By Roimata Sinclair
Earlier this month, Healthy Families East Cape Rautaki Māori Jade Kameta facilitated an Ōpōtiki Play Steering Rōpū hui which gathered community play champions and representatives from Te Ao Hou Trust, Ōpōtiki Primary School and the Ōpōtiki District Council.
The Ōpōtiki Play Steering Rōpū are well aware of the power in supporting and enabling play in our communities - community wellbeing is improved, social connectedness becomes more commonplace, and barriers to equity are largely removed.
“We are passionate about facilitating the Ōpōtiki Plays Rōpū with the aim to empower communities and give them a stronger voice and role in lifting their own well-being.”
The collective was pulled together by Healthy Families East Cape in 2022, with the aim to demonstrate the value of taking a whole of community approach to help identify the systems and the social and physical environments that affect play.
Top of mind for the rōpū was discussing how the collective could support the exciting Ōpōtiki Taku Hīkoi kaupapa, an authentic place-based story-telling experience unique to the rohe that is planned to launch during Matariki.
Rautaki Māori, Jade spoke about how the rōpū recognised that ‘Taku Hīkoi’ is a great opportunity to prioritise community wellbeing.
“Understanding this means we are now pivoting to ensure that our local community have access to being involved in the kaupapa and realising the current barriers to participation and working to reduce and/or remove them,” says Jade.
‘Ōpōtiki Taku Hīkoi’ is a collaborative initiative led by the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board and Ōpōtiki District Council to create 12 pou whakairo placed along the Motu trails. Each of the 6 hapu from the area will be represented, with their unique pūrakau (stories) and whakapapa shared alongside the pou.
“Here at Healthy Families East Cape we know that environments play a valuable part in the health and wellbeing (hauora) of our people, especially Māori,” says Jade.
“We also know that health is a cultural concept because culture frames and shapes how we perceive the world and our experiences.”
The community led initiative aims to illuminate Ōpōtiki’s authentic stories and design a place-based, outdoor visitor and educational experience. Taku Hīkoi will also be integrated with an app made by Waikato University students, to gain comprehensive insight of the region’s unique culture and history.
“Our vision was to create a heritage trail that would capture the kōrero of the iwi but, it would also be fun and interactive for the whole whānau,” says Anna Kurei, Community Engagement Officer at the Ōpōtiki District Council.
“The idea is that by doing the heritage trail you are learning about the kōrero, ngā taonga tuku iho, from the hapu of the iwi and doing so in a fun way, through the use of technology and taonga tākaro.”
“The app has been designed to work within the rohe to encourage people, especially those from Te Whakatōhea to return home and begin their journey of learning about their tuakiritanga hence the naming of ‘Taku Hīkoi’ (My Journey),” continues Anna.
“Elevating local pūrākau will increase physical activity and play because the pou are located all over the Motu trail, but it will also strengthen people's connection with land, culture, and identity. This has a much bigger and more sustainable impact on the hauora of our people,” says Jade.
“We must continue to support Iwi-led, mātauranga Māori informed approaches to hauora like Taku Hīkoi.”
If we collectively understand that Māori principles and practices have always contained a range of tools and strategies, we can regenerate health. The steering group saw supporting ‘Taku Hīkoi’ as an exciting kaupapa to be a part of as it not only responds to local needs by using local cultural capacity it also continues to evidence mātauranga Māori as an effective health prevention solution.
We look forward to sharing more about the initiative as it develops in the lead-up to the official opening during Matariki.
To get involved in the Ōpōtiki Play Steering Rōpū please email email@example.com