Letters: To The Editor - Maara Roa

Kapi-Mana News | 1 February 2011



Congratulations to the artists and Porirua City Council for the new murals at Porirua Railway Station.  [Article 18 January 2011.]  What a change from the dingy walls of the past.

Also, I am delighted to see the woman from the Long Garden or early settler times depicted here, for the story is a fine legend for the city to honour.

The name Maara Roa, however, is not the name for the Maori maiden but is common te reo Maori for a garden - a protected valuable area of growing things, possibly cultivated (mara or maara), with the word roa meaning long.  This was how the woman's garden became known to people at the time.

The woman's name is in fact unknown, while the name Maara Roa was given in 2000 by the late Alf Potaka, kaumatua of Maraeroa Marae, to the then-new conservation organisation Nga Hoa o Maara Roa, the Friends of Maara Roa, as they set out to restore and protect the threatened native bush remnant in the Cannons Creek Valley.

The area involved in this is 200 hectares, and the valley is almost five kilometres long, so this is indeed a long garden.

The reserve in which this "long garden" of bush and stream is being restored is Belmont Regional Park, which at over 300ha, covers most of the Belmont hills between Porirua, Wellington and Lower Hutt cities, and gives the public free access to Cannons Creek Valley from Cannons Creek Lakes Reserve and Takapu Rd.

One day the Cannons Creek Valley may be called Maara Roa, but so far the only map which shows the Long Garden area is on the society's website at maararoa.org.nz.

As for the unnamed woman of the long garden, her story is told at Maraeroa Marae, where the wharenui is named after her generosity - Ukaipo Hiato (huato), The One Who Provides.

Go see the tekoteko and beautiful carvings there, read her full story, then come on a guided walk through the new maara roa nearby.

Sylvia Jenkin
Friends of Maara Roa