Exploring Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane

Department of Conservation —  02/06/2015

Tena koutou katoa.

My name is Atamira Tumarae-Nuku and I’m an Eastern Bay of Plenty Partnerships Ranger based in the Murupara Office. I descend from many tribes but I strongly affiliate to the Tūhoe people of Te Urewera.

Whenever I get the opportunity to get away from my desk and into the ngahere (bush) I take it with open arms.

Atamaria with baby Tukutoromiro in front of a waterfall at Te Kaha.

Atamaria with baby Tukutoromiro

When students from Te Wharekura o Tauranga Moana recently visited Whirinaki Te Pua a Tāne Conservation Park to experience the majestic beauty of the towering trees, rushing rivers, the wide variety of habitats and fascinating history of this beautiful place, I was stoked to be their guide for the day (this was my guiding début for the year).

I enjoy taking students out and about in nature. My background is within Kura Kaupapa Māori and the tourism industry, as a cultural forest guide at Whirinaki and Te Urewera.

I learnt about tourism and all it entails from one of the best—the late Joseph Doherty—and I dedicate a lot of my work as a guide to him. Joe handed me so many baskets full of knowledge in regards to the forest through the traditional practice of oral history within a tourism context.

Te Wharekura o Tauranga Moana students.

Te Wharekura o Tauranga Moana students

So, in my work as a DOC ranger and guide I try to ensure that I continue to pass this knowledge on to anyone who is interested.

On the day of the walk it was a beautiful fine day. A light breeze was about and the birds were all out singing and chattering to one another. It was such a relaxing and calming environment that even the naughtiest kids seem to ground themselves and take it all in.

Before I walk with anyone not from the area, we begin with introductions and acknowledgements to the Atua (creator), the area, and the people, followed with a karakia (prayer) at the beginning of the track.

On this walk, I was privileged to walk alongside an up and coming leader from Ruatahuna. Puke Timoti is the epitome of a young Tūhoe leader, born and bred to ensure knowledge of the forest and our connection to it is strong and alive.

Atamaria with students in Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane.

Atamaria with students in Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane

We each brought our different threads of knowledge to create the basket that we were sharing with the students, for their benefit and learning.

I focussed on the work DOC is doing within Whirinaki Ecological Management Zone while Puke shared his knowledge about the traditional Māori beliefs and practices associated with the forest—a fantastic team I think.

I spoke about the majestic podocarp trees and touched briefly on the forest ecosystem, my main points being the predator control methods in place and the interdependence of all things.

Puke shared proverbs and stories to relay his knowledge on to the students of our spiritual and physical connection with nature.

When I think about my own upbringing within a Kura Kaupapa, and my work within a Kura Kaupapa, I truly appreciate the traditional and historical knowledge that we learn, but what I also identify is the lack of western conservation knowledge that is received or available to the Kura Kaupapa Māori. So the combination of myself and Puke is a good example of what Māori students should experience at some point while at school.

Students exploring Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane.

Students exploring Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane

The younger female students followed me as I huffed and puffed (my first walk since having a baby in December) up the first climb of the sanctuary track. They were intrigued, and made comments often about the beauty and peace of the forest and how they enjoyed this place so much they wished they could keep walking.

The boys however expressed interest in other ways, such as being able to walk faster than the girls or manoeuvring their way through the forest without tripping or falling over.

Not many questions were asked, but I could see a lot of listening was happening.

Fern unfurls at Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane. Photo: Or Hiltch | CC BY-NC 2.0.

Fern unfurling at Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane

The more we share both traditional and contemporary knowledge of conservation, the clearer the picture is painted for Māori students all over New Zealand, creating a rippling effect so they return and grow up within their whānau and hapū.

Having planted these seeds, hopefully, one day they will grow. And, as they grow, the rangitahi (young people) will one day be our Kaitiaki conservation leaders.

2 responses to Exploring Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane

    Jane Hughes 02/06/2015 at 9:55 am

    Wonderful story, Atamira. So good to feel and smell the ngahere with you and the tamariki . What a beautiful (ad)venture you are all embarking on with this type of co-guiding 🙂


    Nice! Inspiring story! Good job!
    I think this combination of more spiritual aspects of nature and the biological side, is not only important for Maori students to learn and experience, but for people from each decent.