“Home for me is multiple places; but where we live is Kaihū in Northland. We only live a few kilometres from my husband’s marae and about an hour from my own - in Te Ahuahu.
We moved here from Auckland in 2003 when we made a very strong decision that we wanted our kids to actually grow up as Tangata Whenua. Not just visit, talk about and learn from afar, but actually walk the land they identified with, swim in the rivers and really understand where they come from.
I guess this part of the country has always been home for me. I was born inland in the Bay of Islands and raised by my grandparents there. That gave me a real sense of home from the start. My grandparents were real marae people – I felt like I grew up on the marae as they were always there. They were often both in the kitchen so I was too, doing little jobs like putting the salt and pepper or cutlery out, or pouring the tea. Those are really strong childhood memories.
When I was primary school age I went back to my parents in South Auckland and had a pretty typical urban upbringing, but always came up north for holidays.
We always had holidays round the rivers and out to the coast so that defines home to me – family, the sea, waterways and gathering food – always food!
We have six children between us aged from 18 to 27 and when we had the last two, we started the move out of Auckland. First Helensville, then back close to my husband’s ancestral home and mine. It’s been so good for the kids to grow up the same way I did with that true connection to what it means to be Māori, and that strong rooting in the land.
I am the chairperson for my marae, Parawhenua in Te Ahuahu and my husband is the chair for his marae, Tamateuaua in Kaihū. I’m very involved with the management of my marae in terms of cultural and administrative roles; we’re really committed to building our communities and keeping our whānau connections and historical narratives alive. I think there’s more interaction between families than when you’re in the city. We work together a lot and that’s part of a sense of home too, a real feeling of community and whanau.
Living near our marae on our ancestral lands in this part of New Zealand really defines our sense of home and I feel so fortunate to have multiple homes – here in Kaihū, in my own family’s community and in Te Ahuahu, Ohaeawai.
In Māori we have a saying which is ‘Ka mate kainga tahi ka ora kainga rua' and this means ’when one home dies another home lives’. The hidden meaning is that having multiple places to call home means you are more loved and nurtured and therefore able to love and nurture others more. In the end, home is love and belonging and being connected to the lands of those who came before us. We’ve really been able to have that sense of connection to our ancestors by moving back here."
Reported by Alexia Santamaria for our AA Directions Autumn 2019 issue