Rotorua Weekender - 2021-11-26


Lifetime of dedication to growing māra kai


Roimata Mihinui Kāhu ki Rotorua

Bernie Hornfeck was a boy of 11 in England when World War II broke out in 1939. He recalls the time vividly. “The Government knew it had to feed 60 million people so made all this land available at no cost. The allotments were in every city, town and settlement to help feed the people.” Ships were sent to Canada to bring back food but thousands of lives were lost when german u boats attacked the merchant fleet. “They lost their lives when they were sent to get food to feed us. I’ll never forget that.” Fast forward to 1949/50 and Bernie is “wandering around London” when he comes across New Zealand House. Ripe for adventure, the forestry worker is persuaded to become a “ten-pound pom” and embarks on a months-long journey to the other side of the world. “I left in one year and arrived the next.” That was to signal the start of a life-long love affair with the kumara. “I took kumara to Kaingaroa Forest but no one believed it would grow there. I used black polythene to cover the ground and nurtured a good crop, much to everyone’s surprise.” And kumara introduced him to Whare, from Te Whanau A Apanui, Te Whakatohea, the woman who would become his wife. “As soon as I saw her I knew she was the one for me. “In 1952 she said if I could successfully grow kumara up the coast as well as I could at Kaingaroa she would marry me.” The upshot was they married and raised three boys. Whare passed away some years ago. Bernie has been involved in community gardens around Rotorua for as long as he can remember although not all of them flourished, not because of any fault with the plantings but more the site politics. At Apumoana Marae in Tarawera Road there is a thriving maara kai. Bernie and Whare were instrumental in getting the current iteration of Apumoana off the ground and it still plays a big part in his life. Bernie bought his Iles Rd section in 1952 and started building their home in 1964. It was finished in 1967. When his home burned down in 2017 and Bernie lost everything, he moved into a kaumatua flat at Apumoana where he stayed until it was rebuilt. Although he is partial to a nice piece of cake or scones and jam, or the vegetables he helps nurture, the kumara continues to hold a special place in his heart.


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