New interactive map, bringing the stories of the Manawatū Awa to life

For more than 50 years, the Palmerston North Teachers’ College and Massey University Hokowhitu campus trained some of Aotearoa’s finest educators.

But what many may not realise is that centuries before, Hokowhitu served as a very different kind of training ground – one where toa (warriors) honed their skills for warfare.

The Hokowhitu toa training ground was located southwest of Ruahine kāinga (village) near te awa o Manawatū – the Manawatū River. In times of strife, the people of Ruahine and other kāinga would seek safety within the fortified pā – which Hokowhitu toa proudly defended.

Fast forward more than 200 years and the launch of an innovative new website will allow locals and manuhiri alike to walk along the river pathway learning of the pūrākau (stories) like Hokowhitu and Ruahine and experiencing these historic sites in a new way.

Rangitāne o Manawatū and the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA), have come together to deliver this kaupapa, called ‘He Ara Kotahi, Hei Ara Kōrero’.

The website, which will host an interactive digital map, will go live on 31 May, 2024.

He Ara Kotahi, Hei Ara Kōrero allows Rangitāne o Manawatū to share their stories about cultural and environmental mātauranga (knowledge) related to the Manawatū Awa while ensuring that the stories being told are accurate and authentic.

Chris Whaiapu says the reason for creating a website with an interactive map is to encourage the community to connect, learn and engage with the Manawatū River, and the rich tapestry of history that weaves it’s in and around our region.

“Its purpose is to inspire our whānau, kura and hapori with te awa o Manawatū – the Manawatū River – now and into the future, while also providing kaitiakitanga of pūrākau for iwi by iwi to access and build on.”

The website has two distinct, but in-sync functions. The first is the interactive map, operable by phone or computer, which guides users on a storytelling experience of the awa.

Its second function will sit as a private repository, managed and only accessible by Rangitāne o Manawatū where they can store their pūrākau, growing iwi capability to manage and protect their mātauranga digitally.

Whaiapu says this directly supports the commitment by Rangitāne o Manawatū to protect their mātauranga for future generations.

“It ensures that the wisdom and knowledge of their storytellers is preserved without fear of it being lost.”

A public event will be held at He Ara Kotahi Bridge from 11am on 31 May 2024, to celebrate stories like Hokowhitu and Ruahine, and the launch of He Ara Kotahi, Hei Ara Kōrero, where you’ll hear from Rangitanē o Manawatū on the importance of this project and the journey to get here.

There will be free scooter rides, sponsored by Flamingo, for 12+ year-olds from 11.30am to 3.30pm, and free coffee from 11am, along with Simply Kai food truck. The event will also be live-streamed by Kia Ora FM.

This kaupapa was made possible through funding from Te Urungi: Cultural Sector Regeneration Fund from Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.