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Zealandia kiekie leaves harvested for woven panels at Parliament
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary
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Zealandia kiekie leaves harvested for woven panels at Parliament

The lush cascading kiekie plants at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne have been harvested as a gift to the country’s cultural heritage. 

Kiekie, a native climbing plant growing in abundance at the ecosanctuary and a prized weaving material, will be used for repairing tukutuku panels in Matangireia, a special room at Parliament.  

It was the first ever intentional and approved plant harvest recorded at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne. Guided by traditional Māori tikanga harvesting practices and technique the kiekie was not harmed; rather harvesting traditionally by hand encourages multiple resprouting.

The kiekie leaves, once stripped, boiled, dried and dyed, will end up on the tukutuku panels in Matangireia, the former Māori Affairs Committee Room at Parliament.   
Matangireia is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and needs restoration work on its exquisite carvings and paneling in preparation for the celebrations. The Māori Heritage Team at Pouhere Tangoa Heritage New Zealand are leading the restoration under the leadership of tohunga/expert Jim Schuster (Te Arawa). 

Mana whenua, guests, including artists and sanctuary staff joined the team from Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga at Zealandia in May and led by Jim, harvested 100 of the plant’s slender meter long blades from the kiekie plant on the banks of roto Kawau/lower reservoir.  

While harvesting Jim shared his extensive knowledge of plants and harvesting methods. He explained to harvest you take the crown of the plant and bend it until you hear a pop. If you bend in the wrong place, then the plant won't pop. In a way, the plant will only give you what it wants you to take.   

Zealandia, in partnership with Taranaki Whānui Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Toa Rangatira were thrilled to share some of the taonga that has grown in this garden and learn about ways mātauranga Māori/traditional knowledge can protect and promote resource sustainability.  

The best way to see kiekie at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne is to take a boat ride across Roto Kawau, or to peek through the binoculars on the Round Lawn. You can see the magnificent cascade of it, which was harvested from, hanging off the steep far bank. 

Photos: Jim Schuster teaching traditional techniques for selecting and stripping the kiekie; Kiekie, harvested ready to be strippedKiekie blades being stripped down to two raised white ribs which contain the strongest muka/fibres; Kiekie, harvested and prepared by those at the wānanga, being boiled to remove the chlorophyll - the green pigment. Credit: Zealandia

Photo: Matangireia, the former Māori Affairs Committee room. Credit: Parliamentary Collection

About kiekie 

Kiekie muka (fibre) is a significant and valuable resource because of its pliable leaves, ability to absorb dyes well and preferable to harakeke for some uses as it has more durability when in contact with water.  Used in multiple ways for clothing, kites, mats, belts, baskets, hats and tukutuku.  Other parts of the plant such as the tāwhara or flower bracts were a highly desired food source.  The aerial roots provided useful construction material to lash canoes together, make sails and create traps for fish and eels. Kiekie is a native endemic, non- threatened epiphyte, attaching itself to a tree to climb to reach sunlight for growth and one of the few species in New Zealand with flowers suitable to bat pollination.  

For generations, the harvest of native flora by Māori is guided by tikanga.  In the art and practice of weaving, the sustainability of the culture was reliant on the careful regulatory practices of harvesting to ensure the maintenance of resources for future requirements.    

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