When Kerikeri locals visit the new māra hūpara to be built at Remarie Kapa Drive’s Kerikeri Sports Complex, they can expect more than a place to play.

The māra hūpara is being co-designed to ensure whānau are well in every way, nurturing not just the physical and mental health, but also the social and spiritual connection to improve good health.

The community-led project aims to whakamana pūrākau, narratives and stories of Ngāti Rēhia to bring a deeper meaning to activities and tākaro Māori.

Ngāti Rēhia kaiarahi Kipa Munro said it’s been special to be part of a kaupapa where everyone's voice is valued.

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“It’s a new way of thinking on how we as hapū and those that practice these practices open those doors for others, because historically of course those would have been the realm of our own people.”

“It also puts our DNA back in there as hapū… for Ngāti Rēhia, we’re always looking to include our community in as much as we can so they can understand why we do the things we do and how we do the things, so I think it’s special on many accounts.”

A blessing took place at the site earlier this month, unveiling the name, Te Amo Pūtoro: The nurturing house of fun which holds fast to our explorations – a name given by the community who are dedicated to building a safe place for all our whānau to explore and belong.

Mana of our ingoa tangata and pūrākau as a method of ako (to learn and to teach) has the power to keep Māori values alive and can be created in various settings to better understand whakapapa and identity.

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The name Te Amo Pūtoro derives from four key words of what the community believe the space should be and represent – exploring, belonging, fun and safe.

Project lead Angela Barker said working with Ngāti Rēhia and Healthy Families Far North has brought a “whole new energy” to the kaupapa.

“The name Te Amo Pūtoro came about through a workshop with people who will use the site with Ngāti Rēhia leading it, so Kipa has been a huge part of this process.”

“It’s been close to three years when we realised we needed a safe space for our tamariki to play… since working with Ngāti Rēhia there’s a lot more meaning behind what we’re trying to do and achieve.”

For Systems Innovator Tawhi Tua, the journey of working alongside her community and hapū has been an empowering one.

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“It’s been exciting, it’s been a learning for me as well. Not only about how we do things as System Innovators but also getting to connect with my whānau and hearing the stories that I wouldn’t normally hear by being at marae.”

“Locals are being more intentional when working with our hapū and acknowledging that ‘yes we’re on your whenua, yes we’re in your rohe and we want you to guide us on this journey so that we are doing everything right by the whenua while providing a place for everyone to enjoy.”

Te Amo Pūtoro is a demonstration of what happens when mana whenua are driving the design, she added.

“By working collectively we’re thinking beyond taha tinana. We know pūrākau embraces Māori identity, it creates shared meaning, and I can only imagine how much more our public play spaces could provide if everyone had the opportunity to be part of projects likes this.”

“Te tika ka mōhio, te pono ka mārama, te pūrākau ka maumahara te ngākau.”

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn, tell me the truth and I’ll believe but tell us the story and it will live in my heart forever."