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John Turnbull Thompson painting of Canterbury PlainsThis land of Te Wai Pounamu, Ōtautahi, and where you currently stand, on the University of Otago, Christchurch campus holds great importance to Ngāi Tahu, and not in the sense of land ownership as we now think of it. Whenua gives life through bearing food, its plants provide materials for shelter and healing, and it is where ancestors are returned to through burial. The identification of a mountain or a river that held significance to ancestors evokes a sense of belonging to a place and a community of people who can point to the same.

Picture yourself on land you belong to, gathering food and providing for yourself and whanau. One day a man arrives, and claims he has purchased this land for himself. You lodge official complaints, calling for justice, and the terms of the deal you believed in to be upheld in good faith. Your voice goes unheard.

Cars stuck in liquifaction after the earthquakeCanterbury was shaken in a violent and life-altering way on both September 4th 2010 and February 22nd 2011. These earthquakes, and the thousands of aftershocks that followed, caused buildings to fall and holes to open up in roads, swallowing vehicles and spewing forth silt and water from under the ground. An entire city shuddered to a stop as the very land we went about our lives on moved beneath us.

The Christchurch City Council and Ngāi Tuahuriri are now working in tandem to help this city we live in recover from these devastating events. There is a strong Ngāi Tuahuriri voice amongst the clamour of the rebuild, an organisation which is instrumental in incorporating elements of Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Te Ao Māori into the redesign and rebuild of Ōtautahi. These earthquakes have provided a golden opportunity for those stories and histories to reassert themselves as an integral part of the cityscape, while creating spaces where whanau can gather and foster community, where whakapapa can be acknowledged and where the wider population of Ōtautahi and visitors to the city can get a feeling of understanding and connectedness to the local Ngāi Tūāhuriri people and history.

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