Māori medicine gardens for marae
18 Sep 2009
A traditional Māori medicine garden planted on an East Coast marae during Conservation Week 2009 could be repeated elsewhere in New Zealand, as part of a Department of Conservation campaign to raise awareness.
Rongoa is the Māori term for medicines produced from native plants in New Zealand, and Rongoa Māori is still practised in preventative medicine and remedies for the sick.
Department of Conservation (DOC), which initiated the medicine garden at Ruatoria, wants to increase New Zealanders’ understanding and appreciation of their natural and historic heritage.
The traditional Māori medicine garden was planted at Pokai Marae in Tikapa, Ruatoria with the help of locals affiliated to the marae.
DOC provided 120 native plants and trees with recognised medicinal properties. These included ponga ferns, mamaku, kahikatea, miro, cabbage trees, harakeke, karaka, kamahi, toe toe, wineberry / makomako, kowhai, lacebark / houhere, kohekohe, koromiko and manuka.
The department also provided fencing to keep farm stock out of the garden on marae land.
DOC community relations programme manager and garden organiser, Awhina White, said the project aimed to educate people about the historic use of trees and plants as a natural resource.
Workshops at the marae on planting day covered traditional uses of the medicinal plants plus practical aspects, such as how to plant and care for trees.
"We want to increase New Zealanders understanding and appreciation of their natural and historic heritage and how to use trees and plants as a natural resource," said White.
The theme of Conservation Week 2009 was "get involved and who knows".
"We want people to learn something from this and as well, they will be left with a resource for their future use and for future generations," White said.
DOC hopes to create more Māori medicine gardens at marae on the East Coast, and says there are many benefits.
"It is educating people about conservation, community collaboration with people being involved and as a result they should, at the end of the day, be able to have a bit of knowledge to take back to their hapu, iwi and marae and use it for their benefit," said White.
Aesthetics and shelter
The Māori medicine garden will provide added aesthetics for the marae, and extra shelter.
A second stage of the project will be establishing an interpretation board in the style of a wharenui / Māori meeting house, in keeping with the marae.
The board will contain pictures and information about the tree species in the garden, listing their traditional uses. Marae members will also have the chance to name their garden.
Rongoa Māori - traditional Māori medicine
Iconic New Zealand native plants
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