Elders are pivotal to Waiwhetu success

The Waiwhetu Marae kitchen is a hotbed of laughter, healthy food and leadership, much of which is provided by 84-year-old kuia, Hina Luke.  The daughter of the marae’s founding tipuna, Ihaia Puketapu, this energetic and warm woman personifies the spirit of the community she has spent her life in.

Hina Luke knows the battle her father, Ihaia Puketapu had to secure the land for the hapū

As a teenager, she watched her family home bulldozed when the hapū’s 100-acre block of ancestral land was taken for state housing under the Public Works Act in 1947.  Determined to keep the tribe together, her father lobbied government and secured land for the houses and marae on the current site.

“My father had to fight for what we have here. He’d get on a train, go to town and lobby the politicians. It wasn’t given to us on a plate.”

Hina sits on the Council of Tribal Elders and is part of generation that build the marae and many of the institutions and services that operate out of it.

“We’re not what you’d call radicals in this community.  I’d never go on a march, for example but we believe that we should always look for a solution.  There must be a solution to everything.”

Hina is the mother of eight children and 39 mokopuna.  A dress maker by trade, she completed an adult teaching diploma when she was 70 and continues to share the practical skills of a lifetime with generations of young people.

Back in the day when five of her eight children were at college at the same time, Hina, like many in her hapū found work in local car accessory factories.  She brought many of the skills she’d learnt back to the marae where whānau spun and felted wool to make hats, slippers and warms garments for the people at a time when good quality clothing was often prohibitively expensive.

These days if you can’t find Aunty Hina at home you’ll find her in the marae kitchen working with others to feed friends and manuhiri and, most importantly, baking and preparing morning tea and a hot lunch for the 35 kōhanga reo tamariki and their six kaiako.

“When those moko go home, all they need is a light evening meal and that’s probably how we should all eat – a good healthy meal at lunchtime that gives us the rest of the day to digest our food. Look at those children. You won’t see any obese kids here.”