Kerikeri locals are exploring new ways to play, embracing the power of pūrākau and traditional Māori games to learn and share the whakapapa of Ngāti Rēhia.

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The community are rallying together to build a māra hūpara at the Kerikeri sports complex; an intergenerational space that brings a deeper meaning to activities and tākaro Māori.  

Residents of Edkins Road were invited to participate in a play event earlier this month to understand the skills whānau are wanting to build through play, the elements of play that already exist and to share and surface pūrākau that connects them to the whenua.  

Systems Innovator, Tawhi Tua, said underpinning the values of what it is the community want and need will help inform the design team moving forward. 

“We were surprised to find out that most of those on Edkins Road didn’t actually visit the complex or the park unless it was for organised sport, so it was quite exciting to get them outside, to get them moving, and to have them think more about what it is they’d like to see and do in this new space.” 

The neighbors got amongst the action, moving away from what you’d traditionally find at a playground and instead made use of te taiao, recognising quality play experiences through exploration.  

“I think overall it was a really good afternoon. Everyone was up for trying something new, it got really competitive, and we were just having a good time.” 

“It was a great way to learn about the challenges and barriers to play, and to explore some alternative solutions together.” 

While the complex is set to feature a flying fox, swings, slides and more, the māra hūpara will be significant to the area, telling the stories of Ngāti Rēhia through meaningful engagement with mana whenua. 

Tua said it was important for whānau to feel a sense of connection to the spaces and places they play in.  

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“It’s been quite surprising to find that a lot of the community don’t know much history or the whakapapa of the region.

“After talking with our local sport clubs, parents, tamariki and whānau, we found there was a real hunger for it and an appetite to share those pūrākau with those who are living here or passing through.” 

Project lead, Angela Barker, said the māra hūpara is about providing quality play experiences for the entire community to enjoy. 

The whole project has shifted our thinking away from the conventional western plastic playground and instead to think more about the historical significance of the site and how we might take better care for the environment.” 

"The end result will be something our whole community can be proud of and I’m grateful that Healthy Families Far North have helped us navigate this project in this way."  

Healthy Families Far North will continue to work alongside Ngāti Rēhia, Kerikeri residents and the Far North District Council while concept plans get underway.