September 2013


A few months back I was helping out in the i-SITE at Te Ahu. In walked a young, fit overseas traveller with an enormous backpack. He inquired about getting to CapeReinga. He was about to begin the Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand’s long walk. Now it isn’t every day one meets someone ambitious enough to walk the length of the country.  I had just begun dialogue with this enthusiastic visitor when in walked a fit young woman, also carrying a heavy backpack. She overheard our talk and piped in, “I’m also about to begin walking the Te Araroa Trail.”

Geoff Chappel writes the following in his introduction to Te Araroa: A Walking Guide to New Zealand’s Long Trail: “In 1976, two of my friends, Geoff Steven and Phil Dadson, had filmed and sound-recorded the Maori land march from CapeReinga to Wellington. The poet Hone Tuwhare was on that march and something he said then stuck in my mind. ‘To know Papatuanuku,’ said Hone, ‘you have to go through slowly, on foot.’ . . . In 1994 I wrote a newspaper story that invoked a long trail – a reincarnation of a path that had once existed and had been forgotten. This was unprovable but I believed it was true.”

Reading of this initial glimpse of a possibility through to a complete trail today (there are a few road links still but the intention is for the entire journey from the Cape to Bluff to be completely off-road) is at once fascinating and informative. Like any dream worth its weight, it has taken an incredible dose of persistence to see it through.

Te ara roa book coverTe Araroa is a beautiful book, outlining 113 walks and long tramps, replete with colour photos and 3D maps. I recommend it for any keen trampers, whether interested in a few good walks or ambitious enough to want to piece together trails spanning the length of the North and South islands.

The above book is found within our Aotearoa collection in Kaitaia Library.

Our two backpackers left the i-SITE side by side, one man and one woman, off to begin the journey of their young lives.  They walked with bouncing strides, despite the weight of their packs. They looked like they belonged together. I smiled, pleased to have played a small part in the serendipity of their meeting.  I mentally wished them well, trusting they would complete their ambitious tramp, the Long Walk, with hearts open, heads harvesting the whispers of Rangi, the Sky Father, and feet feeling the subtle thrumming of Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. Perhaps we should all consider regular walks taken away from the insistent cacophony of the modern electronic world, attuning to the rhythms of nature, using physical exertion to rest our psyches and soothe our souls.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

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Vegetable gardens at Todmorden Community College

Vegetable gardens at Todmorden Community College

Five years ago a couple of grandmothers decided to start a project in Todmorden, a Victorian mill town of 15,000 in West Yorkshire.

The project is called Incredible Edible and it has resulted in thousands of vegetables being planted in 70 large beds around the town. And get this: locals are encouraged to help themselves. A few tomatoes here, a handful of broccoli there. If they’re in season, they’re yours. Free.

There are carrots in front of the police station, raspberries, apricots and apples on the canal towpath; blackcurrants, redcurrants and strawberries beside the doctor’s surgery; beans and peas outside the college; cherries in the supermarket car park; and mint, rosemary, thyme and fennel by the health centre.

Edibles in the cemetery.

Edibles in the cemetery.

Incredible Edible is about more than plots of veg. It’s about educating people about food, and stimulating the local economy. Realistically, the thousands of town centre vegetable plants are not going to feed a community of 15,000 by themselves. But the publicly visible beds are designed to encourage residents to grow their own food at home.

And this is precisely what has happened. Today, hundreds of townspeople who began by helping themselves to the communal vegetables are now well on the way to self-sufficiency.

The police of Todmorden indicate that, year on year, there has been a reduction in vandalism since the project started. Why? One of the founding grandmothers, Pam Warhurst’s response: ‘If you take a grass verge that was used as a litter bin and a dog toilet and turn it into a place full of herbs and fruit trees, people won’t vandalise it. I think we are hard-wired not to damage food.’

Incredible Edible is a project clearly based on trust and I sometimes wonder if we could make something like this work here. A while back a group planted some mandarin trees on a small roadside reserve in Mill Bay. The trees disappeared overnight. Not long ago a group of us planted some natives by the car park in Taumarumaru Reserve in Coopers Beach. The more unusual native trees disappeared within days. The manuka and flax were left. Reserve volunteers replanted and those trees too vanished. Obviously attitudes will have to change in order to get a project like Incredible Edible to work in our communities.

Taipa Coast Care at work

Taipa Coast Care at work

How can we do this? Why not follow the example of the folks upgrading the verge adjacent the beach at Taipa. They’ve engaged the young people of Taipa Area School and there has been remarkably little vandalism. The students have taken ownership of the project and feel disinclined to damage it. Could we engage beneficiaries even one day a week to plant and tend public food gardens? I wonder. I wonder. Maybe one of the solutions to local crime and unemployment could be as simple as this. What do you think?

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

Snow Queen Helen Yuretich and friends

Snow Queen Helen Yuretich and friends

I’ve shared before on the immense power and importance of volunteers in our communities. The Storylines Family Fun Day at Te Ahu on Saturday, August 17th was a shining tribute to the volunteer. Countless hours of preparation went into readying for the event. It wouldn’t even have happened but for the initiative and incredibly hard work of one person, Helen Yuretich. Her reward, as with all volunteers, is in the giving. But Helen and all the volunteers on the day deserve our votes of thanks.

Visitors to Storylines were perplexed to discover the community complex’s carparks were both full on what turned out to be a wild weather day. Once they found a place to park everyone was rewarded with a dynamic collage of activities spread throughout the building (and even outside in the case of the donkeys). No one could claim there wasn’t something of interest or inspiration for children or for the adults who accompanied them.

Stephen Yuretich entertaining children with donkey

Stephen Yuretich entertaining children with donkey

Storylines is New Zealand’s oldest annual literary festival, bringing together authors and illustrators with thousands of their young readers and supportive adults for the past twenty years. For those twenty years Storylines has been held in major centres around the country and for roughly the past six years Storylines has been celebrated in Northland as well. For the first time this year Storylines took place in Kaitaia. What a privilege and a treat for everyone concerned!

But again it couldn’t happen without the huge input of volunteers. Just to give one example, six face painters worked non-stop for the duration of the festival in Kaitaia. Students from Kaitaia College circulated throughout the building, providing information where needed and in some cases wearing costumes that children (and many adults) loved. Council staff volunteered their time as did teachers, individuals and in some cases entire families. The work for some was far from glamorous but people gave of their time willingly and with a smile..

For those of you who missed out on the event here is just a little recap. Children’s authors read aloud in the library. The atrium saw a near-continuous flow of entertainment from pianists, through Kaitaia College music students and a group that sang to their own ukulele accompaniment.

Facepainting

Facepainting

The main hall provided lots of arts and crafts, factopia, drum and didgeridoo lessons and even the opportunity to see illustrators at work. And the little theatre was host to one performance after another, each before a large audience.

Two thousand people passed the door counter in the library on the day. Although not an entirely accurate measure, this statistic alone indicates just how busy it was at Te Ahu for Storylines on Saturday, August 17th.  I for one would welcome the challenge of having this great annual event return to Kaitaia in the future, hopefully sooner than later.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com