As part of the Uniflats Volunteer Team I went to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary just outside Dunedin on Tuesday. Our guide Sue gave us an insight into the Sanctuary, showing us the Takahē, Otago Skinks and even a Tuatara (pictures below). Most of the animals in the sanctuary are endemic to New Zealand and some of them have been reintroduced to New Zealand. The Sanctuary is an important factor in the rehabilitation on New Zealand's fauna and opened its gates in 2009. Right at the entrance of the Sanctuary we find Tane Mahuta, the God of the Forest, who is located there to look down the whole Orokonui valley and protect everything within it.
After this introduction we went to the Flax Garden or Pa Harakeke and helped pruning the bushes for the winter. The Pa is a joint venture between the Ecosanctuary and the local iwi, Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki. The entrance to the Pa is marked by two wooden structures (they can be seen on one of the pictures) which represent Tane Mahuta, the kaitiaki (guardian) of the plants/forest on the right (male side) and Hine te Iwaiwa on the right (female side) as the kaitiaki of the traditions pertaining to the use of the plants and weaving. The whole Pa is designed as a koru (spiral) to come together at the center as a weaving platform in the design of a giant web, woven by pukawerewere (the spider, the very first weaver of all).
In the Pa, Sue showed us how the flax needed to be cut and where to dispose of the leaves we cut. Beyond that she told us a lot of little info snippets about the Sanctuary and answered all our questions. At the end of all our work we got to make a flax flower - putiputi (if I am not mistaken) in Maori. Our peaceful work was only disturbed by a plane that was constantly flying over the closeby fields (we are not 100% sure what it was doing, except for dropping some kind of powder).
Check out the website of the Orokonui Ecosanctuary. There is a lot of interesting and useful information on there.