Blessing held to unveil Te Pou O Hekenui

Lincoln Vincent of Ngāti Kauwhata had not picked up his carving tools since his father passed away. But with encouragement from his younger brother, Clinton, he was tasked with carving a new pou (post or upright) for the Awahuri Forest-Kitchener Park wetland project.

The pou was unveiled at a blessing of land that had been purchased in 2021 by the Awahuri Forest-Kitchener Park Trust, and is earmarked for the wetlands or repo. The ceremony was attended by the various partners involved in the project, including Ngāti Kauwhata Iwi, Awahuri Forest-Kitchener Park Trust, Manawatū District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Central Demolition and Recreational Services.

Unveiling Te Pou O Hekenui

“It was a real honour to be asked to do this pou. My father was Scottish, but he always told me to make sure that I put something back into the land, and today I’m able to say I’ve done that,” said Lincoln.

The name of the pou is Te Waimarino O Hekenui, (the calming waters of Hekenui) and features the Tuna (eel like Taniwha) , as well as Atua (Gods) such as Tane Mahuta (forest) and Tangaroa (water). According to Ngāti Kauwhata, Hekenui is a guardian or Kaitiaki that lives in the Mangakino/Makino Stream that cuts through the forest.

“My son said to me this morning, ‘it’s no longer our pou now, is it?’ And he’s right, it’s the community’s pou. It is for everyone and it symbolises us all being weaved together,” says Lincoln.

Lincoln, along with Mayor Helen Worboys and Awahuri Forest-Park Trust Chair Jill Darragh unveiled the pou. The wood or totara log that was used for the carving was sourced by the Trust from within the park and it is estimated to be at least 500 years old. Mayor Helen said it was a real privilege to be at the unveiling.

The forest holds special significance to Ngāti Kauwhata Iwi, and through their Jobs for Nature programme, they have been working with the Trust to regenerate forest, which had been in ill health for a number of years, and the wetlands are part of the strategy.

Jill Darragh said that the aim with the wetlands or repo was to ensure that the forest was protected from flooding and helping to feed it with healthy nutrients.

“Shortly after the Trust was formed in 2013, the Park flooded very badly. Our Trustees tour of inspection found us standing on the Makino stream bank a little further upstream surveying the water covering this piece of land. It was at that moment that the idea was born among the original Trustees that maybe if this paddock could be purchased sometime in the future it could be a means to mediate the surge of water inundating the forest with such calamitous effects,” said Mrs Darragh.

“It has been a great pleasure for the Trust to work alongside the Jobs for Nature team (Ngati Kauwhata) on this project so that if the Treaty claim returns this land to the iwi they will have a wide understanding and knowledge of the biodiversity.”

Flooding of the purchased land back in December 2021 revealed a unique corduroy road, which has been dated back to the 1870’s. The road is made of matai logs that float on the swamp below and it had been used by loggers and wagons to remove timber from the forest.

Despite the discovery of the road, the plans for the wetlands are still pressing ahead with over 40,000 native plants to be planted over the next five years.