The Call of the Tui Rae Ki Te Rae, a bicultural project

Text by Professor Penny Allan, Dr. Huhana Smith, Damian Powley, George Woolford

The 2015 NZILA Awards introduced the Te Karanga O Te Tui award.
The winning project, Rae Ki Te Rae, fulfilled the brief to “...[not] just reflect Te Ao Māori back to the world, but engage and embrace it as essential to its core.” 

RAE KI TE RAE IS A BICULTURAL PROJECT carried out Professor Penny Allan, the Programme Director for Landscape Architecture at Victoria’s School of Architecture and Dr Huhana Smith from Manaaki Taha Moana (MTM), which is a research programme established to restore and enhance coastal ecosystems of importance to the Ngati Raukawa iwi in Horowhenua. 

The project was based on work Allan had done while teaching fourth year Landscape Architecture Design students. The students, MTM and the local hapū worked together to design practical restoration options for shoreline landscapes that are significant to the hapū. 

As part of the submission to the 2015 NZILA Awards, the project’s fulfillment of the (Te Aranga Principles?) was itemised. Allan and Smith’s clear understanding and commitment to these philosophical imperatives were a key factor in Rae Ki Te Rae being awarded the Te Karanga O Te Tui award. 

From the NZILA awards entry
All over Aotearoa New Zealand a legacy of Māori land fragmentation juxtaposed with the complexities of tribal land succession has eroded once robust or intricate genealogical relationships between related peoples. 

Manaaki Taha Moana (MTM) was established to address these issues through the medium of six, detailed hands-on rehabilitation projects, which aim to rehabilitate ecosystems vital to local Iwi and Hapū in the Horowhenua region. 

In 2010 Dr Huhana Smith at MTM and Professor Penny Allan, Director of the Landscape Architecture Programme at Victoria University initiated the Rae ki te Rae Bicultural Design Research Project a ‘research at the interface’ collaborative relationship, based on the MTM projects.

The bicultural kaupapa of Rae ki te Rae is: to find solutions, through landscape architectural design, for the rehabilitation of the degraded lands of the Horowhenua; to frame these solutions as possible futures; to communicate these to the wider community and to investigate the nature of bi-cultural design partnerships and their potential influence on the culture and environment of this country.

Mana: Mana Whenua have been respected, recognised and actively engaged with the project, preferably led by Mana Whenua for the rohe.
Rae ki te Rae is a ‘research at the interface’ project involving Māori and non-Māori in an equal relationship. During the first year of the partnership, we developed a protocol to ensure the work proceeded in a way that respects the rights of both. Non-Māori staff and masters students engage first hand with tāngata whenua at co-funded wānanga held at Kikopiri, Tu- korehe, Te Pou o Tainui and Raukawa marae. We build active relationships where the mana of place is shared through oral narrative of turangawaewae (the ultimate homeplace). Every year, 20 students in landscape architecture are immersed in place through hīkoi (walking and talking hui) to enhance their understand- ing of intricate whakapapa or genealogical relation- ships to lands, waterways, wetlands and streams. 

Whakapapa: Names and naming should reference local associations
Whakapapa is the conceptual framework for the project. It helps to transcend boundaries and bring multi-disciplinary entities, kaitiaki groups, students, staff and specialists together in meaningful ways. Throughout the Rae ki te Rae project we reference Māori names of place and draw upon their meaning to local hapū, to ground and assist students in their project endeavours. Whakapapa has also been used as a key methodology, encouraging students to engage with iwi culture on a deeper level.

Tohu: The project should recognise and incorporate the wider cultural landscape. 
The Rae ki te Rae project reinvigorates the tohu (cultural signs) within the landscape, where embedded stories of place, the exploits of ancestors or activities of taniwha enrich the view of landscape. These shared narratives are critically important to the students for developing a better understanding of Māori material, spiritual and political worldviews. Rae ki te Rae also recognises and incorporates bicultural landscapes, where important historic events have occurred as part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s national identity.

TAIAO: The project should acknowledge and incorporate the natural environment

TAIAO: The project should acknowledge and incorporate the natural environment

Taiao: The project should acknowledge and incorporate the natural environment. 
Rae ki te Rae was established to address the degradation of the Horowhenua’s coastal environment, as- sisting iwi and hapū to visualize solutions for freshwater decline. It recognises how pollution impacts on the mauri or life vitality of revered places affecting communities reliant on the land and often manifesting in disquiet, disunity, or fragmentation amongst peoples.

MAURI TU: Environmental mauri (including the human environment) should be enhanced

MAURI TU: Environmental mauri (including the human environment) should be enhanced

Mauri Tu: Environmental mauri (including the human environment) should be enhanced. 
The project aims to assist kaitiaki to protect cultural landscape, the mauri of resources and the natural environment. The student’s designs encourage others to visualise the amelioration of environmental pollution in ways that help ease difficulties experienced between whānau and hapū members over land tenure changes or access use rights. Visualising potential encourages more kaitiaki to engage, raising hopes that the current state of valued ecosystems within cultural landscapes might change. The design projects are regularly exhibited at Ōtaki library and at Te Takere Community Centre in Levin. They are well received and reveal the exciting potential of what could happen in the region. 

Mahi Toi: Design and artistic excellence should be present and evident
Through the use of illustrative software informed by a holistic Māori learning framework, the student’s work from an enriched mana whenua basis. The design focus is on an integration of cultural values rather than the typical token use of Māori cultural motif. From the initial focus group work, the developed protocols and improved and more effective wānanga models to the later cultural heritage awards on a global stage (the work was recently awarded equal second out of 100 entries at the 8th international Barcelona Biennial, specifically for its cultural heritage focus) the project honours a praxis that is grounded in Māori methodology but where a rich, interface between knowledge systems can take place respectfully.

