EPISODE SUMMARY: In part two of our story on the Ōtautahi rebuild, we look at the work of Ngāi Tahu and Regenerate Christchurch to develop alternative uses for the residential red zone area to the east of the City, including the re-establishment of biodiversity and food gathering areas.
GUESTS: Teoti Jardine, Hugh Nicholson, Debbie Tikao, Te Marino Lenihan, Evan Smith
Jade Kake v/o: On September 4th 2010, February 22nd 2011, and many occasions afterwards, major earthquakes shook the city of Christchurch, allowing the old wetlands to temporarily re-establish themselves, and leaving swathes of land, especially to the east of the city, uninhabitable.
After its century-old Treaty of Waitangi claim was settled in 1999, Ngāi Tahu made quick work of restoring its political, cultural, and economic influence. However, Christchurch remained visually and culturally dominated by English aesthetics and values.
What’s happening in Christchurch today may be a world first situation, and in the wake of a devastating natural disaster, the local indigenous people are involved in the redesign of a city from the highest governance level right through to the actual physical reconstruction.
Teoti Jardine: The empty places behind you, and the empty places where we were, they were filled with street after street of empty houses. The people had gone, their houses were there waiting to be demolished. And it was coming up to our Matariki celebration, that was over in our other little area which was a Council playground. Where for the first time after the earthquakes, people were coming to plant again, and to reconnect with the land. So, now, I'll shut up and tell you.
It's called Rezoned.
Empty breezes wander streets Where the windows of silent houses Gaze without any expectations There was no time for farewells Only the hurried leavings Come quickly, don't turn back Nothing is left here now Yet, around abandoned playgrounds Children's laughter lingers Making the invitation, to come Grow, plant, forage Among the stories of those who stayed Singing, swimming, roosting Through sunshine, rains and mist Filling the breezes with hope
Kia ora koutou.
JK v/o: Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode twenty-two.
I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.
On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, part two of our story on the Ōtautahi rebuild, we look at the work of Ngāi Tahu and Regenerate Christchurch to develop alternative uses for the residential red zone area to the east of the City, including the re-establishment of biodiversity and food gathering areas.
TJ: Tēnā koutou katoa, Ko Teoti Jardine ahau, Ko Waitahi, ko Kati Mamoe, ko Kai Tahu oku iwi.
JK v/o: That was Teoti Jardine. Teoti is a poet from Ōtautahi and a kaumātua for the Avon-Ōtākaro network.
TJ: It wasn’t long, that in my connection with the red zone, that I realised I'm walking through the memories and the stories of my Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu tūpuna. Who came here for hundreds of years gathering food, and gathering resources and teaching their children how to do this mahi. And, when they did this, they came and they greeted the rivers, they greeted the land, and the land nourished them, and their greetings nourished the land. And for me, those memories, those stories of my tūpuna, are in this land. And whatever happens to the red zone, those memories and those stories need to be honoured in whatever way it's possible. We've just seen how some of these stories can be honoured in the city. The red zone is a clean slate. No-one knows quite what to do with it. But for me, it's a place that holds those memories from hundreds of years ago, and those stories from hundreds of years ago. And they feel, now with my connection to the red zone, they feel like they are my memories now. And they are my stories. And whatever happens in the red zone, I would like to see some honouring of what those stories are. My tūpuna, my ancestors, we were the first ones to be red zoned. When the settlers came we had to move, and now they came and they built in the place where, our old people said why are they building here? This was our food basket. But, oh no, we'll drain it and build houses. Well, you can see what happened. And, for me, Ruaumoko has returned the land to us, and given us the opportunity to allow the land to return to its original purpose, which was a mahika kai, a place where we gathered food. We’ve seen downtown how those reflections of our tūpuna are happening now. They weren't there before the earthquake. So, honestly, the earthquake has given us this opportunity to place our mark on the land once more, and tell the land's stories through it. There has been some kōrero around, can we designate this red zoned land to be its own personality? And under the kaitiaki, under the guardianship of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, so that’s still something that’s in the wind. This is an opportunity that very few people get. And that's thanks to Ruaumoko. I know a lot of damage was done, and a lot of heartache. But for me, he's been giving us this opportunity, and we need to take best advantage of that as we possibly can.
Hugh Nicholson: Residential areas, and of course folk planted fruit trees in the sections. And nobody told the fruit trees that there'd been earthquakes, and so the trees continued to fruit, even after the sections had been abandoned. So community groups have come around and taken the fruit from those trees, and redistributed them to social organisations that could use them. In the City we saw some great examples of artworks, physical manifestations and here we’re trying to incorporate underlying design principles that gives us strategic direction for the whole project. My name is Hugh Nicholson, I’m a Pākehā and I live over in the base of the hills here. I work for an organisation called Regenerate Christchurch, which is owned half by the government, or the Crown, and half by the local Council. We're a planning agency, so our job is to plan for the future of regeneration Christchurch.
JK v/o: Regenerate Christchurch was established in 2016 to lead the regeneration of Christchurch, and have been working closely with Ngāi Tahu on various projects, including the re-establishment of māra kai in the red zone.
