Growing the Puna x Atua Matua

Wade Sharland was one of the successful applicants to the Growing the Puna kaupapa for the summer of 2021/2022. He shares his experience and whakaaro from the haerenga the ohu recently embarked on.

Six o’clock on a Tuesday morning in the backdrop of Mangawhai, the interns of Toi Tangata (plus Aunty Crystal) and the Tapuwaekura team were wide awake and ready to tackle any challenges Dr Ihirangi Heke had set out for us during our stay (Uncle Ihi tōnā ingoa hōu hei te mutunga o te kaupapa).

The Toi Tangata ohu had been looking forward to the kaupapa as it was a chance to finally meet the rest of the rōpū in person and also a chance to put into practice some of the teachings Dr Ihirangi had given us, via zoom, over the 10 weeks leading up to the three day haerenga. Initially, I think the Toi Tangata group was apprehensive as Dr Ihirangi has this strong exterior, a kete of knowledge and a reputation of physically and mentally challenging his interns, framing him as an imposing figure. However, we were determined to represent the mana of the rōpū and our iwi as best as we could.

Our first wero was a 1.5 km swim around the edge of a lake nearby. The wero was to navigate the outskirts of the lake (within 5 m of the edge) conducting a series of four different strokes, whilst also observing our surroundings for tohutaka i te taiao, pērā ai ki ngā aitanga pepeke, ngā manu, ngā rākau etc. Straight up and out of the water, it was back home for a quick kai and then to prep our bikes for our second wero; a mountain bike over an unknown distance, an unfamiliar terrain with the only assurance given that we “should” be home before 2000hrs that night, so 8 – 12 hours on our bikes ‘māmā noa iho’. The bike provided plenty of time for whakawhanaungatanga and observation as a means of trying to distract ourselves from the pain in our nono from being on our bikes for extended periods of time. Coupled with a few of Uncle Ihi’s curve balls, by the end of our trek, cramp, fatigue and hunger had well and truly taken hold. Luckily, Dr Wayne Ngata and his wife had prepared home cooked kai on our return from each adventure which always gave us something to look forward to later on. Our night concluded with a wānanga sharing our experiences throughout the day and pūrākau pertaining to our selected aitanga pepeke, and maramataka with Riiki Solomon.

Day two, much like the previous morning, commenced with an air of uncertainty and slightly sorer bodies. Our first wero was to be a 90 minute bush run over undulating terrain. Although challenging conditions for most, it was more so for our intern Peter Cowan who is an olympic amputee whom, crutches in hand, navigated the mud, bush and steep terrain like a Kererū swooping through the forest. The pace had been set by our Tapuwaekura whānau at the front and Peter kept pace without so much as a grumble – removing any excuse for the rest of us to complain! Back to the whare to prepare for our next engagement, this time tackling Tangaroa for some surfing and swimming for the day and then back home for more wānanga.

Day three, and our final wero was a 2km swim in Tangaroa from one cove to the next at the break of dawn. For most I think this was the highlight of all activities as it encapsulated how fortunate we were to be able to take part in such an experience while the sun was rising off in the distance of Tangaroa and we were in the middle of the ocean having a morning wānanga with Matua Hemi trying to find Kina on our ventures.

Overall, the experience was awesome. We were able to grow through physical and mental duress, while the wānanga each night helped to consolidate all our teachings throughout the day, challenging us all to think differently. But most of all, the opportunity to create new bonds with our new whānau. For any future interns looking at applying through Toi Tangata, this experience alone is well worth it. He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te waka!

Ngā mihi anō ki a koe e Uncle Ihi, ki te whānau Tapuwaekura, Matua Riki, Dr Wayne Ngata ki ngā kaiāwhina me ngā ringawera anō hoki. 

Wade Sharland

Wade is a Physical Training Instructor in the Royal New Zealand Army where he has served for 21 years. He is the Command Warrant Officer of Northern Health Support Squadron responsible for the training and development of over 80 sailors and soliders. Wade is a dedicated husband and father and is also currently studying part time a Bachelor in Te Reo Maori (Te Wananga o Aotearoa) and a Bachelor Sport and Recreation (Massey University). He was one of the successful applicants to the Growing the Puna kaupapa for the summer of 2021/2022.