Te Moeone Mārakai : connection, ahi kā and healing : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate in Public Health at Massey University, Albany, Aotearoa, New Zealand

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There are significant Māori led initiatives in Aotearoa New Zealand that seek to uplift the wellbeing of people and whenua through assertion of rangatiratanga, connection and reconnection. Rangatiratanga, combined with other living philosophies and practices such as ahi kā, manaakitanga, mana whenua and kaitiakitanga, provides a foundation for the development and implementation of such initiatives. One common expression of Māori (and non-Māori) community action in relation to respectful environmental relationships and connection, is through community gardens. This approach to collective food production is recognised for its ability to increase access to fresh, healthy food, promote physical activity, build community, and share knowledge and practices in relation to food gardens. Mārakai, as they are known in Māori communities have multiplied to the point where they can be found in most towns around the country. My doctoral study is set at Tārereare, a small holding of Māori-owned land situated on top of Mangaone Hill, in New Plymouth city. A relocated house serves as a whare for the mana whenua, Ngāti Tāwhirikura hapῡ, one of eight hapū that make up Te Atiawa iwi. Adjacent to this is an additional acre of land no longer owned by the hapū that has been converted into a mārakai known as Te Moeone. I worked with Ngāti Tāwhirikura hapū as they pursued the reignition of ahi kā, a vision articulated in their aspirations framework, developed in response to a challenging Treaty claims settlement process. To achieve this, I followed the development and implementation of their food-production vision and other related initiatives aimed at restoring their social, cultural, and environmental wellbeing. Through haerenga kitea video records, qualitative interviews, hui and wānanga, we explored the reconnection of the hapū to their tūrangawaewae through the mārakai. The story of the mārakai is one of tensions and challenges inherent in the Treaty claims settlement process and the emergence of the aspirations framework to assert values of peace, rangatiratanga and ahi kā. As a vehicle to pursue these aspirations, the mārakai brought the hapū and other community members together, with impacts across multiple domains of identity, mana, hauora and hapūtanga.
Ngāti Tāwhirikura (New Zealand people), Land tenure, New Zealand, New Plymouth, Community gardens, Māra, Mana whenua, Ahi kā, Rangatiratanga, Māori Doctoral Thesis