Kaikohe's Cool Kura Kaupapa
The Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail is a big part of life for a Kaikohe school – for recreation, education and a whole lot of fun. Tumuaki (principal) Marea Timoko shares the story.
Up in Tai Tokerau/Northland, Kaikohe’s Kura Kaupapa Māori offers total te reo immersion and wharekura (bilingual) education for 260 students up to Year 13.
Over the last few years, the region’s Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail has become incredibly important to the kura, according to Marea Timoko who has been tumuaki for the last ten years. ‘Our trail is way more than just a way to get to school. And bikes are way more than just a mode of transport. The trail is our gym, our natural learning environment, our place of release.’
Tamariki are out on the trail in some way every week. ‘We don’t have a gym, we don’t have a big hall, we don’t have a swimming pool. We’ve had to grow the health and wellbeing of our students and staff by utilising what’s in our community, and what we have is the cycle trail. We get a lot of use out of it.’
Students get to the ride the full 87km trail from coast to coast, and use it for big events such as the school triathlon and cross-country. It’s also a training ground for other sports, fostering opportunities for success outside the rohe (area). ‘We teach our kids to win first, first and first,’ says Marea.
The trail also provides educational benefits beyond the physical. ‘It provides us with a pathway to matauranga Māori (knowledge) – to learn about te taiao (the natural world), significant cultural sites, stories from the past. We host manuhiri and workshops on the trail, too.’
As time passes, the school reaps more and more rewards from the trail. ‘When we started using it, we targeted Year 8 boys. At the end of Year 13, those boys flew out of our kura with their Level 3 UE. That was the beginning of our great success, and that’s continued every year.’
The kura owns its own fleet of bikes, from children's size to mountain bikes. Every 2–3 years when the bikes are replaced, the old ones are sold to local families at affordable prices to encourage health and fitness outside school. ‘We try to involve whānau as much as possible,’ says Marea.
The trail is embedded in the life of kura. ‘We know it like the back of our hand. We helped shape it with spade and shovel. We help maintain it, keep it clean. When Adrienne [the trail’s general manager] needs us, we’re there to support the kaupapa.’
New riders use the school pump track as a training ground. ‘We funded and built it ourselves. Many of our staff are keen riders,’ Marea says.
Pou Herenga Tai has also fostered Marea’s personal development. In 2018, she rode the Tour Aotearoa – at 63 years old. ‘Yes, it’s quite unbelievable. It showed me what I could do, especially at my age. But if you want to get the kids involved in new things, you’ve got to show the way.’
Marea proudly says she did ‘all the gnarly bits’, but admits she skipped over some sections, side-tracked by friendly locals who offered her lifts and rewarding conversation.
‘This trail has been so important to our community. It’s taken us to all sorts of places, and allowed us to meet all sorts of great people. It’s also shown our students that it doesn’t matter who or where you come from, you can always learn something.’
Interview by Sarah Bennett (bennettandslater.co.nz)