Sacred land inspires enrichment and happiness

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The silhouette of Mt Pureora rises majestically from Ngati Rereahu land in the central North Island.

It overlooks the Pureora Forest Park, which straddles the Hauhungaroa and Rangitoto ranges between Lake Taupo and Te Kuiti.

According to Maori legend, the mountain is in the centre of the fish Maui, which represents the North Island. On its slopes, the 78,000ha Pureora Forest Park, with its native bush and birdlife, is surrounded by exotic forests and farmland, including the 5,500ha Maraeroa C Incorporation pine forest.

Mt Pureora is a sacred place to Ngati Rereahu, who have honoured the abundance of food and medicinal plants that have nourished its people and neighbouring tribes for centuries.

“It was our food cupboard, our kapata kai,” Glen Katu says.

Glen is Chief Executive of Pa Harakeke, an ecotourism and adventure company owned and operated by Maraeroa C Incorporation, a Ngati Rereahu land corporation.

These days about 9,000 visitors – trampers, cyclists, bird watchers and eco-cultural enthusiasts from New Zealand and around the world – visit the park every year, with about 2000 of them coming through the Pa Harakeke visitor centre.

Glen says they come because of the pristine bush, the bountiful bird life, the pure, clear air and to experience the rich Maori culture, heritage and hospitality.

“We love to bring people here and share this taonga. Everyone enjoys the moment and leaves with a sense of enrichment and happiness.”

Soul feeling comes from serenity and beauty of nature

Mountain bikers and trampers of every age choose to ride or walk the Timber Trail, which winds its way through the Pureroa National Park. The 85km trail was built three years ago and is being talked about as one of the “bucket list rides” by many people.

It’s a fun ride, Glen says, but aside from the physical challenges, there’s something about being in touch with nature that visitors love.

“People who come here say they just can’t get over the serenity and beauty of the forest – that and the birdlife. There’s kind of a soul feeling about being in a place where you can still enjoy wildlife – you may even get to see a wild pig or wild deer on your journey.”

A deep love and nurturing of the land is elemental within Maori culture, as taught by the ancestor Rereahu, and handed down to the current generation of Ngati Rereahu.

Care for the land and you will be cared for

“Rereahu was a peaceful person and had an immense knowledge about plants and animals, which fed and nurtured our people,” Glen says.

“He was all about sustainability and caring for the land. The Maori proverb which encapsulates this is, ‘Toitu te whenua, Toitu te Iwi’, which translates as ‘Care for the land and the people will be cared for’.”

Plant a tree and track its growth

Those who come to Pa Harakeke also have the opportunity to get involved in preserving the beauty of the natural environment by planting a tree.

“They can choose a native plant from our nursery and plant it out on the estate.”

When people return, they can track the growth of the tree they planted by locating it via GPS, and then zooming in on it through Google Earth.

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