Learning the ways of Te Urewera is an enlightening and humbling experience, writes Jacqui Gibson
Te Ika-a-Māui – the North Island – is home to one of the most isolated rainforests on Earth, and one recognised by law as its own legal identity since 2014. In a New Zealand and world-first approach to protecting nature, Te Urewera now owns itself and exists for its own sake. Six years on, Ngāi Tūhoe are welcoming tourists to their region to show Kiwis how they care for and live in the forest. We set out from Wellington with a three-night plan to immerse ourselves in the culture, manaakitanga (hospitality) and beauty of Te Urewera.
First stop: Tāneatua
Our first stop was Tāneatua, the unofficial gateway to Te Urewera, about 15 minutes inland from Whakatane or 75 minutes’ drive from Rotorua. It’s here you’ll find Tūhoe’s tribal headquarters, an award-winning, sustainably-designed “living building”.
We took a walking tour of Te Kura Whare with iwi chair Tamati Kruger and tribal authority chief executive Kirsti Luke. Anyone can drop in for a self-guided tour to learn about the building itself and the iwi’s role as kaitiaki (guardian) of the forest.
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