Manukau Harbour, New Zealand
TYPE OF WOUNDED PLACE
TYPE OF STORY
Story & Experience
This year, I ventured out solo for my exchange with the earth, pursuing a moment of sunshine that had broken through after a week of rain; pursuing stillness.
Travelling on my trusty bicycle, I chose to follow the coastline close to the area I have found my current home in: the shores of the might Manukau harbour, formed within a field of ancient volcanoes. This harbour was once a great basin of food for the mana whenua—the local indigenous Māori communities that called this area home and meant it in a way that has far deeper roots than I can ever, as a Pākeha (white/colonial-descended New Zealander), claim to know. This harbour has also long been a welcoming entry point to Aotearoa New Zealand, and a point of departure for many of her people and her bounty to be carried out across the ocean to the world. Manukau also welcomes and farewells visitors who prefer to travel by air, now providing nearby space for our international airport, but providing for far longer a sanctuary for the northern hemisphere birds who arrive seasonally to shelter and find kai (food) along the muddy tidal shores.
Over the many years since the arrival of European settlers this harbour has been gradually polluted by the off-casts of human life and industry. Manukau has swallowed a stream of industrial waste, off-flow from animal abattoirs, sewage and storm water, chemicals and regular rubbish. More recently, local communities have attempted reparations with this precious land and water through a large marine restoration project and the planting of native trees. But still, it is a wounded place.
Looking out towards Puketutu island—really more of a small peninsular now, a memory of a volcano that once was—and joined only by a few winter birds braced against the June chill, my gift exchange was one of breath, of life. For Māori, the appropriate way to greet is through a hongi, a leaning together of two faces until noses touch or hover close enough to each other to exchange air, to breathe together, to symbolically share thoughts and erase for this moment the distinction between visitor/guest and host. It is a beautiful connection. It felt right to acknowledge that even as I might try to give to this earth I will also always be receiving. We exist together.
“What’s a hongi?” – Francis Tipene and Kaiora Tipene. https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/01-06-2021/whats-a-hongi
“History” – Manukau Harbour Restoration Society. http://www.mhrs.org.nz/Pages/About/History.aspx#:~:text=A%20thousand%20years%20ago%20the,intensive%20use%20of%20the%20harbour.
“Coastal Walkway”—Watercare. https://www.watercare.co.nz/Help-and-advice/Environment-and-community/Coastal-Walkway)