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Tangata whenua stories of Turanganui-a-Kiwa will soon be shared in a way that has never been done before. In the build-up to the launch of a special project that celebrates the uniqueness of the area, reporter Shaan Te Kani spoke to the groups involved . . .

Horouta and Takitimu, Hinehakirirangi and Ruapani. These are just a few of the names that are prominent in the history of Turanganui-a-Kiwa.

These stories are pre-European, and for many generations, right up to this day, tangata whenua have ensured that they live on — particularly through oral histories and the arts.

Now, this history is being recognised, shared and celebrated with the public through a project titled, Tupapa: Our Stand, Our Story.

Tupapa, is where the first peoples of Turanganui-a-Kiwa — through shared ancestry and history — tell their story. It will be presented through a heritage trail and digital media experience.

Tupapa is a historical interpretations project, one of five projects under the Gisborne District Council’s Tairawhiti Navigations programme.

Tairawhiti Navigations is a regional tourism project focused on delivering heritage destinations for local residents and visitors.

A Tupapa working group was established comprising tangata whenua representatives from Ngai Tamanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Ngati Oneone; Gisborne District Council and interpretation design specialists, Locales Ltd.

The project was externally funded by Eastland Community Trust.

The project team also includes two traditional navigators — Greg Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp, who share their experiences and knowledge of traditional navigation.

The heritage trail has 10 markers, which go from Waikanae Beach to the summit of Titirangi Maunga.

Each marker site was chosen for its historical significance and visual orientation. The information on each marker is relative to the view from that particular location.

Information on the marker will also direct the user to the project’s digital media platforms — the Tupapa website and Tupapa mobile app.

The website and app both provide documentary stories told by tangata whenua, and include interactive storytelling and games.

Two view shafts have also been constructed as part of the trail — one on the Turanganui riverside, and one at the summit of Titirangi.

They include stainless steel 3D maps set on a concrete and timber plinth, which the audience can move around to see key points, examine in more detail the view before them, and learn some of its history.

Celebrating stories of shared ancestry TE AITANGA A MAHAKI

Te Aitanga a Mahaki representative Jennifer Pewhairangi says Tupapa is just one way of celebrating what makes Turanganui-a-Kiwa unique.

“We are sharing our korero, our reo (language) and our perspective,” she says.

“We celebrate our tipuna (ancestors) and their deeds.

“And it’s us telling our korero. Not somebody else talking about us.

“Our tamariki are being told by their people, and this is for them. For all of the tamariki of this region.

“Each iwi has their own diversity and their own perspective of their korero.

“We really wanted to ensure that our korero was inclusive. We focused on key subjects that connect all of us.

“We were going back to the waka, and coming forward from there, because our waka, are what connects us.”

Ms Pewhairangi was part of the working group who worked on the ground with the council and project technicians Locales.

She says it was an experience with new learnings and challenges for both sides.

“It’s had its challenges and we’re still working through some of them, especially in ensuring the integrity of our stories.

“It’s about ensuring our stories are portrayed in a way that is ‘hapai i te mana o nga korero’ (uplifting to the mana of our korero).

“But it is a very unique concept, having iwi work with council. I do congratulate them. It can be challenging working with one iwi group, let alone four groups all at once.”


Working collaboratively for a shared purpose has been a major positive outcome, says Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust chairperson Moera Brown.

“The intention was for the people of Tairawhiti to hear our stories from our people.

“I commend the Gisborne District Council for ‘taking the risk’, going out of the norm and resourcing us to be able to tell our stories.

“I acknowledge the hours of work put in by the team who worked on the stories to tell, and ensured that they were our korero told in our way.

“Collectively we managed to get things through and got it done. We were insistent that the stories had to be in te reo Maori, as well as in English — a reflection of dual heritage which we are espousing.

“We were so fortunate to have a range of stories that were so significant to our region — such as Hinehakirirangi, Ruapani, Tara ki Uta and Tara ki Tai, and how Oneroa got its name.

“We also had the opportunity of the inclusion of local navigators to tell their story, reconnecting us all through Maui, and Horouta.

“It connected us and reaffirmed our strong whakapapa connections between us — Rongowhakaata, Mahaki, Ngati Oneone and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

“It was a cool journey and we are all very proud of the final product.”

Ensuring that the stories remain the intellectual property of tangata whenua, and that it is their voices and faces telling the stories is integral, Ms Brown added.

“We have put our stories out to the world. It was important to us that we had our whanau on board, and we would recognise the faces of those who are telling our stories.

“There’s obviously a whole lot of issues around intellectual property, who has the rights, and all of these challenges. We have some obligations to provide some quality assurance around the person who is telling the story, and it creates opportunities for iwi members to provide the authenticity to the storytelling.”

Special acknowlegement to Chris and his team from Locales who managed to put together a very slick and exciting product.


Ngai Tamanuhiri representative and chief executive of Tamanuhiri Tutu Poroporo Trust Robyn Rauna said it was a great opportunity for iwi, individually and collectively, to voice who they are.

