Kapakaitiaki Matapouri

Dorothy Waetford - Kapa Kaitiaki
Dorothy Waetford – Kapa Kaitiaki
With a mission of protecting and maintaining the beauty that is Matapouri, Kapa Kaitiaki is a community based initiative consisting of Tangata Whenua and members of the local community who are working to encourage awareness and respect of culturally significant sites in Matapouri.

Local whānau members Dorothy Waetford, Ngapera Hohepa and Deborah Jennings have been part of a team working hard all summer to promote this positive kaupapa.

Matapōuri local, Dorothy Waetford, says, “Two years ago we had conversations about awareness, guardianship (kaitiakitanga) and how we might be able to contribute more effectively to looking after our home and our visitors.”

“Two years ago we knew we wanted to create an impact and subsequent awareness of spaces within Matapouri, particularly in and around Te Wai O Te Taniwhana (the Mermaid Pools), Rangitapu Pa (the track that leads to Mermaid pools) and other areas that are culturally significant.”

Kapa Kaitiaki use artwork to share and promote their kaupapa. The vision of the rōpu was to have a series of artworks created by local artists and community members. Through these artworks the message of kaitiakitanga and awareness of sacred sites is shared, with these works expressing the deep appreciation of who and what is cared about by locals of Matapōuri.

Dorothy says, “With support from Ngātiwai Trust Board, Matapouri Marae, Matapouri Hall Society, Te Tai Tokerau Maori Artists Collective, Te Atinga Toi Maori Aotearoa, Dulux paint, whanau and the local community we have come a long way since those conversations began. We feel very blessed to be able to share the rest of the journey with everyone and we’re hopeful people will join with us in whatever capacity they feel comfortable.”

In early December the first wānanga of Kapa Kaitiaki was held at Matapouri Marae.  It was a great weekend with a lot of support from whānau and friends and many artists. The first phase of the group’s mahi was achieved, with many pou created to be placed around the area. The first of the installations of pou were placed in key areas such as Wehiwehi Rd beach access car park, the local hall and other visible sites as you enter into Matapouri.

The pou and signs that have been erected welcome visitors to Matapouri and advise that local whānau are monitoring the areas to key sacred sites such as the Mermaid pools.  People are asked to support and respect these sites. 

Kapa in Maori means group, Kaitiaki means guardians with the name Kapa Kaitiaki loosely translated to simply that – Group of Guardians.

Kapa Kaitiaki ask people who visit the area to follow three easy steps:

  1. Take all waste and rubbish with you,
  2. Acknowledge and respect our sacred spaces,
  3. Share their message with whānau and friends.

Matapouri local, Ngapera Houhepa, says, “We are dedicated to creating awareness, protecting the environs, caring for sacred spaces in Matapouri and visitors, within Te whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu, Ngatiwai.”

Since the pou have been erected, the rōpu have been out and about all summer monitoring, promoting and raising awareness of the kaupapa via korero and handing out pamphlets with T-shirts and singlets having also been made.  The recent Matapouri Gala day also generated some great korero around the kaupapa.

A second Wananga for pou nui (big pou) was held in January with a great turn out and some fantastic pou created to be erected in other key sites to further raise awareness.

On Auckland Anniversary weekend while others were all in holiday mode, the local rōpu dedicated to this cause were out on patrol on Sunday, 27th January.  Their monitoring on this day recorded an astounding 459 people visiting the Mermaid pools at Matapouri.  Conversations with the visitors found they had come from Britain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Ukraine, Columbia and Chile to name a few. Thanks to recent stories on the Mermaid pools from the likes of National Geographic, for better or worse (we say worse), the Mermaid pools are now well known the world over. This has had a definite impact on visitor numbers and the subsequent damage and rubbish that is left behind.

The track over Rangitapu Pa has been taking a pummelling from the increased foot traffic and as the bush dries out, surface cracks appear in the earth with little relief from high temperatures.

Rocks below the surface of the pools once coloured pinkie grey are now tinged brown and the edges of the pools are highlighted the same. There is long green algae floating, crusty brown sludge on rock surfaces below the water and transparent slick on the water surface in some places.

There is toilet paper barely hidden from view and worse still – women’s sanitary pads continue to be found discarded to the side of the track in full view of any people walking along – YUCK!
Matapouri local, Sandra Lawrence, says, “The numbers of people at the pool is ridiculously high. We as locals no longer go there. My daughter Kaitlin is a marine scientist and is very concerned about the health of the marine life in the pools.”

Through this raised awareness, local hapū Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu, intend to place a rāhui over Te Wai o Te Taniwha and the access route over Rangitapu to restore the mauri of the taonga.
Apreahama Edwards, Chairman of Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu Hapū Trust says, “Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu would like to acknowledge the efforts of community led groups and hau-kainga initiatives such as Kapa Kaitiaki, Te Wairua o Te Moananui – Ocean Spirit and others who have generated an awareness to the plight of our taonga. “

“We are grateful for the ongoing support offered by our community, community leaders, councillors, iwi and government agencies. Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu Hapū Trust will host a public meeting on our marae with an open invitation to all who have a connection to Te Wai o Te Taniwha to ensure that this intrinsic part of our cultural, spiritual and ecological heritage is protected mō tatou, a, mō ngā uri ā muri ake nei – that is, for ourselves and for our children after us.”

Ngapera says, “By highlighting this problem we are hopeful that one day we may also influence change.”

“Be kind, look after one another and our sacred spaces.”

“Mauri ora!”

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