2017 saw an exciting start to the academic year for some Year 3 students across all departments. Along with faculty members Becky Nunes and Lynnemaree Patterson, 10 students experienced a 4-night/3-day field trip & marae stay in and around the National Park of Tongariro, on the sacred tribal lands of Ngāti Rangi, from 23rd-27th of February.
Once in the National Park, our students joined nine Environmental Sciences undergraduates from colleges all over the United States. These students were on a semester-long learning programme, through the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), cross-crediting back into their American studies. The HECUA group was headed by leading environmental lawyers and activists Charles Dawson and Peter Horsley, both pre-eminent in their fields. The collective student group was then given immersive teachings from kaumatua Keith Woods and other iwi members concerning Maori cultural protocols, practices and the concept of Kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of the land.
This noho marae experience is centred around sustainability, indigenous practices of land guardianship and alternate perspectives on the sharing of our natural resources. Students and faculty stayed on the marae each night, and travelled each day into unique areas of alpine desert, bush and mountain. The students learned about cultural practices as they relate to ecology, and political and cultural history as it relates specifically to Ngāti Rangi, the Tongariro Power Scheme and the Treaty of Waitangi. Students kept journals, made sketches, took photographs and recorded audio as multiple tools of observational fieldwork & research. Communal meals, shared responsibilities and deep group discussions each night were also key aspects of the experience.
Year 3 Photo Media student Georgia Carr spoke about the trip: “with kaumatua Keith Woods we went to places, such as forestry areas and army land, where the public aren’t allowed. We were all transported into a real, natural world, very different from Auckland and I realized how much we take it for granted. We saw pristine rivers, lakes and mountains and saw from where Auckland’s drinking water is transported. I had a very spiritual and memorable experience on the marae and surrounding lands. More importantly as a group, we have now all become passionate about sustainability and more conscious as consumers. We are less inclined to be wasteful.”
Year 3 Fine Arts Student Yasmina Gillies continues, “we went straight to the source of these sacred places. It was a first-hand experience and it had more to do with the land and the people. It helped me to view the land as something of an entity, one that Ngāti Rangi is the guardian of. Going to Ruapehu and hearing the karakia was moving. Seeing the relationship between the iwi and the land was a very personal experience and going there allowed us time to reflect on how all of New Zealand should be like this, without damaging industry and exploitation.”
The visit will form the central platform for enquiry into the Art & Sustainability elective in Term 1, and the students will come together later in the term to work collaboratively on an audio-visual outcome from the trip.