Historian claims Maori garden neglected

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 08:54 12/03/2014
maori garden
Wiremu Puke/SUPPLIED Zoom
BEFORE: Ngati Wairere spokesman Wiremu Puke took this photo inside Te Parapara Garden during the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival last month. Mr Puke said council staff are neglecting the garden.

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One of the men closely involved with the creation of New Zealand's only public fully functional traditional Maori garden says the site is being neglected by Hamilton Gardens staff.

Ngati Wairere historian Wiremu Puke, whose late father Hare Puke was the project's patron, said he visited Te Parapara Garden during the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival last month and was dismayed at its condition.

He observed the garden was overgrown with weeds and its "unique carved buildings" showed signs of decay and neglect.

Mr Puke wrote to Hamilton City Council this week and urged staff to take immediate action.

Te Parapara Garden is intended to demonstrate traditional Maori horticulture with particular reference to the gardens along the Waikato riverbanks in pre-European times.

Mr Puke said Te Parapara Garden was unique in the world and regarded as a taonga of national significance.

"While the Hamilton City Council is in [a] posturing mood and singing its own praises regarding the overall future of the Hamilton Gardens as a top five world garden to visit, the one garden that stands alone in terms of its sheer visitor pulling power and cultural praise internationally [and] nationally is sadly forgotten and neglected by Hamilton City Council," Mr Puke said.

"The integrity of this garden must be maintained and after seeing how Te Parapara has slipped, the kaitiakitanga of this garden will now be reviewed," he said.

"I believe that adequate council resourcing should be set aside to re-engage me and people who were involved in the construction of this garden to bring Te Parapara back to its 2010 opening condition."

Mr Puke supplied the Waikato Times with a series of photos which showed the roof of the pataka (storehouse) in need of repair and weeds in the garden.

The Times visited the garden yesterday and observed the garden had been weeded and repair work carried out on the pataka roof.

City general manager community Lance Vervoort said Mr Puke's comments were a surprise to Hamilton Gardens management team.

He said Mr Puke visited the gardens last week but didn't mention any concerns with the condition of Te Parapara Garden.

"Mr Puke's comments are disappointing for us as we take great pride in Te Parapara Garden and it's an important feature."

Hamilton Gardens director Peter Sergel had inspected the garden and was happy with the garden's condition.

"The pataka roof needs some repairs but we chose to delay that work . . . until after the kumara had been harvested," Mr Vervoort said. "The staff member responsible for this particular garden is very committed and enthusiastic and we're confident they are doing a very good job."

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Mr Puke said early European accounts of pre-European Maori gardens noted they were meticulously maintained, with not a weed to be seen.

Te Parapara Garden won an award for cultural excellence in 2012 at the annual Parks Forum Awards.

The awards celebrate the work of organisations, managers and individual staff in managing parks and communicating their value to communities.

- Waikato Times

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