The UK Pou Whenua Connection

13 September 2010

A corner of the spa town Harrogate, in North Yorkshire, England, is now forever stamped with a strong New Zealand presence.

A tall, glossy red pou whenua now gleams from a garden planted with New Zealand plants. The same pou whenua can be seen in several places in Wellington to mark sites of significance in our Māori heritage trail.

The Wellington connection with Harrogate began in 1953, when the Council donated plants for the Harrogate Borough Council's Valley Gardens, which was originally established to honour World War II servicemen and women, 23 of whom were New Zealand airmen who perished while they were stationed in the town.

The men were laid to rest in Harrogate's Stonefall Cemetery.

The Harrogate Borough Council has a historical sister-city relationship with Wellington, so it invited Wellington representatives to re-open the gardens.

This ceremony took place last month, with a traditional Māori blessing of the gardens and the pou whenua performed by a Wellington delegation. This included Cr Ray Ahipene-Mercer and Kaumatua Sam Jackson from the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, representing the interests of Taranaki-Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika.