Māori-owned golf course to train Māori greenkeepers

By Herewini Waikato

After 130 years Ngāti Whakaue Iwi of Te Arawa has been given back its traditional Arikikapakapa land by the government.

It is 70 hectares of prime geothermal land five minutes south of Rotorua city.

The iwi says it will remain a golf course but with an added difference in exploring employment opportunities for Ngati Whakaue, including greenkeeping and course apprenticeship roles.

The land was transferred from the Crown to Pukeroa on Friday. It was a significant event for Ngāti Whakaue after nearly 130 years of work took place to get the whenua back. 

The land was gifted by Ngāti Whakaue in the 1890s to the Crown, meant to be used as a recreational reserve.

Ancestors’ hard mahi

Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust chairman David Tapsell made special mention of those ancestors who put in all the hard mahi well before his time. “We were really lucky generationally, All the factors lined up and we were able to push it through in Wellington a couple of weeks ago and make it happen.”

The land will remain a golf course even though Rotorua has a high number of homeless. Some of the community had hopes this land could accommodate new homes. But Ngāti Whakaue say their obligation is to look after their own people first.

“And it is fair to say that through all the giftings of land Ngāti Whakaue has already provided I feel that we have given enough to the city and the housing kaupapa is a much broader discussion that needs to be dealt with by a lot of people,” Tapsell says.

With an unemployment rate of 8.6%, the Bay of Plenty is one of the hardest-hit regions in New Zealand, and is one of the motivators for Ngāti Whakaue to create opportunities for their own.

Training roles

Ngāti Whakaue and Arikikapakapa Golf Club have two ideas that were identified - greenkeeping maintenance, and facilitation roles and the possibility of a golf scholarship programme from Ngāti Whakaue.

 Ngāti Whakaue’s Monty Morrison is happy with the return of the land and the opportunity to look into mahi for the next generation. He says the Arikikapakapa Golf Course will also be upgraded, with new plans and designs already on the way.

Morrison was sure a scholarship for golfing would work out well for the leaders of tomorrow

“Our youth will also be able to work in the environment - it can be done here at Arikikapakapa and to have the opportunity to gain scholarships to help them also.”

The new course developments are under way now for Arikikapakapa Golf Club and will be completed closer to the end of the year