HN: One of the specific tasks we’ve got is planning for the future of the red zone, that we're walking amongst. There's lots I could talk to you about, but I thought what I'd talk to you a little bit about is how we're going about it. So I'm a designer, I originally trained as a landscape architect, and I became an urban designer, and I've kind of worked in all sorts of places. And look, for years, you know, we've grappled with the Treaty of Waitangi, and how do we collaborate, how do we partner with local iwi and design in partnership? To be honest, you know, I've been through all sorts, we've tried all sorts of stuff, and I don't mean to run it down, but you know, we sent plans off, we consulted, and sometimes we get comments back and sometimes the council or whoever makes changes, and sometimes they don't, and to me it never felt like a, felt like a partnership really. I don't know how to describe it. What we've done, what we've managed to do, I think, is to setup a relationship with Ngāi Tūāhuriri and the Matapopore Trust. Whom you've heard a lot from. So their designers, we setup a design team for the red zone, or you know, I set it up, and their designers are working, we're working at the same table, with pens. Well, not with pencils and pens, but with computers. But you know what I mean - metaphorically we're drawing plans together, we're making the plans as we go. We're having the discussions about values, and about how things should be. And to me that's the first time it's felt like a genuine partnership, in terms of design. That actually, you know, we're speaking the same language, we're using the same tools, and we're writing things down. So that's been a real, it's an eye opener for me. For that happen, and I think it's, there are a number of things which are really important. One of which is the Matapopore Trust. Look, all of these things are about having relationships with the right people. And you know, and I think Te Maire alluded to some fairly, some disastrous attempts, in the early days after the earthquakes, to start designing things which went wrong, by talking to the wrong people. Matapopore Trust is set up by the rūnanga, you know, it's established, and it has their mandate and their confidence to actually make some decisions, to design on their behalf. And that's essential. We're not just dealing with any Māori designer, we're sitting design with the people whom the rūnanga has said, your responsibility is to design on our behalf. So that relationship is really important, and that's something we have to keep checking back. And I guess, you know, for us it’s been a great partnership. I joke in terms of the design that my plans are really just an excuse to sort out three important things - funding, ownership, and governance. They are the things. I have a project where I have no funding, I don't know who owns it, and I have no agreed governance. So that's really the important questions that are on the table about this red zone. That's what's going on behind the scenes, as the various players are sorting those things out. And the plans are something that give them a reason to sort them out, to figure out what’s going on. We’ve tried to setup kind of a philosophy of mahinga kai, and I realise I'm amongst a group of people who know much more about this than I do, largely, my iwi colleagues. But what we realised is that Pākehā culture, we have a kind of long history of setting up National parks and things. You know, where you have a bit of land, and you protect it. You make it green, and you kind of keep people out. It's protected, and people sort of, they work around it, and they go and visit it sometimes, and enjoy it. What we don't do very well, is we don't have a kind of philosophy that includes people in the space, that actually, where people are part of the whole kind of equation. And we felt that mahinga kai, in the broader sense, so including food gathering, but also harvesting materials for carving or for weaving, but even in a broader sense, sustaining the environment so that it can do this, and that people can live in it. So that it becomes a kind of a sustainable system. We felt that’s something that the whole of Christchurch could benefit from.
Debbie Tikao: Real quickly jump in.
JK v/o: That’s Debbie Tikao, General Manager of Matapopore Trust.
DT: When we developed the framework, the mahinga kai framework, I firstly just want to say that, if we had come up with the request to look at an area of land as vast as this, and basically apply an Indigenous framework to how we address it, it would have been quite unheard of a few years ago. But because we've been working with the likes of Hugh over many years, and we've built up a lot of trust and a lot of respect, and these guys have built up a lot of understanding about what these values mean. So we were able to, we had some good ears, and understanding to begin with, which was really fantastic. So the idea behind adopting an Indigenous values based framework, is that within an area of land like this, there are many things to consider. You know, you've got the social connection, economic, you've got the environmental, you've got the concept of kaitiakitanga. How are we going to actually create an ethic where people are themselves the custodians. So that brings in the concept of education, mātauranga. So an Indigenous framework allowed us as design team to consider all these things, and the interplay between them allowed us to think about things like whanaungatanga, how we actually engage socially. How do we create spaces that bring people together, collectively. So that they can talk, and be, and be whānau. Be community. And inspire community, grow the community. And really importantly, the concept of economic growth. So this area did have an aspiration. The community do have an aspiration. They actually do want to build themselves economically. The tribe has the aspiration, the rūnanga has the aspiration, to develop economically. So you know, we're thinking about all of these things and the interrelationship between all of it. So by applying that Indigenous framework of māhinga kai, you know, was really quite significant, and it makes sense, and we were then allowed to then spin off into those different actual areas, with the knowledge that everything has been thought of, and united through this concept. And the importance of education. So, you know, Hugh's talking about being able to use those resources. That's all very well and good, but to be able to use those resources, you need to understand those resources, you need to understand those cycles, you need to understand how to read the environment, you need to understand everything there is to know. So, you know, wrapping in the concept of mātauranga, the concept of education, into the way that we design environments is critical. Because, you know, actually, if our plan work, people are starting to learn and know, and they will know, by the time actually we've managed to clean up the river and creates those forests, so that people can actually harvest those resources in a way that’s respectful of the land.
