The Essence of Nelson Babies Growing: Part Two

If you missed the first installment of this article, please see The Essence of Nelson Babies Growing: Part One.

A planting area is born:
We approached the local city council for an area that would be appropriate. We also hoped it would be an area of significance in the region so that families would feel more compelled to plant there. We were delighted when they came back to us with the suggestion of the Centre of NZ where they have a conservation planting programme in progress and are looking for groups to contribute to the planting. This indeed was a significant area for Nelsonians!

The Centre of NZ is the geographical centre of New Zealand. It was deemed so by some surveyor in the UK when the early maps of New Zealand were being developed. Every year when I hike to the top of the hill I picture this surveyor as someone with a sense of humour. Of course the centre of NZ was never going to be on the flat fields all around the hill!

Hiking to the Centre of NZ

Since 2008, once a year, the local NZ College of Midwives, local iwi, and Nelson City Council, host a planting session in our newly formed whenua area. Representative of this are two large totara trees, which were planted at the start of the area and will stand over the area… and a third ‘Lyndell’ totara.

When we first started looking into providing a planting area, we did expect to come up against some obstruction, especially around burial of ‘body parts’.  Strangely enough placenta weren’t considered body parts. Or perhaps we can just be thankful to our maori forbearers who paved the way for us!  Checking health regulations, the only restriction was avoiding planting near waterways…easily done on a hill!

The fact that it is a re-vegetation planting area gave us clear guidelines and very little to discuss around ‘rules’ for the area. So we agreed to the council’s following conditions:

  • The area will be available over a number of seasons until the entire area is planted out. It will then be closed to further planting.
  • The site will only be available for this purpose once a year for the NZCOM event. Casual placenta burying or planting at other times of the year is not permitted.
  • Planting programme: this site is part of the council’s wider re-vegetation programme. There is no particular ownership or expectation about the future of the plant that is planted upon an individual’s placenta.
  • Participants also need to acknowledge there is no assurance that any individual plant will grow or be maintained to maturity given the usual rates of mortality from restoration projects and, as with any maturing forest, that a number of these plants will be replaced by other species as the restorations process continues. To this end we have selected an appropriate planting time to best ensure survival of the plants.
  • Council needs to ensure that appropriate native plants are planted from seeds/cuttings that have been collected from the correct areas (eco-sourced). To best achieve this, only NCC supplied plants can be used for the plantings.
  • As this site is a natural restoration area, no markings of any plant locations are permitted.

During the first year of planting, we had no idea how many families would take up the opportunity of this planting area. In this region there are around 1000 births per year. So it was a pleasant surprise to come over the brow of the hill and see the families who had made the trek.

First year of planting

The land is blessed ….

A song and a prayer…..

And the planting begins…..

In 2010, the Nelson Soroptmist club provided a hand crafted seat for rest and reflection alongside the whenua planting area.  Maia Hegglun, local carver, builder and father, designed the seat from a cultural perspective, to compliment the Whenua Planting Project. The seat is designed as a sculpture telling the story of the seen and unseen aspects of two different cultures coming together and as a functional enduring seat to be used by families (whanau) and the public.

The area has not been without some interesting discussion. It has led some Maori to express some unease about the area. We left the idea with local iwi for some months for them to have a final say and we would have respected any unease they had, but this wasn’t to be the case.  Some Pakeha (European), especially of the mature generation, have also expressed an unease, (or more a queasiness!) about walking past an area where placenta are buried. We hope in time their queasiness will settle.  The dogs that walk with them seem relaxed and we haven’t had a single plant lost to dogs digging them up. The plants from the past three years are flourishing!

Families who have planted their whenua in the area use the walk as regular family time to check on the progress of ‘their’ plant.  They describe the area as ‘special’ and ‘peaceful’.

Indeed a special place to sit and reflect …Nelson babies growing the area, with flourishing plants representing how life moves on and along…

Suzi Hume, Anounska Myer, and Andrea Vincent

Andrea Vincent, Case-loading Midwife, Nelson, NZ via Seo Companies

Toitu he kianga; whatungarongaro he tangata
People are transient things but the land endures

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