Topic: It’s just the Mount to me – part of our family

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It’s just the Mount to me – part of our family by Susan Edwards

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I’ve heard the Maori legend of Mauao, how it was a pononga (slave) to the mountain Otanewainuku. I  know  it  was  once  a  pa  site,  complete  with  trenches  (still  visible  today  along  the ridges) and I’m fascinated each time I pass the shell middens (which, incidentally seem to be disappearing behind a recently-built retaining wall. Shame!)

I also know it’s an extinct volcano cone measuring 232 metres high. But to me it’s just the Mount, part of our family – solid, vibrant and alive. As children we’d run along the dusty tracks, barefoot, as did my mother before me, and as and my own children and my grandchild do now. We’d race to the summit or jog around its generous girth. I’ve climbed, and fallen out of, its trees, and sat on its benches and watched the boats and ships cruise in and out of  the  harbour  until,  finally,  they  disappear  over  the  shimmering  horizon  on  a  hot summer day.

I’ve swum in the crystal-clear calm waters on the harbor-side at full tide. I’ve dived off the rocks into the churning, foaming water on the ocean-side.
I’ve walked its paths in over-priced designer trainers in my fashion-conscious youth. Now I walk in whatever’s nearest the door, as they all seem to be sensible shoes these days! Yes, the paths on the Mount have been partially worn down by my family and me.

We still conduct many heated debates while walking around or up the Mount, only for them  to  be  resolved  –  or  agree-to-disagree,  or  forgotten  about  entirely  –  by  the  time we’ve  descended  to  the  foot  of  the  Mount  –  the  exercise,  or  the  sheer  beauty  of  the ever-changing  view  taking  the  sting  out  of  our  tails,  no  doubt.  We’d  put  the  world  to rights, with only one thing left to agree on – which café to choose? It’s just the Mount to me.

I will touch on the (very few) bad times I recall, as it’s all part of my relationship with the  Mount  (as  that’s  what  I’m  writing  about,  I  make  no apology.)  The  first  was  the murder of a young English tourist on the Mount a few years ago. We were so gutted to hear  the  horrific  news  that  something  so  evil  could  happen  on  the  Mount.  Not  our Mount.  Then  only  a  few  months  ago,  that  atrocious  act  of  animal  cruelty.  How  could they do that anywhere, but even worse on our Mount?

I remember a short while after the murder feeling such comfort in knowing the local iwi lifted the tapu and blessed this sacred mountain again. It just felt right.

I wasn’t concerned (as other New Zealand Europeans were) when in 2008 ownership of  the  Mount  –  Mauao  –  went  back  to  Ngati  Te  Rangi,  Ngati  Ranginui  and  Ngati Pukenga iwi. I knew in my heart that it should never have been taken from them in the first place, following the terrible land wars of 1863.

The  other  day  I  was  strolling  along  Main  Beach  towards  the  Mount  with  Bella Downey, my grand-daughter, aged 4½.   I asked her, “What do you see when you look at the Mount?” After a moment she replied, with great animation, stretching her arms up high, “It’s big and green and it touches the sky.” Well, really, what more can I add to that? 

This page was archived at perma cc January 2017

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