Lorraine Hall (Ngāti Hūrungaterangi) has always believed that Māori women are great leaders and can achieve anything they set their minds to. She continues to validate this belief as the lead of Puna Ora, the care group tasked with restoring the Waitawa Stream in Rotorua.
After her final years at high school, Lorraine made the difficult decision to leave her whānau and travel the world.
“I just wanted to know what it was like to be a wahine Māori experiencing different cultures. It gave me a sense of who I was, as a Māori, who grew up by my kuia and my koroua. It was about showing my uri that Māori wāhine can also be leaders.
“My husband and I raised four rangatahi and we wanted to nurture them to be future leaders of our hapū. We sent our daughters to Hato Hōhepa in Napier, which was a growth experience for them because they saw what they could aspire to through their principal, Dame Georgina Kingi. So, they’ve had a strong wāhine Māori influence throughout their lives, along with grounding from Hūrungaterangi, with the help of their extended whānau,” she says.
She recalls the day when Healthy Families Rotorua systems innovator, Stevee Wickliffe, approached her about collaborating in a kai kaupapa.
“In September 2021, Stevee and I discussed many ideas of maara kai within Ngāpuna. However, with a maara kai already established in the community, we expanded our view and looked beyond our whenua and into our puna to revitalise the kai resources within our waterways. That was the birth of the Waitawa Restoration Project,” she says.
Stevee conducted research on the stream, tracking its origins, ownership and pūrākau, which led to conversations with local kōeke and hapū to gather their insights about their connections to the wai. Consultation hui with whānau took place at Hūrungaterangi Marae before she met with Rotorua Lakes Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council to pursue a partnership through a co-design process from a Healthy Families Rotorua perspective.
Fast forward two years and Puna Ora is about to sign a three-year agreement with the regional council to fund the Waitawa Restoration Project.
“While I was inexperienced, I wanted to help restore our taiao and had a goal of re-educating, reconnecting, and restoring relationships between bout our hapū and whānau so that our future generation can thrive,” says Lorraine.
“In the days of our ancestors, the awa was their food source. In present times, we’re unable to live off our awa due to growing pollution. Our tamariki are relying on us to restore our whenua, and if we can’t correct this matter, we’ll be leaving a big burden on our future generations.”
Lorraine says the beautiful thing about the kaupapa is they have utilised the skills and resources they have within Hūrungaterangi for support.
“We approached whānau for their skills and to start giving back to the hapū to help sustain and maintain the quality of our whenua. We were fortunate to have whānau with horticultural knowledge and resources who stepped up to the call,” she says.
The council felled the non-native trees by Waitawa Stream in preparation for the planting. Lorraine negotiated with the council to chop the wood and have it delivered and distributed to the Ngāpuna community. The mulch was also repurposed and put back into the marae gardens.
“My end goal is to have a sustainable puna where our whānau and hapū can retrieve fresh kai. I hope this kaupapa encourages our rangatahi to be pou tangata for our awa and whenua,” she says.
Healthy Families Rotorua leveraged its network to help ensure the triumphant execution of this year’s Te Arawa Kaumātua Olympics, drawing on the collective power of