Godwits get a tradition-focussed welcome back from Nayland

Thanks to Carina Hahn for her work in creating this video. &mdash;  <i>videographer: NayColOfficial</i>

‘Ka ngau ki te turikakao te paringa o te tai, e tika te rere o te kuaka’ – The spinifex wanders along the beach like an incoming tide, the kuaka flies direct.

During Thursday and Friday of last week our year 9 students, staff, and student Māori leaders were involved in our third consecutive Nayland College Hui Taurima. The Hui Taurima is a festival of learning that in 2019, celebrated the return of the kuaka/godwits to the Waimea Estuary. The Hui Taurima involved a one day marae visit in term 1 and these additional two days of place and culturally responsive learning activities.

Our Place, Our Stories

Our Hui Taurima is an opportunity to learn and acknowledge “our place and our stories” and how they exist in Te Ao Māori.


In spring the kuaka or godwit depart from their breeding nests in the great Siberian and Alaskan tundra and return to the rich feeding grounds provided by Aotearoa’s tidal flats and coastal marshes. In ancient times this annual arrival of the kuaka was looked as a great event.

For Māori, the kuaka were birds of mystery. They feature prominently in mythology. It was believed that they came from, or at least passed through, the ancestral home, Hawaiiki.

The kuakas’ 29,000 km flight from the far reaches of the northern hemisphere to Aotearoa and back again is one of the great odysseys of any living creature. It is a long haul, but the kuaka is a long-haul champion.

We celebrated the return of the kuaka to the Waimea Estuary this year through our very own Nayland College Te Hokinga Mai a te Kuaka. The focus was on learning about our local history and stories through a cross-curricula, place and culturally responsive approach.

Our year 9 students had a choice of 19 activities to choose from over the two days. It was an absolute pleasure to see passionate teachers running a wide variety of meaningful activities across the curriculum and to see our students so engaged in their learning. This event was an opportunity for Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) to be acknowledged and integrated across the learning areas.

Many students had an opportunity to be the masters in an area of knowledge. These included opportunities to create an art piece, carving, ta moko, producing a documentary, books of stories and legends, a kite, a harakeke puti/flax flower. There were also groups learning through kaitiakitanga, sea kayaking, mau rākau and traditional Māori fishing technology and waka ama.

Our Hui Taurima student leaders were outstanding with Taylor and James planning and running the Mau Rākau activity, Canon assisting with the Traditional Māori Games, Wiremu with the Hangi, Brodie Seelen with the Waka Haeranga, Jaxon with the Paddle Boarding and Ilaria with the Art Activity. 

Here are the highlights from some of the students:

“Being out on the water and hearing interesting Maori stories.”

“All the interesting things that I learnt, for example that kawakawa leaves are good to clear up eczema.”

“I enjoyed getting outside and doing practical stuff.”

Here are the highlights from some of our staff:

Maori knowledge, customs, and views of the world are valued and placed at the forefront.” 

“Hearing students’ experiences and prior knowledge.”

“Having knowledgeable instructors and speakers enrich this experience.”

Check out all the amazing photos below!

By Sera King