Ngāti Whātua artist and activist Hana Maihi outside Ōrākei marae at Takaparawhā, Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: Nicole Hunt

Mana whenua in the big city: The ties that bind Māori to Auckland

He Kākano Ahau is a podcast by writer and activist Kahu Kutia (Ngāi Tūhoe) that explores stories of Māori in the city, and weaves together strands of connection. In this episode: what happens when Māori are not ‘urban Māori’ as we know them, but mana whenua.

For episode four of He Kākano Ahau I’ve come to Tāmaki Makaurau. I’ve never really liked it here, but I’ve come anyway to learn more about the history beneath the concrete. Ngarimu Blair is one of the many uri of Ngāti Whātua who live in Auckland city. He is a director for Whai Rawa, the commercial branch of the iwi. He has agreed to show me some of the significant kōrero in the puku of Tāmaki Makaurau. Over an hour we circle round a couple of city blocks, and Ngarimu weaves for me a history that allows me to finally see the land I’m standing on.

We’re standing in a parking lot beneath the university law school in central Auckland, staring quietly at a brick wall.

Ngarimu points to a small hole in the bricks, where water is slowly dripping into a tiny pool. For many years this spring has been concealed here, not known to many. This is Te Wai Ariki, a puna that was once a popular water source for Ngāti Whātua.

“When the settlers arrived we used to sell the water to the ships coming in until one day where there was too many,” Ngarimu tells me.

Usually when we talk about Māori in the city, we’re talking about Māori who aren’t from there. But what we often forget is that beneath the concrete, the city is Māori land too. As Ngarimu showed me around, streets became pathways, hills became pā, and Queen St became a valley that drives an underground stream out towards the sea.

It’s predicted that there will be two million people in Auckland by 2025. The challenge for Ngāti Whātua is how they keep their history alive, and how they advance the legacy left for them by previous generations.

Kahu and Ngarimu Blair explore the hidden history of Auckland City. Photo: Nicole Hunt

At Ōrākei Marae, Hana Maihi is one of the many young people of Ngāti Whātua thinking about their aspirations for the future. In the late 70s, young activist Joe Hawke and his contemporaries successfully protected Takaparawhā or Bastion Point from being turned into suburban development. We talked about what it is our generation is prepared to fight for.

Episode four is about being Māori in the city. Under the guidance of two uri of Ngāti Whātua, I was able to visualise the land beneath my feet for the first time, and think more about how we keep our history alive in a concrete jungle.

He Kākano Ahau is a podcast written, researched, and hosted by Ngāi Tūhoe writer, activist, and young person Kahu Kutia. Kahu now lives in Wellington after spending the first 18 years of her life in the valleys of Te Urewera.

Over six episodes, Kahu explores stories of Māori in the city, weaving together strands of connection. At the base is a hunch that not all of us who live in the city are disconnected from te ao Maori.

Listen to the entire He Kākano Ahau series here.

Made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund. Produced for RNZ by Ursula Grace Productions

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