From hemp to home: Four Tūhoe wāhine challenge the odds

By Herewini Waikato

Four women from Tūhoe have experimented with growing and harvesting hemp on their lands, with the aim of building homes for family out of the crop once it is easily turned into building material.

They’ve taken the step because of housing shortages, high unemployment and a loss of self-determination.

 These descendants of Hinemaia went to Tauānui Marae in Waimana to share their experiences and knowledge and explain there is a future in industrial hemp.   

TeRana Porter of the Hinemaia group says this type of cultivation can revitalise the land, environment and peoples and is also a financial support.   

Another member, Marewa Titoko, says growing hemp is “discovering betterment for our families from this world."

“Some are afraid to delve into this area of production. We thought to establish a group of women who were courageous enough to forge ahead.”

Hemp to home

There were 89 land blocks and owners at the meeting from Whangaparoa to Rotorua working toward collective opportunities. The Hinemaia group was one of six speakers at the event.  

“Today has a whakakapapa that streams back to last year when we started investigating what we can do as landowners here in Waimana and what we can do as a collective for the betterment of our future,” assistant facilitator Daniel Phillips says.

It usually takes six months to grow hemp for harvest. One hectare of hemp can be enough material to build a three-bedroom home. Hinemaia has chosen industrial hemp for building homes. One hurdle was adapting to and following rules and regulations for hemp production and being granted a license for production.

The four women hope this technique encourages iwi to return home and embrace the land’s beauty, warmth and calling.

Next year Hinemaia will cultivate hemp again and build its first three-bedroom home from the material, the first of many that will take care of its iwi.