Ahi Kā: The project should encourage and provide for Mana Whenua use and understanding of place
Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki shareholders are key kaitiaki (guardians) of Lake Wairongomai north of Ōtaki, whilst Ngāti Te Rangitāwhia, Te Mateawa, Ngāti Kapu-manawawhiti and Ngāti Tukorehe guard and protect Te Hākari dune wetland and Kuku Ōhau Estuary frontage undergoing active rehabilitation at Kuku, north of Waikawa. The purpose of the project is to work with these mana whenua to protect place and knowledge of place, based on custodial occupation, to ensure the environmental/cultural context is maintained in a fit state for the next generations to come.

Mātauranga: The project should challenge, augment and extend the corpus of indigenous, Aotearoa landscape architecture knowledge and experience
We are attempting to reestablish the role of human interdependencies and inter-relationships to each other, to the natural, spiritual and cultural in landscape and to allow dynamic movement between them. Such thinking is central to a Māori environmental worldview. While the narratives of place are recounted in the context of Māori lives experienced within contemporary Māori society, engagement with the knowledge base of both cultures has taken place in a productive and respectful way, to deepen our understanding of landscape and the practice of landscape architecture in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Hāpai: The project should motivate and encourage Māori to engage with landscape architecture
Since 2011 various kaitiaki, including kaumatua have come to the design critiques. Many groups have engaged with the wānanga and the design students have enthused rangatahi (youth) from kura kaupapa (Māori immersion schools). Whakatupuranga Rua Mano Kura kaupapa students in Ōtaki are now actively engaged with Waiorongomai revitalization activities. The project is also engaged with the reinvigoration of the flax industry, inviting experts to the studio, including Rangi Te Kanawa (Conservator of Māori Textiles at Te Papa and Harakeke Agent for the renewed industry), Urban Lynch (Engineer and Designer responsible for mechanizing the stripping process), the Tahamata Incorporation Board (owners of the land for the pilot project), and iwi and hapū. All are excited by the role that landscape architecture can play as a discipline that thinks holistically, designs possible futures and visualizes these in ways that engage industry and both Māori and non- Māori communities. 

Wairuatanga: The project considers the concept of spiritual energy and dimension as a means for well-being
Spiritual energy is the product of vital relationships with lands and healthy ecosystems. The project briefs 6 are established to ensure that cultural affirmation, social wellbeing, balanced economic growth and co-management of projects for mutually beneficial partnerships align with the goals of effective ecosystem restoration and environmental sustainability on tribal lands. 

Kaitiakitanga: The promotion of active guardianship of the environment
Kaitiakitanga, expressed through everyday environ- mental activities from the most sacred or tapu aspects of Māori spirituality, to simple acknowledgement of codes of behaviour associated with manaaki, tuku and utu (respect, reciprocity and obligation to the natural world) are discussed and practiced during the period of cultural immersion at the beginning of each studio year during the wananga. This is reinforced in the protocol and through the use of design methodologies such as hikoi, whakapapa and oral narrative as the projects are developed and refined. Designs focus on facilitating cultural practice, which promotes active guardianship of the environment by mana whenua. For example design: to focus attention on the relationship between phases of the moon and the harvesting of resources; to allow for ritual bathing or the burial of whenua to support the growth of new forest; to provide a nursery setting for oral narratives that tell stories about how the land has been regenerated: or that integrates urupā a nursery and community facilities on high ground in a flood-prone region, to provide security and to draw attention to the cycles of a landscape in flux. 

From the NZILA citation: 

In its inaugural year, ‘Te Karanga o te Tui’ seeks to acknowledge those bodies of work that don’t just reflect Te Ao Maori back to the world, but engage and embrace it as essential to its core. 

More so; it aims to promote an evolution of land- scape architecture in Aotearoa, crafted with this foundation at the forefront - driving aspirations and pushing debate, all the while keeping its ‘roots’ firmly in the ground. 

This years’ winning entry brings these elements together, and pushes forward a path to take its message to new and broader audiences. With a rich integration of cultural values rather than motif the work is compelling, yet humble; it is deeply embedded and rich; it is specific and engaged, yet accessible to all. 

This is a beautifully crafted and important research project, leading Landscape Architecture at the forefront of bi-cultural design. Its message while robust, can transcend cultural boundaries, to be read and understood by all. 


ahi kā: fire, inspiration
awa: waterways
hāpai: to support
hapū: extended kinship group
hikoi: walking and talking meetings on land
Horowhenua: a district on the west coast of the North Island. It forms part of the Manawatu-Wanganui Region. Its name roughly means ‘shaking or rippling earth’.
hui: meetings
iwi: tribe
kaitiaki: custodians, guardians
kaitaikitanga: guardianship
kaumātua: elders
kaupapa: Māori philosophy
mahi toi: artwork
mahinga kai: food gathering area
mana: power
mana whenua: people of the land
arae: meeting houses
maramataka: Māori moon calendar
mātauranga: understanding, knowledge
mātauranga Māori: Māori knowledge
mauri: spirit
moana: seas and harbours
Pākehā: New Zealander of European descent
papa kāinga: original dwelling areas
pōwhiri: welcome ceremony
repo: wetlands
rohe: border, region
taiao: environment
taniwha: monster, dragon
tapu: sacred, forbidden
te reo: Māori language
tikanga: protocols
tohu: marking
urupā: burial areas
waharoa: gateway
wāhi tapu: sacred areas
wairuatanga: spirituality
wānanga: conference, lecture
whakapapa: genealogy
whānau: extended families
whare tupuna: ancestral meeting house
whenua: lands