“The benefits from an iwi level is that it’s a great opportunity to let people know who we are, where we are, and who we represent.

“It shows the things that are pertinent and valuable to us.

“Across all of the iwi there is diversity in a lot of our stories, but that’s what makes all of this really interesting and unique.

“Sometimes tourists come to our area and think all Maori are the same.

“From an iwi level, we were able to reflect from our own voices who we are.

“From a collective level, it was an awesome opportunity to work on a project together. It’s not something that we’ve done before.

“That in itself is a cause for celebration. That we got together. It had its ups and downs, there’s no doubt about that.

“But I think collectively we’re all really pleased with the final product. That’s the greatest value.

“It’s what we co-created, co-designed as iwi. We were really vigilant on making sure that we met our timeframes. That for me was outstanding.

“I’m proud that the individual parts can clearly stand by themselves, but it’s the sum of all parts that provides a much better and more compelling story for the region.”

The digital technology aspect was also a new learning for tangata whenua.

“It’s something we had never done before,” Ms Rauna says.

“That is a value that Locales brought to us. And I know they were challenged by some of our directions. But it was about maintaining the integrity of our stories, and we wanted to ensure that authenticity.“


Ngati Oneone representative Charlotte Gibson says tangata whenua stories were finally receiving recognition in Turanganui-a- Kiwa.

“This is the only visible, tangible evidence — apart from Te Poho o Rawiri Marae and the carving at Heipipi — that recognises Maori existence in the wider Turanganui-a- Kiwa township/CBD area.

“Ngati Oneone has certainly given up a lot in developing Gisborne city to be what it is today.

“It is timely that Ngati Oneone stories, along with other hapu and iwi, are recognised.

“It is a celebration for us, and for all of the citizens of Turanganui-a-Kiwa.

“It is the beginning towards actively showing dual heritage.”

‘It is something we can be really proud of’GISBORNE DISTRICT COUNCIL

There has been an absence of tangata whenua stories in the district, says Gisborne District Council chief executive officer Nedine Thatcher-Swann.

“They are stories which need to be told,” she says.

“As council, we asked, ‘how do we help support that to happen?’

“Iwi took ownership of telling the stories, and drove it. They selected who would tell the stories, and council supported the environment.

“It is respectful in that the history of the first stories are acknowledged. It’s a good balance.”

The project is driven around “our future generations,” she says.

“What excites me, is that it is an educational tool for our community. It is something we can be really proud of.

“Our kids can learn our stories, and have something they can use in their curriculum.

“People that come here can also learn our stories. This is actually us walking the talk in sharing our culture.”

Mrs Thatcher-Swann commended the Turanga iwi on how they came together on the project.

“They worked collaboratively, and got it done. They should be really proud of themselves,” she said.

Tupapa is also good as it provides other hapu in the region an example on how we can share our stories.

“It is a blue print to see how council can support iwi-led projects, that have a wider community benefit.”

“Navigate Tairawhiti is a big programme of work that enables us to tell our stories from right across the region”.?


Sharing the stories of our community, from all angles, is a major reason why Eastland Community Trust has backed the project.

“This is a project that aligns with so many things we stand for at ECT,” said chief executive Gavin Murphy.

“At the very heart of it, this project is about people, ensuring that there is a platform for sharing these stories, and developing a shared understanding of all of them.

“The next generation will grow up with this being part of their community. That’s the really exciting part.”

While some of the physical aspects of the project have changed since the initial planning, Mr Murphy said “the stories still stand”.

“For the ECT, we wanted the funding to be around those stories that are permanent in our community.

“It is also integral that the stories are told by the appropriate people.

“It becomes completely authentic and genuine when told by the appropriate people.”

With tourism being a likely by-product of the project, ECT says its focus has, and still is, primarily on the community.

“Right from the start we supported this purely from a community-outcome perspective, for our own community to be informed about our stories and heritage.

“But visitors also have the opportunity to share in the stories.

“The fact that tourism can become a by-product of it, is a nice additional aspect.

“It is an opportunity, in the wider navigational context, but it is not a presumption.

“There’s quite a lot of continued work and understanding to be done in this area, by the ECT, GDC, government agencies, in working with iwi. That’s the next step in front of us.

“If the tourism aspect is explored, what does that look like?

“Well, it would not be a staff member from the iSite telling visitors these stories.

“It needs to be the appropriate people, sharing these stories and, if appropriate, local story-owners creating tourism business opportunities alongside the stories too.”


The mobile app for Tupapa: Our stand, Our Story. It will deliver a digital media experience in sharing the tangata whenua stories of Turanganui-a-Kiwa.
STORIES FROM TITIRANGI: ?One of two information view shafts that are part of the Tupapa heritage trail. This shaft, which is not yet complete, is based at the summit of Titirangi, and overlooks the bay. Picture by Shaan Te Kani