June 18, 2019, 11:27 a.m.
In the heart of Whangārei sits a maunga that once housed the biggest pā in Aotearoa and this month over 700 runners tackled the hills of Parihaka in a first time event.
Kaiwhakahaere for Sport Northland Phoenix Ruka said when the public were asked what events they would like, they received an overwhelming response for more events relevant to the area.
“The community really wanted an event that differed from others. There was a lot of conversation with kaumātua around is this the right thing to do? And they were very supportive of the event and just want to see people appreciate their maunga and their tūpuna,” Ruka said.
The run had three options - 5km, 12km and 21km - beginning at Otuihau falls then heading to Whareora, weaving along Hātea river, up Drummond track on Parihaka, through off road mountain bike trails and back through to Otuihau falls. The track was described as being exceptionally challenging with one section, a straight 4km incline.
“The run starts and finishes at Otuihau falls so you will run past the main falls and then there's another falls that not many people know about.
“It is quite a difficult run through difficult terrain especially because it’s over mountain bike tracks.”
Marathon runner Keoni Mahelona said he would recommend this event to anyone in the future due to its affordability and location to Northlanders.
“You’re running through the Ngāhere (compared to) running straight and flat which is mundane and boring. When you’re running through a track with Ngāhere it’s more technical and more fun,” Mahelona said.
A key factor for the organisers of the event was education around the history of Parihaka and correct pronunciation.
Once occupied by local hapū Te Parawhau, Parihaka spent over 100 years incorrectly pronounced as Parahaki in what has been reported as merely a typo by the Māori land court.
The correct pronunciation was changed back to Parihaka in 2005 which condenses the words Pari and Haka, referring to the embankments of the pā (still visible today) and a haka which took place during a battle in the 1820’s. These haka were reported by local Māori as being so loud, the echo bounced off surrounding maunga such as Western Hills, Parakiore and Maunu.
“For us we really want people to appreciate our maunga, our awa. We’re trying to pass on the tupuna korero through this event.
“The event is how we’re delivering it but the purpose is people are taking away some learning.”