The Kāpiti Coast District Council has partnered with local kai raranga to improve our harakeke (flax) pruning skills. Video / Kāpiti Coast District Council
A group of Kāpiti kairaranga (weavers) say more education is needed for councils across the motu on caring for native plants.
Brenda Tuuta was among the group that taught Kāpiti Coast District Council (KCDC) staff and contractors how to care for its harakeke using traditional Māori practices last September.
It began with butchered bushes along cycleways in Paekākāriki’s Queen Elizabeth Park, Tuuta said.
“The community at Paekākāriki were a little bit horrified with the way their harakeke was being … pruned I guess you’d call it, and so a few of the kairaranga and people in the community got together and said ‘well hey, this isn’t good enough’ and went to the council,” she said.
KCDC environment team leader Andy McKay said changes to its management of harakeke include not harvesting plants when they were in flower or during bad weather.
“Initially, in some areas that haven’t been managed this way for probably close to a decade, it does take a little bit more time and effort to get it up to a point where it’s manageable,” he said.
“But once you get it to that point, I think it is actually a quicker and more efficient way of looking after these areas.”
Following tikanga to care for harakeke had made for healthier plants, and would likely result in less intensive and costly maintenance, McKay said.
“It’s just having that ongoing conversation and when we have new staff come onboard too, we need to get them up to speed and make sure everyone is doing the right thing.”
A book of tikanga harakeke information was also being worked on by the kairaranga and council, likely for distribution to community planting groups, McKay said.
In Christchurch, Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust kairaranga Corabelle Summerton said it was easy to permanently damage harakeke.
“Cutting the plant without going as low down as possible is one of the [ways to harm a plant], as is just cutting across a leaf. Because as soon as you do, you can’t use the leaf whatsoever,” Summerton said.
“It does not grow a new leaf, you’ve actually just wrecked a leaf and no one can use it.”
Summerton would like to see workshops similar to those run for Kāpiti Coast adopted by councils across the motu.
“I’m always happy to show people. [The trust has] even thought of running free classes just to get more people cutting correctly. Because the more people you can get to do that correctly, the better it is for all of us – not just the plant.”
Tuuta also wanted to see advice given on native plantings before they went into the ground.
It would give councils a better idea of the maintenance required and the community benefits provided by each species, she said.
“A lot of [councils] are planting phormium wharariki which is [a harakeke variety] grown up and down the road side frequently in New Zealand. And it’s not suitable for weaving, it doesn’t have enough fibre in it.”
There were already talks with KCDC on planting harakeke that could be used for weaving, Tuuta said.
“The plantings are great, but it does take a lot of people to maintain a pā harakeke, not just one person. So you need to have a community on board and work as a community as opposed to being in silos,” she said.
“Because I think so often now, council work in silos … We’re just getting to a point, I think, on the Kāpiti Coast where everyone is really keen to work together.”
Tuuta encouraged others to go to their local council to begin the conversation about planting and caring for harakeke.