Ancestral kumara gardens replanted on Matakohe Island

By Dean Nathan

To Northland, where it's estimated that over 150 years have passed since massive kūmara gardens on Matakohe Island flourished during the time of the chief Te Ihi-o-te-Rangi. Today the people of Te Parawhau and supporters returned to Matakohe to begin replanting the kūmara gardens of their chiefly ancestor.

Many generations have passed since the last kūmara gardens on Matakohe Island.

“What we're doing here is reviving the memories of our ancestors who planted kūmara here on Matakohe Island and trying to maintain some of the traditional customs associated with gardening that have been passed down to us, their descendants,” says Pereri Tito, (Te Parawhau).

One can still see the outlines of the major gardens on the northern side of Matakohe from the time that Te Ihi-o-te-Rangi lived here in the early 1800's.

“This taonga that we're planting here today has travelled with Polynesian people, our tupuna for centuries,” says Jamie Hancox of Horticulture and Sustainable Rural Development, “It sustained people. There’s been battles, there’s been celebrations, all around this super important kai.”

This was one of many gardens of this district in the time of the forbears. Today their descendants are replanting with some traditional varieties known as taputini and hutihuti.

As this ancient garden is also recognised by Heritage New Zealand, special consideration was given to allow it to be replanted.

In a little while, loclas will reap the fruits of our labour here today on Matakohe and in time they would like to replant the other side of the island.