At the Ōhiwa Harbour

At The Ōhiwa Harbour
At The Ōhiwa Harbour

E noho ana au ki te koko ki Ōhiwa,

Whakarongo rua aku taringa ki te Tukinga Rae O Kanewa

E aki ana ki uta ra ki te whānau a Tairongo

Kei Tauwhare Rata Pā te kōpua o te Ururoa

Te Kai raria noa mai te raweketia e te ringaringa

As I sit at Ōhiwa Harbour

I hear the tide crashing upon Tukinga Rae O Kanewa

The sound drifts inland to the people of Tairongo

At Tauwhare is the dwelling place of shark

The food produced easily without effort

Matariki offers us a time to come together, to give thanks and celebrate all of the abundance that Tangaroa and Papatūānuku provide. This Matariki I wanted to focus in particular the star Waitā, which is tied to kai that comes from the salt water.

For me my Tūrangawaewae is strongly tied to the sea. Growing up in a coastal town, I have a strong respect and love for our moana, our ocean. She has fed me, bathed me, soothed my soul, allowed me many safe passages across her waters, and given me endless inspiration gazing out upon her ever changing waters.

My home of Ōhope beach is a small settlement on a sand spit, behind which lies Ōhiwa Harbour, 26.5 square kilometers of tidal lagoon in the Bay of Plenty. Ōhiwa is known as Te Kete O Tairongo or the ‘food basket of the region’, named after the Tairongo, one of the first settlers of the area whom which Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa are descendants.

The warm and shallow waters of Ōhiwa offer a rich abundance of kaimoana, from shellfish such as pipi, mussels, scallops, oysters, cockles to a vast array of fish species including snapper, kahawai, mullet, flounder, and kingfish. The harbour is also a shark breeding ground as evidenced in the local waiata above.

I have spent countless hours on Ōhiwa’s waters, fishing for kai, foraging for cockles on the sand banks at low tide, or dragging a through the channel to catch flounder. My childhood memory banks are peppered with memories of feasts from our local kaimoana, from the salty smell of steaming open freshly dug pipi, or digging into mums famous seafood chowder. Ōhiwa Harbour has nourished not only my family, but thousands, from the early iwi who fought over her shores to the families and people who live within her reach today.

Over the years many factors, including human developments, subdivisions, roading and livestock farming around the harbour's expansive coastline, have greatly affected the ecosystems and wetlands within Ōhiwa’s borders, with the harbour having lost an estimated one third of the tidal volume over the last 100 years.

This not only has affected the fish stocks and shellfish, but also the of birdlife in the area, with the dunes playing host to an abundance of native birds including the kuaka (godwit), tūturiwhatu (dotterel), tara iti (fairy tern), tōrea (oyster catcher), kōtare (kingfisher) and so many more.

For me Matariki is not only a chance to give thanks for Ōhiwa’s abundance, but a time to respect her, and support ways in which her waters and the vibrant life that lives within and around them can be restored.

Right before Matariki appeared in the skies, and our streets were empty from a nationwide lockdown, I would walk Ōhiwa’s shores daily watching, mesmerised by her changing moods.

And it was on these walks that I witnessed, the appearance of four royal spoonbills on my daily walks, sweeping up and down the shallows for food. To me this is a sure sign of hope to be grateful for, a sign that the ecosystem of Ōhiwa Harbour, my Tūrangawaewae is on the mend.

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Words and images by Kaitaki Collective Member Abby Lawrence @byarose. Journalist & Content Creator.

I was born and bred in the small ocean side town of Whakatane, where foraged blackberries, mushrooms and local kaimoana were central to our dinner plates and way of life. This is where my love affair with our local food began. I’ve been hungrily developing my passion for learning about all aspects of our food system including environmentalism, permaculture, bio-dynamics and regenerative agriculture. As a journalist I’ve worked in various areas within NZ media including publishing, performing and radio and I'm looking forward to using my story-telling skills to capture words and visuals of my local food culture. Having become disconnected from the land whilst working in the city, in more recent years I’ve come to understand just how much of a privilege this was. You’ll find me documenting my explorations of New Zealand and beyond over at @byarose.

Words by eatnewzealand