December 13, 2021

A journey of discovery in West Auckland

Take time to immerse yourself and your whānau into the world of Māori narratives and nature, interwoven with iwi and local stories.

This is at the heart of Active Whakapapa– a slow paced hikoi accompanied by a site-specific audio that shares the hidden meaning of the surrounding whenua. 

Active Whakapapa has been developed in West Auckland by Healthy Families Waitākere based on M2M (Maunga to Moana), a He Oranga Poutama initiative which has included a range of walking events linking marae, maunga and awa across wider Auckland. The events aim to increase exposure and access to traditional stories of places for Māori and non-Māori, spoken Te Reo Māori and waiata, while enhancing people’s sense of Māori world view of the environment and their role as kaitiaki, and also providing an incentive to be physically active.

He Oranga Poutama developed the first M2M event in West Auckland, working with local iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki and kaumatua, Healthy Families Waitākere, Community Waitākere, Papaya Stories and Aktive. 

The hikoi, based on the Te Atatū Pensinsula and covering approximately four kilometres starting at Orangihina Harbourview Park, uses a unique approach to weave narrative into the walk. Stories and narratives of place and history from mana whenua were collected and provided as a spoken narrative delivered throughout the journey to give participants an understanding of the whakapapa of the walking trail.

The success of the initiative was recently recognised in The Kūmara Awards Looking Back to Move Forward category for celebrating places of cultural significance through an immersive storytelling experience about the taiao and tangata through whanaungatanga and mātauranga Māori. The awards are dedicated to placemaking, where people work together to make places better, not only for themselves but for others and for the place itself.

Mike Tipene, Rautaki Māori at Healthy Families Waitākere, explains that while encouraging physical activity, health and hauora is important, there was another key driver behind the development of the hikoi.

“The real driver for developing this is the pursuit of knowledge for both Maori and non-Maori. The health and haoura is an incidental benefit but the real focus is on providing participants with a Māori world view, and by sharing narrative relevant to the local environment, we ultimately want to prompt them to consider their role as kaitiaki for the taiao,” says Mike.

Even for residents who have lived in the area all their lives, the voyage of discovery has been inspiring.

“The opportunity to hear mana whenua stories and to learn about the history of the region was a positive theme in participants’ feedback. Learning about the taiao alongside this was another strong theme.

“We have had participants who live in the area and run parts of this track every day. But they tell us they’ve never known or understood the rich history of this region.”

One participant commented: “Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou ngā kaiwhakahaere. Awesome event. I could see so much time and effort went into the creation of the stories and the event itself. Thank you for making this accessible and such a beautiful experience.”

Papaya Stories, a social enterprise and creative company built on the power of storytelling and delivering social good projects, developed the pre-recorded two-hour immersive audio to accompany the hikoi.

“We worked closely with partners including local iwi and community leaders, focusing on a storytelling concept that links the elements of local iwi narrative, stories of Māori whānau during the first urbanisation at Te Atatū Peninsula and the importance of the environmental and ecological context,” explains Papaya Stories’ Yana Kirakovskaya.

“We had to tune into the authentic voice of the narrator, the voice of Papatuanuku that invites participants to look at the familiar surrounding through a lens of the Māori worldview and unknown stories.”

M2M Te Atatū took place for the first time in April 2021 and has since been operated with small, invited groups of community members.  Mike says the intention is that future events will allow participants to independently complete the walk in their own time and pace, with accompanying downloadable audio. Moving forward, the West Auckland initiative will take on the new name, Active Whakapapa.

“We are working with a number of partners to develop Active Whakapapa and look forward to taking our learnings to date to expand this wonderful community offering with not only an extended format, but also discovering the whakapapa of other key West Auckland trails.”