Learning about harakeke care
Kāpiti Coast District Council parks staff and contractors have partnered with local kai raranga to improve their harakeke (flax) pruning skills, in the process creating an area that demonstrates how harakeke should be cared for.
Working with renowned weavers Raima Kingi, Margaret Jackson and Brenda Tuuta the team honed their skills on a stand of harakeke at the entrance to the Te Ara o Whareroa – Queen Elizabeth Park Cycleway in Paekākāriki.
Together they pruned and harvested leaves from a whanau of around eight well-established but unruly harakeke, making them safe for path users, restoring the health of the plant and improving their visual appeal.
Parks, open space and environment manager Gareth Eloff says Council was contacted by the harakeke experts with an offer to upskill staff on better ways to look after harakeke.
“We prune harakeke to clear pathways and trails so they are safe to use and more accessible. We are delighted to now be working with some incredibly knowledgeable and skilled wahine to learn more about maintaining harakeke to improve the health and beauty of this iconic native plant, and in a way that respects the tikanga that goes with it,” Mr Eloff says.
Brenda Tuuta says harakeke is a taonga and should be regarded as such. This doesn’t mean it needs to be treated especially tenderly, but pruning should be purposeful and done correctly, following tikanga principles. Tikanga hauhake (harvesting) includes:
- Harakeke should not be harvested in the rain, snow hail or when vey windy. All of these conditions affects the rau (leaves) and regrowth.
- Cut ouside the three main parts that make up the individual fans rito (pepe or baby), awhi rito (parents). Cut evenly from both sides to maintain the balance of the Harakeke.
- You should not cut from a Pū Harakeke (single plant) when in flower.
- Korari (flower stalks) can be removed once they have finished flowering and the seeds have dropped.
- During the winter months is the ideal time for transplanting
“This is about providing some education to the people who look after our parks, and providing some practical skills for them to draw on,” Ms Tuuta says.
“They are very passionate about their work and have been very open to working with us. This is about education and teamwork.
“By doing it properly you can create healthier, better looking plants that require less maintenance.”
Ms Tuuta says she encourages anyone interested in the harakeke to visit the freshly cut ara (row) of plants in Paekākāriki, and to learn about the history, significance and tikanga of harakeke.
“Harakeke is everywhere but people don’t realise it’s such a taonga. Weaving has moved from being a necessity to an artform, and we’d like to see a return to more daily use. It’s a renewable resource and such a magnificent plant.”