tātou e tiaki i a tātou anō, i te wā e ora ai tātou.' (Let God take care of us all of the time — while we take care of ourselves for the time we are here).