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Flourishing in Uawa . . .

Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence Trust is an Uawa-based organisation dedicated to developing their iwi and community. Shaan Te Kani learns about what the trust is doing to help its people thrive . . .

Ka tipu te whaihanga, e hika, ki Uawa —And creativity and innovation flourished, my friend, in Uawa.”

The words of Rangiuia, the last tohunga of the renowned house of higher learning, Te Whare Wananga o Te Rawheoro, from the 19th Century.

They are words that have been heard numerous times throughout Maori oral traditions, in waiata, and speeches. They even feature in a mural in the middle of the Uawa township.

And they are also words that can be used as a compass, in guiding the people towards a thriving whanau and community.

Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence Trust is an Uawa based-organisation that primarily supports the aspirations of local groups and individuals.

From river sustainability projects to promoting youth development, the iwi trust works on helping their people grow, develop and flourish. Their purpose is to promote, advance, support, develop and maintain excellence in the cultural, social, political, sporting and academic achievement and aspirations for Te Aitanga a Hauiti whanau, marae, hapu and iwi kaenga.

Among its list of current projects and activities is a Community Led Development Programme (CLDP) Partnering Agreement with the Department of Internal Affairs. This partnership is a commitment to collaborate in support of community-led development for Uawa within the Tairawhiti region.

Then there is the Uawanui Sustainability Project, a community-led initiative that aims to achieve long-term economic, environmental and social benefits.

Te Aitanga a Hauiti and the Uawa community work with environmental scientists to explore opportunities for an integrated approach to sustainable land management and restoration across the Uawa River Catchment.

The trust also works alongside the Ministry of Education to provide a local mentoring service aimed at supporting Tolaga Bay Area School and Kahukuranui students to successfully achieve NCEA.

One of the major projects for the trust, particularly for this year, is Te Ahika: Our Story, Our Voice, Our People, an initiative launched two years ago that celebrates the arrival and settlement stories of Uawa, to reflect the heritage and future aspirations of the community.

They have already hosted a number of events, and are yet to celebrate more that align with national celebrations of voyaging, in relation to the First Encounter 250 Commemorations.

“There’s always a lot going on in Uawa, but particularly this year with celebrating Te Ahika,” says Hineteariki Parata-Walker, who is leading the Te Ahika projects.

‘It’s about empowering the community . . .’“Overall Te Ahika celebrates the arrival and the migration of the subsequent generations of Te Aitanga a Hauiti to Uawa.

“It’s about the people who lit the flame, that’s what Te Ahika means, keeping the home fires burning. And it’s a celebration of many different events around that theme.”

Several events have already been celebrated, including the launch of the Hingaangaroa and Iranui carved pou in the main street of Uawa earlier this year.

“Which was quite significant because obviously the history of Hingaangaroa and Iranui as two very famous tipuna pertaining to Te Aitanga a Hauiti, being the parents of Hauiti,” says Hineteariki

“But also of the rich carving history that is celebrated in Te Whare Wananga o Te Rawheoro.

“More modernly with the icon and the symbol of the mana whenua of Te Aitanga a Hauiti in the middle of town. Prior to that launch, if you looked through the centre of the Uawa township, there weren’t many symbols of mana whenua.”

Twenty years of Nga Taiohi a Hauiti, the secondary school kapa haka of Tolaga Bay Area School, was celebrated at Easter this year.

“It was a reunion celebrating the many people who have had a hand in the group over the last 20 years. From past and present performers, composers, tutors, to the cooks and whanau who helped with kakahu (performing attire — such as piupiu and bodices),” says Hineteariki.

“We also had a special ANZAC service, spearheaded by Padre Willie Gray, that commemorated the men who went to war, and the citizenship that they were fighting for.”

Just this month a local delegation called Uawanui ki Tahitinui, travelled to Tahiti to connect with their Tahitian whanaunga (relations).

“It was important because of the connection with the Tahitian navigator Tupaia (who accompanied Cook during his arrival in Aotearoa in 1769),” she says.

“He was a big part in why the Endeavour encounter in Uawa in 1769 was a successful one, through his ability to communicate successfully with the iwi here.

“For subsequent generations after Tupaia, he was very famous in the stories of Te Aitanga a Hauiti in their time.

“That is what we encapsulated with that journey to Tahiti, was to reinforce those ties that began long before, in Hawaiki and then again in 1769, and now today in 2019.”

But, October is “the big one”, says Hineteariki.

“The big event will be the launch of Te Pourewa, which is a beacon of light, designed by tohunga whakairo (master carver) Mark Kopua.

“Opoutama (also referred to as Cook’s Cove) was a beacon of light for many migrations of people.

“In the waves of migration that came from Hawaiki with the waka, Horouta, Tereanini and Mangarara, we descend from those people on those waka, we descend from the ancestor Paikea.

“As well as the waves of migration that came after that encounter in 1769, by British and other peoples, this led to the dual heritage and shared futures that we celebrate today.”

Another major project for October is a Hauiti Youth Summit.

Community led development co-ordinator Shanan Gray is excited for what potential this event can provide for the young people of his community.

“The great thing about this initiative is that the youth are driving it,” says Shanan.

“We see it as an opportunity to help open their minds, which can lead to many positive things.

“What are some more things that we can do to help young people in Uawa be successful.

“We were lucky while growing up, because people invested a lot in us, such as our pakeke, and people from throughout our community.

“And for us, it’s our time to give back to our rangatahi and make sure we nurture them.”

Community-led development is all about gathering the aspirations of the community to help everyone flourish, says Shanan.

His role sees him canvassing the whole community, in identifying the local needs and aspirations of all generations.

“We are creating a community plan, and getting feedback from the people, our kaumatua, our young people, everyone, of what they’d like to see.

“It’s about reaching out to all and being inclusive of everyone. It’s their say, which is empowering for our community.”


TE AHIKA: Among the whanau who are keeping the home fires burning in Uawa, are Shanan Gray and Hineteariki Parata-Walker of the Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence. Picture by Liam Clayton
YOUTH CELEBRATED: This year the Uawa community celebrated 20 years of Nga Taiohi a Hauiti, the secondary school kapa haka group of Tolaga Bay Area School and Kahukuranui. Picture supplied by Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence
HERITAGE COMMEMORATED: The carved pou of Hingaangaroa and Iranui stands in the centre of the Uawa township (above). The carving acknowledges the heritage and ancestry of the iwi Te Aitanga a Hauiti. Picture supplied by Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence