Hoki atu ki tōu maunga kia purea ai e koe ki ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea.
Return to your mountain to be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhirimātea.
While weather conditions influenced the path we took, our Piki Maunga crew’s spirits were lifted in the wairua-enhancing atmosphere of the Tongariro Crossing at the weekend.
Piki Maunga is a workforce wellness initiative co-designed by staff at Te Arawa Whānau Ora/Healthy Families Rotorua, recognising mountains as health-promoting environments.
Healthy Families Rotorua national strategic communications manager, Megan Lacey, says the Tongariro Crossing is the penultimate walk of the year’s Piki Maunga schedule, which staff spend months preparing for.
“Over the year, we undertake fortnightly walks beginning with less difficult tracks and gradually build up to more challenging hikes to increase aerobic conditioning, strength, flexibility, and endurance. While we couldn’t safely complete the entire walk this year, there was an overall feeling of upliftment from the crew and gratitude to share this journey together,” says Megan.
She says the natural environment can enhance people’s wellbeing and challenges us to step outside the brick-and-mortar and be active in our natural environment as our tūpuna were.
“Our staff have become champions of the Piki Maunga kaupapa. There are 8316 named mountains in New Zealand, which provide a vast playground for participants. The engagement’s meaningful, and staff participate because they want to spend their personal time on a rewarding pursuit.”
This year the Piki Maunga crew completed Ngongotaha, Mauao, Whakarewarewa Forest, Maunga Kākaramea, Hakarimata Walkway, Ngā Tapuwae o Toi Walkway, Whirinaki Forest, Tauhara, The Pinnacles, Ātiamuri, Maungatautari, and Tongariro. Next month, they are heading to the South Island to do one of New Zealand’s Great Walks – the Routeburn Track.
“Piki Maunga has delivered life-changing outcomes for participants in the 14 months it has been activated within our organisation. Like other indigenous peoples, Māori have long understood the holistic nature of wellbeing and the significance of relationships for maintaining it,” says Megan.
Disparities between Māori and non-Māori are well documented and confirm gaps on almost every social indicator. Results from the New Zealand Mental Health Monitor & Health and Lifestyles Survey reveal Māori have a higher burden of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress than non-Māori. The report also acknowledged some Māori need help with cultural reconnection.
“Piki Maunga helps participants achieve wellness through karakia (prayer), hā (breathing), maramataka observation, connection to te taiao, and physical and mental endurance. Exercise helps release endorphins to trigger positive feelings in our bodies and create a general feeling of wellbeing,” says Megan.
Te Arawa Whānau Ora Kurupā Paiaka (CEO), Paora Te Hurihanganui, says the engagement in maunga has a spiritual awakening for Māori, as Māori wellbeing is founded on an environmentally-centred approach as opposed to a human-centred approach.
“Most of our identity is attached to a marker that we put in our pepeha to signify who we are and whom we relate to. Our maunga is the oldest physical embodiment of tūpuna and atua of the whakapapa line that iwi or person aligns to.
“Piki Maunga is not just a hīkoi or physical engagement with a place or space. There’s a range of naturalised connectors that can increase a person’s self-awareness of their thoughts and emotions or raise the vibration of a person. The more you go, the higher that consciousness increases.
“Mental wellbeing sits between the wairua and the physical. We can do physical things to increase mental capacity, and work on spiritual enlightenment to raise mental and emotional capacities. We are guided by wairua. Our tūpuna took themselves up to a higher space to aspire so that when they came down, they could lead in clarity.
“Maunga are continuously putting out the call for us to return to their shelter, their energy, their protection,” says Paora.
In an effort to understand the kai experiences of our community, Healthy Families Rotorua conducted a survey among Rotorua residents.