On Friday 13 March 2020, 22 landscape architecture students from Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington) arrived in Paetūmokai Featherston for three days. The third-year students and their incredible lecturer, Bruno Marques, selected Paetūmokai exclusively as the focus of their research projects this year. It marks a continuation of previous research efforts co-ordinated by Katie Beattie, the Featherston Community Board and other local volunteers some six years ago.
Starting at Featherston Primary School, Tumuaki Gina Smith shared the history of the school on a tour around the facilities. Then Mrs Robinson’s Room 5 class welcomed the manuhiri with haka and waiata. The VUW students shared their own pēpeha, then asked our tamariki what they would like to see in the town. The key themes were: a pool that is open all year round; safer roads; a safer skate park; healthier families. From the mouths of babes! Manākitanga!
On Friday and Saturday nights, the students met with about two dozen locals. During the day, they also listened to keynote lectures from local marae chairs, community workers, military historians and mana whenua, including Matua Rawiri Smith and Tia Tuuta.
Over the weekend, excursions visited a class of local weavers at Te Whare Whakapapa Raranga (formerly the golf course) where the VUW students even learnt how to make putiputi (flowers). Later, Rawiri Smith and Nanny Frances took the students around Wairarapa Moana to Waiorongomai, Pounui, Tauwharerata, Wairio, Ōnoke spit and the Lake Domain. Rawiri highlighted the current issues related to the moana, whilst providing examples of potential landscape architecture projects that could address the issues underpinned by Māori thinking. The kōrero was rich and stimulating.
We had an amazing weekend with these fresh-eyed, curious students, and look forward to them coming back to us with updated research and designs!