Press Release : Kaitaia, Far North, 21 December 2009

In the heartland of Ngati Hine in the small rural community of Motatau, the local school has traded in half their rugby field for an extensive mara kai or food garden.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the international slow food movement on “Terra Madre Day” in early December, the school hosted a planting day inviting the local community.

“It was a sheer labour of love sharing this project with our parents, extended whanau and local agencies but we have achieved alot for our tamariki” commented Principal Noeleen Paurini.

Cultivations of heritage corn, kumara, riwai, and the native American yakon were sponsored by Taitokerau Organic Producers and Te Waka Kai Ora, the national Maori organics authority. Machinery and additional ‘green thumbs’ were volunteered by local whanau with further support, funding and resources contributed by the Ngati Hine Health Trust.

Te Waka Kai Ora Chairperson Percy Tipene reflected on the day saying that the event epitomised the values of ata kai, slow food. “It’s about producing locally grown food to feed our community. People working together in this way is poetry in motion”.

Motatau Bilingual School is also a contender for the Manawhenua Challenge, a youth gardening competition in Taitokerau that has already identified a number of leading school, marae, and community-based land development projects currently underway.

Spanning several months from October 2009 to June 2010, Manawhenua Challenge organisers Taitokerau Organic Producers say that it gives participants at least 2-3 seasonal harvests.

“The challenge acknowledges planning, purpose and productivity on the land and how youth can actively contribute and lead projects” says Taitokerau Organic Producers chairperson Geneva Hildreth.

Principal Noeleen Paurini said the 30 children attending Motatau Bilingual School are simply looking forward to their first harvest. “Manawhenua is about teaching our children practical skills that were passed on to their parents. It is about celebrating our generations and ensuring the transfer of knowledge from our kuia and kaumatua.”

Schools, community groups, whanau and marae interested in registering a team in the Manawhenua Challenge should visit


Enquiries to Anna Tripp 021 0515583