JK v/o: Here’s Te Marino Lenihan explaining where exactly we were, and talking about the significance of community-led mahinga kai projects.
Te Marino Lenihan: Just over the back beyond the buses is the Travis Wetland, a big wetland system. Just up over there. And so connecting the river to the wetland, there's a waterway behind these cabbage trees on either side. In terms of, I was talking on the bus about the salt water wedge. When the tide comes in, and the salt water pushes up the river, and at the top of the tide is the salt water wedge, which is where some of our fish species, that's where they spawn and they breed. The salt water wedge is about this area of the river. And so, it's an important spawning ground for native fish. So, that's some context around where we are. And what we’ve done together, it wasn’t so many years ago that this was all grass. And so in a few years, our community leaders have bought the community back into the area they've been turfed out of, and we've planted this up, and in just bringing people together with their shovels and I know when Debbie came down with her family they were the first through the door and away, with the babies. They're just planting trees together, and having something to work together, listening to some music together, and just feed that idea of growing life around us that can then feed us. And it was really strategic in a way, is to say, get in there, bring the people back, and start socialising this idea of food, and environments that feed us, and hopefully that will filter itself up to the decision makers, and then it will embed itself into our future.
Evan Smith: I’d just like to perhaps put a few challenges out there, from our experiences over the last few years.
JK v/o: That was Evan Smith, a trustee for, and leading member of, the Avon-Ōtākaro network. Evan is a local resident who has dedicated himself to greening and beautifying the red zone and river of the lower Avon that was so badly affected by the earthquakes.
ES: Kia ora koutou, my name’s Evan, I’m Pākehā, a descendent from one of the original colonialists in the first four ships, so called, that came into Lyttelton Harbour almost 200 years ago. I used to live up the road, couple of suburbs up there, also decanted like this, it was red zoned. It was a really horrific time during the earthquakes, but it was also the best of times, in some ways, because it brought communities together, and we had an enormous amount of community cohesion immediately after the earthquakes, response to the earthquakes. That was tangata whenua and Pākehā together, responding. Then we ended up in a position where we were told we were redzoned. I was one of 6,000 households in this corridor that was told we had to move. And there was another 3,000 households around the rest of the North Canterbury area that were in the same position. And that was horrendous to deal with. It also was an opportunity, so it also had some positive things. I was one of the community leaders that emerged from the recovery process. The point of red zoning stepped out of the recovery phase, all the arguments within insurance companies, and started to look at what the future might look like here, from the point of view of people who used to live here. You would have heard today that it was an organisation called CERA for the first three or four years. Five years, wasn't it? Some of their functions for transferred to other organisations, including Regenerate Christchurch. For most of those initial five years, wider communities in Christchurch felt locked out of their own recovery, of their own regeneration. So we worked hard with the authorities, with the politicians, to ensure the voices from the communities, the wider communities, are starting to be heard now, and have some influence in what happens. And for the first time in Regenerate Christchurch we have an organisation, and agency, that is listening, and is consulting and engaging with communities, in the wider sense. And so I just want to be careful that you don't end up being iwi and agencies together, and community gets locked out again. And that includes mataawaka as well. It's important that all the communities are considered in the whole conversation, whilst not devaluing the value of the iwi connection. The other one, I think, is around capacity. Every community organisation and their dog wants to have a relationship with mana whenua, and that's incredibly difficult. There's got to be better ways of making that happen better, and if it needs resourcing, what we keep on telling all of those big organisations that we get funding from, is that they've got to fund that kind of advice and support and liaison. And that’s being heard now I think. This project is four or five years old. It's called the māhinga kai exemplar. It was a piece of Council land we could work on, because it wasn't restricted by the restrictions on the Crown land, where you can't plant or anything else at the moment. So this is what's grown in the last five years, there's over 7,000 plants in here and there's a few other thousand over this side as well. This is designed as an educational resource, with what Debbie was saying before, in a week's time over the road there, the first of 7 primary school classes will be coming down to study the īnanga, and there's īnanga spawning. And that's been woven into the stories of māhinga kai, and to me that's what the real value of these places, it's that young people, both Pākehā and tangata whenua, are beginning to learn the stories of the land again and understand the meaning behind that.
JK v/o: You can find out more about Regenerate Christchurch at regeneratechristchurch.nz.
Indigenous Urbanism Aotearoa Edition is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.
For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to indigenousurbanism.net. You can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.
Coming up next on Indigenous Urbanism, we speak with Cheyenne Thomas, an architectural designer from Peguis First Nation, about her work with First Nations communities in Manitoba, and her role as a designer and advocate.
Cheyenne Thomas: I think physically and also non physically, spiritually those aspects of our cultures and how deeply rooted they are in the land, and how deep we can connect to people. People are starting to realise that. So, through the cracks of society the light's kind of coming through. And physically, we're getting these opportunities, and now all of a sudden, you're growing it even more, in a more tangible way.