Developing deep connections with Whakatū | Nelson

Issue: Volume 97, Number 15

Posted: 27 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9kDR

There are many information boards around Whakatū | Nelson – at parks, historic sites and along the Great Taste Trail.
The majority present settler heritage but there is little about Māori, and specifically iwi, history. For one college Deputy Principal, Jane Townsend, this wasn’t enough.

Nayland College Deputy Principal Jane Townsend wanted her students and school community to explore the histories and stories of the Mana Whenua of Whakatū. She and her colleagues organised a three-day Hui Taurima so all Year 9 students could create connections to their school and their significant places in and around Nelson. The Hui Taurima concept began in 2017 as a festival of learning that incorporated place and culturally responsive approaches.

Learning, sharing and experiencing

To facilitate connections between the students, their school and their significant places, the first day of the Hui Taurima involved a pōwhiri at Whakatū Marae and a place-responsive wero. Staff, senior Māori leaders and all Year 9 students were welcomed on to Whakatū Marae, where they learnt about their ancestors and stories represented on the whakairo and tukutuku panels from the Ngāti Koata kaumātua and kuia.

The wero involved students working as a team to visit significant sites and learn about their history. In the following two days, students could opt into activities such as Pacific voyaging and traditional Māori navigation, mau rakau, traditional Māori games, whakairo, rongoa Māori, manu taratahi, kaitiakitanga, creating an art piece to represent their pepeha, waka ama and developing books and presentations on local stories and heroes.

In 2017, says Jane, the school leaders took a student group on a hīkoi where they shared pre-colonial histories and stories, first researched by Māori leaders. In response to student and staff feedback, this activity was adapted in 2018 to the place-responsive wero. The students still learnt the stories but were also given the opportunity to lead their learning and were challenged to work efficiently, applying strategies and making decisions as a group on the order of and the places to which they would go.


The Hui Taurima fostered whanaungatanga for the Year 9 students to their school and to Nelson and the unique history, geography and culture of their local area. As 20 percent of students coming to the school in Year 9 are Māori, says Jane, teachers wanted to make sure they felt this whanaungatanga.

 “We want our students to feel like they belong, to feel part of the school and feel a connection to their awa, maunga and moana of Nayland College and Whakatū,” she says.

“Our local histories and stories are integral to the identity of our school. For example, we have a stream that runs from the mountains, down through the Marsden Valley, through two of our contributing schools, and through our school grounds before it flows out to the Waimea estuary and to our moana. The stream binds our stories and histories, and connections to place.”

Connecting people and place

The Hui Taurima was Jane’s brainchild. After moving from Tauranga where she felt a deep connection with Mauao | Mount Maunganui and Tauranga Moana, Jane wanted to feel this connection to her new home of Whakatū | Nelson.

The staff also learnt a lot from the Hui Taurima experience, with the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in other curriculum areas, senior students, and members of the community with expertise in Te Ao Māori. And their enthusiasm is contagious: “The hui creates a real buzz around the school. It seems the perfect way for us to have a celebration of learning,” says Jane.

Māori translations

awa – river, stream, creek

hīkoi – step, stride, walk

hui taurima – festival, carnival

iwi – extended kinship group, tribe

kaitiaki – trustee, minder, custodian

kaitiakitanga – guardianship, stewardship

kaumātua – adult, elder, a person of status within the whānau

kuia – elderly woman, female elder

manaaki – support, take care of, show respect and care for others

manu taratahi – kite building

mau rākau – Māori weaponry

maunga – mountain, mount, peak

moana – sea, ocean, lake

pepeha – say, exclaim

pōwhiri – welcome ceremony on a marae, welcome

raranga – to weave

rongoa Māori – traditional Māori medicine

tangata whenua – local people, hosts, indigenous people

Te Tai-o-Rehua – The Tasman Sea

waka ama – canoe

wero – challenge

whakairo – carvings

whakapapa – genealogy, descent

wharenui – meeting house, large house

whanaungatanga – a sense of belonging

whenua – land, territory, domain

Connecting to whakapapa

Student Ilaria Old learned a lot about herself, her whānau and her Māori history during last year’s hui.

While Ilaria knew she was Māori, she didn’t know much about her heritage. On the first day of last year’s hui, Ilaria visited Nelson’s Whakatū Marae.

“I spoke with Ilaria while she was working on her art piece: her Tikanga o Wahi/A Sense of Place that represented her pepeha,” says Deputy Principal Jane Townsend.

“She was busy painting a stingray on one of the panels. I asked her about the significance of the stingray and she explained she was a competitive swimmer and when she’s training and competing she imagines she is a stingray gliding through the water.

“During the pōwhiri she noticed a stingray on the pathway approaching the wharenui. That evening she talked to her dad about her day and asked him about their whakapapa for her art piece. She found out their whakapapa is Te Atiawa, and the stingray is the kaitiaki of their iwi. She then found out that Whakatū Marae was her marae.”

What the students say:

 “I didn’t know I had such a strong connection. It’s really interesting to know where my family came from.”

 “During the hui we didn’t just learn about ourselves and Nelson, but also about each other. I only knew a few people at the start, but now I have more connections and friends across the school.”

“One of the big things for me was learning about how much history there is in Nelson, and what it actually means.”

Principal of Nayland College, Daniel Wilson

“Watching our year 9s being welcomed onto Whakatu Marae, many stepping foot for the first time on a marae, was an absolute highlight for me.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 27 August 2018

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