You don’t have to be around the people of Koukourarata Marae for long to feel the enthusiasm and energy they have for the series of forward-thinking runanga projects that they’re currently working on. I visited the Banks Peninuslar marae last weekend to join in the celebrations of the first harvest of their mussel farm (a Ngai Tahu first), which is a joint venture with Marlborough Mussel Company. It took them 5 years of concerted effort to get the applications passed before they could lay the first 44 lines and begin seeding at the entrance to Port Levy in February 2008. Now the first 30 lines are ready to harvest and export; and the second stage of the development is due for harvest from November on.
Port Levy, Banks Peninsular.
And it’s on the back of the mussel farm that Te Runanga o Koukourarata is planning to establish an Aquaculture Academy based on the successful model of the Queen Charlotte College Aquaculture Academy in Marlborough. “It’s all about opening doors for our kids,” says Koukourarata Project Manager, Peter Ramsden (Ngai Tahu, Rangitane). “It’s about upskilling our own - giving them an education and NZQA qualifications so they can come back home to good jobs. It’s about giving the whanau (family) of Koukourarata a ‘hand up’ rather than perpetuating a ‘hand out’ mentality and the potential for employment of trained, suitably-qualified rangatahi (youth) is enormous.” The runanga has prepared a business and strategic plan for the establishment of the academy and is now continuing the process of “knocking on doors,” seeking potential funding and support partners in the wider community.