Community & Environment

Weaving together the Peacocke community

Local weaver and Peacocke resident, Penney Cameron

In a sheltered corner of her Peacocke property, local weaver Penney Cameron has spent the past five years cultivating some of New Zealand’s treasured heritage flax collection. Now, support from Hamilton City Council’s Peacocke project team means dozens of cuttings from her flax will be replanted, as part of the new roading network, for the entire community to enjoy.

The Council and the community are working together to improve environmental and cultural outcomes in the new neighbourhood.

As part of a $290.4M partnership with Government to build roads and pipes in Peacocke, Council is working with Mrs Cameron to create a paa harakeke (flax garden) using cuttings from the collection of heritage flax grown on her 2ha property.

It includes eight varieties from The Rene Orchiston Collection of nationally significant heritage flax, gifted to Mrs Cameron by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research who are kaitiaki (custodians) of the collection. A condition of the gift is that the flax are shared with other weavers.

“These varieties are special as they have links to iwi groups across the country. There’s a growing community of weavers in New Zealand and this paa harakeke means we can share it with our younger generations and reach more people who are interested in learning this traditional art,” said Mrs Cameron.

The paa harakeke will be planted near the site of the new Waikato River bridge, for weavers to come and harvest muka (fibres) for raranga (weaving). It will include interpretive signage to celebrate the history of the flax and its cultural significance to Peacocke.

It’s an outcome Strategic Development Manager Andrew Parsons said is an outstanding example of how traditional infrastructure offerings are changing in Hamilton.

“People think creating infrastructure for growth comes at the expense of the environment, but we are showing how an innovative approach can actually improve the environment as we work,” said Parsons. “The funding available for roads and other infrastructure gives us the opportunity to invest in environmental and cultural outcomes that simply would not have been there before.”

Mrs Cameron first got involved with the project when Council approached her and her husband Robert to acquire a small section of their land to widen the road and enable development. Her primary concern was to make sure her flax would not be wasted. Working alongside the project’s landscape architect, Mrs Cameron is already cultivating cuttings or ‘pups’ to be ready in time for replanting.

“We love living here in Peacocke. It’s a beautiful area and we’re excited that the new developments will mean other people can enjoy it too.”

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said weaving together all the different parts of the new neighbourhood, including planning provisions, infrastructure, environmental and social outcomes, is what creates communities.

“I have always said that building houses isn’t enough, we must build communities. Our focus in Peacocke is exactly that; building a community, within the community. Partnering with people like Penney means we can build on the elements that already make the area really special and contribute to the wider story of Peacocke,” she said.

“But we need to work together to make it happen.”

The Council is working in partnership with the Tangata Whenua Working Group who represent the interests of Waikato-Tainui and the four local hapuu in the wider Southern Links project. The investment also includes building wetlands, looking after the natural waterways, planting thousands of new plants, restoring gullies, removing weeds, controlling pests and protecting critically threatened long-tailed bats, native lizards, eels and fish, to make sure the area is in better shape than before.

The paa harakeke, new Waikato River bridge and surrounding roads are expected to be completed in 2023.

Peacocke is being built with the support of $290.4M from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, made up of a $180.3M 10-year interest-free loan and $110.1M of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency subsidies.

The Peacocke programme will deliver a new bridge, main roads, parks, and strategic water, wastewater and stormwater networks. Other work includes protecting and enhancing the environment, including the extensive gully system, and investigating community facilities which are also important parts of creating a new community in Peacocke.

When completed, Peacocke will be home for up to 20,000 Hamiltonians.

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